Since the death of George Floyd in May, conversations about Black lives and racism have been more prevalent, and more important, than ever. We spoke to UK Youth CEO, Ndidi Okezie, about the launch of their new campaign #YoungAndBlack...
What is the Young and Black campaign?
Last month we launched #YoungAndBlack in response to being inundated with appeals from young Black people across Britain who feel they don’t have the opportunity, or even the right, to share their thoughts and experiences on racism in the UK and beyond.
The campaign amplifies, illuminates and creates safe spaces for young Black people to share stories, connect and highlight their personal experiences of growing up young and Black.
Alongside organisations and activists including My Life My Say, The Diana Award, and Jermain Jackman, we want to create safe spaces to share, listen, and learn from the experiences of young Black people, with a social-media and content-led approach. You can follow the stories we post on our Instagram, or through the #YoungAndBlack hashtag.
Why is it so important?
The murder of George Floyd was a catalytic event for many, and for young people it was a grenade thrown in amongst all the other blows coming from coronavirus and lockdown.
But we can go back even further. Whether it’s Windrush, Grenfell, Macpherson Report, Stop and Search, or the coronavirus, the pain from the challenging lived experiences of ethnic minorities is exhausting. Enough is enough. Whether you’ve seen it on the news, engaged on social media, or within your community, people are talking about Black lives. There has been somewhat of an awakening and some very real conversations are finally taking place. The reactions to it are as informative as the subject matter itself.
We felt the need to respond quickly to the numerous questions we were receiving. Primarily from young people asking where they could talk and share their emotions and experiences. This campaign is our partnership response to the question of “What can we as an organisation do in this moment?” History has shown that young people have always been the most powerful force for social change and UK Youth exists to ensure all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives.
What does true system change look like?
We believe that true social cohesion starts with real (I said real!) understanding. That journey begins with active, sometimes painful, sharing and listening. We can’t make true system change without once and for all, really acknowledging the challenges so many communities face.
Why target young people specifically?
A unique element to the campaign is that we want to hear from Black people of all ages. We want to show how experiences you have when you’re young, shape you for the rest of your life. The campaign draws on the experiences of people of any age who have grown up Black in Britain.
We are also keen to avoid the notion that these stories are just “for” Black people. We’ve been asked if this is an alienating campaign and the fact that is even a question, should tell you a lot. Why are stories centred around the Black experience deemed to be for “niche” audiences? Yet stories predominantly focussed around white people, are commonly positioned as “mainstream”?
How can people get involved?
Start by sharing your story. We recognise the power of storytelling to create empathy and change. We recognise that being seen and heard are key aspects of achieving social justice. True system change will only come when we are able to discuss the role race plays, across all parts of our society.
We are calling on youth organisations, schools, media and brands to work with us to offer their platforms and create spaces to listen to young Black people as they share their stories.
What are the outcomes of being involved?
We hope the campaign affords people the opportunity to listen, learn and reflect. We seek to build a sense of community and encourage a positive shift across society on how we talk about race and embrace our individual and collective roles to make sustained change. Our desire is for these conversations to inspire others to come up with tangible solutions to eradicate racism in their spaces, whether that’s in a youth organisation, a charity or national corporation.
How do we keep this movement going?
We must not allow the spotlight to go out. Even as all the media attention around Black Lives Matter dies down, we need to commit to keep the conversations going. This awakening has to result in sustained change.
What words of advice do you have for young and Black people?
Your stories matter. Your voice matters. You are enough and you matter. Now more than ever is the time to speak up and make a difference. Share your stories in any way that works for