On the one hand it is incredible to see so many people galvanised into action and standing up against racism. On the other hand, the information and resources, writers, protests, history, facts – have all been here for years, and it’s important to ask why these messages are only getting through now, just as much as it is vital to listen – now, more than ever.
This is a rare, global moment, to focus and reflect on how we must be active in dismantling racism in all forms and specifically anti-Black racism. But we must also look beyond these few weeks, and how we create tangible, long-lasting change for a future without racial oppression.
Rich Mix’s founding principles are to advance education of the public in art and culture of all types, and to work towards the elimination of racial discrimination. We work to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups, particularly by promoting events and activities to foster intercultural diversity of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and their contribution to the economic and cultural life of the UK. Before our closure we had been planning to share more about our history, and hope we can return to this soon.
Last week Rich Mix hosted an informal discussion with its team members reflecting on the global Black Lives Matter protests. Our team strives to create spaces where the communities of the world in East London can create, enjoy and share culture. And so while discussions continue online and in-person, we have started to build this set of resources in order to share the knowledge we have already gathered as widely as possible. The suggestions and recommendations below are a work in progress, so please check back in time.
These resources focus specifically on education around racism in the UK and London, as well as working towards better representation in arts and cultural venues and the sector as a whole. It is vital to recognise that this problem is not inherently American, and it is crucial to understand the systemic racism present today in our cities and communities. Only then can we can call it out for what it is, fight it and dismantle the structures that allow it to exist.
Below, we have collected advice, updates and resources on:
- Articles to read around the disproportionate COVID-19 deaths of BAME people
- The stories we tell
- The importance of inclusive storytelling
- Activists, artists, collectives and individuals to follow
- Causes to support via donations
- Donate to support BAME people in therapy and counselling
- What you can do without spending money
- Activism without leaving your home
- Long term action to put into plan now
- Mentoring and work placements
- Mutual Aid
Articles to read around the disproportionate COVID-19 deaths of BAME people
Almost every analysis of Covid-19 deaths has found that BAME people are over-represented compared to what we would expect if the illness affected all Britons in the same way. But we have not seen conclusive evidence to explain why.
A Public Health England report has found that people from Black and Asian ethnic groups are up to twice as likely to die with Covid-19 than those from white British backgrounds.
Researchers found that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death than people of White British ethnicity, while people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and Black ethnicity had between 10 per cent and 50 per cent higher risk of death.
However, it’s important that factors around socioeconomic inequalities and structural racism are not ignored.
- The Guardian – Key findings from Public Health England’s report on Covid-19 deaths
- On London – John Biggs: The impact of Covid-19 on Tower Hamlets BAME residents must not be ignored
- GQ – Fear, fury and a failed state: ‘Black people are hurt and killed by police without repercussions in the UK too’
The stories we tell
There have been many, many booklists recommended over social media to aid a better understanding of racism felt across the world and the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement. A small selection that our team have found useful:
- Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
- It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race – Mariam Khan
- Why I am No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
- The Lonely Londoners – Samuel Selvon
- Me and White Supremacy – Layla F Saad
- White Fragility – Robin Diangelo
If purchasing these books, consider supporting London’s many Black-owned bookstores, and after reading, pass them on to a friend.
The importance of inclusive storytelling
What is possibly taken for granted is how under representative the publishing industry remains. While a petition to include more BAME writers in the English GCSE syllabus gained over 250,000 signatures this week, across books, theatre, spoken word and comedy, we must hear of stories that inform us of other narratives often not told. Here is a short list of articles that widens the lens, analysing why it is so important to hear from diverse voices:
- Vogue – “Literature Can Foster And Express Our Shared Humanity”: Bernardine Evaristo On The Importance Of Inclusive Publishing
- The Guardian – Publishing has ignored and pigeonholed black authors for too long
- Creative Review – Stormzy: The Truth About Racism In The UK
- The Jhalak Prize – for UK Writers of Colour
Working through those books will start to show you where some of the gaps in our collective knowledge of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people’s history in the UK reside. It’s also worth watching documentaries that cover these issues.
Further reading: Liberty’s guide to the government’s Hostile Environment policy
Search online for the full documentary as it is screened on BBC iPlayer periodically.
- Black Britain – BFI Player currently has a number of free documentaries and films on Black Britons on screen
Activists, artists, collectives and individuals to follow
Riz Ahmed gave an excellent speech for Channel 4 at the House of Commons in 2017, on the crucial importance of representation in media, and why, in a time of polarised politics and rising hate crimes, representation isn’t an “added extra or a frill”.
Ray Blk delivered a very frank talk for TEDxPeckham called Hiding My Identity. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organised by a local community in Peckham.
Radical reading collective Because We’ve Read focus on the voices of marginalised writers, which are often not covered in our education systems or represented in the media. The London brand is run by Maryam Abdullah, usually from Rich Mix.
An independent British online and print magazine, committed to telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour.
University of Manchester’s Feminist Collective Society delivers bitesize and easily sharable content – a helpful introduction to understanding wider conversations on racism.
A British-Nigerian Historian and Professor of Public History at University of Manchester.
Educational account focusing on sharing information for South Asians on dismantling anti-Blackness and exploring South Asian identity.
A public academic, writer, and lecturer. Her activism and academic work are rooted in providing intellectual discourse, tools, and resources that explore the intersection of race and womanhood.
American human rights advocate and oldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King.
A business manifesto for Black women, and the businesses they work in.
Causes to support via donations
The UK’s leading independent race equality thinktank – with lots of useful resources around recognising and calling out systemic racism and prejudice on their website.
Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent. They are a grassroots movement that advocates, fights for, supports and celebrates LGBTQ people of colour.
Their mission is to support in making mental health topics relevant and accessible for all Black people in the UK. Their website connects Black individuals and families with professional mental health services, with funding to support using these services.
Donate to support BAME people in therapy and counselling
In light of Public Health England’s report into Covid-19 deaths and the disproportionate number of BAME people affected by the virus, British Association of Counselling and Pyschotherapy’s President David Weaver has called for urgent action to increase access to therapy for BAME communities facing Covid-19 trauma.
“We need the government to see the importance of counselling services at this time and the role they can play in reaching these communities,” said Weaver.
BAMEStream is a collective of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) practitioners, therapists, policy experts, activists and academics who specialise in the areas of mental health and therapy. Reported statistics show that BAME communities are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis; and as such, the group’s core purpose is to raise awareness and undertake impactful actions to address the urgent mental health and wellbeing needs of the UK’s BAME communities. The alliance will be developing a bespoke bereavement service and a single point of access for individuals and communities to access free counselling.
BAMEStream collective has been set up very recently, so keep an eye out for fundraisers in the future. They have just finished conducting a national mapping of mental health and bereavement services working with the BAME community in the UK.
The Majonzi Covid-19 Bereavement Fund was launched by Patrick Vernon in collaboration with The Ubele Initiative, to support members of the BAME community who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. The Majonzi Fund is named after the Swahili word meaning grief or sorrow.
What you can do without spending money
If money isn’t something you can offer, there are other ways you can support causes online and even raise money for them directly and indirectly.
Sharing posts and leaving comments under social media accounts you support means they are shown more widely. It makes their work (and the time they invested in that work) go further – especially on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. If something resonates with you, share it with clear information on how people can donate or participate in that cause. You’re amplifying the message.
Activism without leaving your home
It has been wonderful to see so many people protesting and maintaining social distance in London. If you are shielding, self-isolating, or not able to attend, there are still many ways you can be a vocal activist.
- Write to your MP
Writing to your local MP takes around 10 minutes you can find out who this is via Write To Them. You can research their speech and voting record via They Work For You and do some research into their actions against racism once you add your postcode. If you support your local MP and they have already been vocal about these causes, have conversations with friends that live in areas up and down the country – see if they can write to their MP instead.
The government’s report into BAME COVID-19 included no recommendations or steps to action. Ask your MP what actions they are taking now to save people disproportionately affected by the virus.
Writing on her Instagram, journalist Zing Tsjeng listed some key topics to contact your MP on, including urging them to condemn President Trump’s use of force against his own citizens, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and Black people in you community, and urging the government to immediately suspend UK sales of teargas, riot shields and rubber bullets to the US – there is a template here for shaping that letter.
Keep up online with what’s happening with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US with websites such as Black Card. There are also zip codes for signing international petitions and the resources are updated daily.
Long term action to put into plan now
Exercise your rights and challenge the authorities who allow racism to continue, and people who don’t challenge the racist actions and views of their party members. Again, if you already are, reach out to friends that may not be, or family members where you can hold a frank discussion on MPs that haven’t spoken out against discrimination. As part of this, consider supporting Operation Black Vote, who tackle the Black democratic deficit in the UK.
This is a very informative Twitter thread by Jo Verrent about re-imagining what the arts and cultural sector can achieve in light of the Black Lives Matter protests and the impact of Covid-19.
“If you run an arts organisation that does not have artists at your beating heart, is not built around diversity, systemically excludes people, please stop now. Don’t compete for future funds. Your day has come and gone. Put down your power & privilege. That’s leadership.”
An open letter to the Culture Secretary from Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse theatre artistic directors and cultural leaders on the importance of protecting representation in the sector.
A collective working within the arts and music sectors to inspire, empower and celebrate young Black British women.
Mentoring and work placements
As Michelle Obama highlights in her Netflix documentary, Becoming, mentoring young people is one of the most worthwhile things we can do to pass on expertise and improve representation across all industries.
Asma Shah set up You Make It (YMI) from her kitchen table, fuelled on “hustling and determination”, which has now evolved into a creative programme for young women to access tools, networks, experiences and the confidence to transform their lives through personal empowerment. Read our Raised @ Rich Mix interview with Shah here.
This takes place through workshops, mentors and work placements, with 83 per cent of YMI’s graduates now in paid employment, working on their own start ups or gaining places in formal education. Shah explains more below about YMI’s incredible impact to date.
Earlier in June Shah wrote for the Huffington Post on the polarising effect of Covid-19 in our community of Bethnal Green.
This year we began a partnership with Grit on Rich Mix New Creatives 2020 – a programme funded by the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund supporting young people, not in education employment or training, aged 16-18 in Tower Hamlets to break into the creative industries.
Whilst the creative sector is growing faster than any other sector in the UK economy (providing one in six jobs in London), we know that not everyone is able to access employment opportunities. We believe creativity and access to culture can be transformational so by working with Grit, experts in working with young people, we have tailored our New Creatives programme to support those who face some of the most barriers.
Arts Emergency is an award-winning mentoring charity and network. Founded by comedian Josie Long and campaigner Neil Griffiths as a way of supporting young people most affected by cuts to the arts and rising tuition fees, their mission is to help marginalised young people overcome barriers to participation and success in higher education and the creative and cultural industries.
You can learn about donating funds to Arts Emergency here, as well as how to fund one student place yearly with their Bursar Club.
Volunteering in person might be difficult at the moment, but have you considered offering up a specific set of skills you have to a grassroots organisation that could really need them? If you can build websites, run social media accounts, write a newsletter or even organise volunteer offers and offer basic admin skills, there are many organisations out there that would love to hear from you. Get in touch and clearly state what you’re able to do – and be patient if you don’t hear back on the first attempt!
It’s easy to forget that individual activism can be as simple as checking on your neighbours or establishing a way of communication for your street or building that is accessible to all. WhatsApp groups have been popular during lockdown, but be mindful of people that may not use the same technology as you, or speak the same languages, and make sure there are other methods to keep those members of the community in the loop.
If you’re familiar with social media, you could set up an Instagram account sharing offers of mutual aid in your local area, book swaps, crowd funders, or news about local businesses to connect people in your community.
For some context on the current rise of mutual aid groups and where its origins come from, gal-dem commissioned this brilliant article by Eshe Kiama Zuri on the Black roots of mutual aid groups.
At Rich Mix we are continually having these conversations. But that’s not to say we should rest on our laurels or be complacent. Please keep an eye out for some of these initiatives crowdsourced from staff, as we continue to respond to these inequalities and aim to strengthen inclusion in our organisation.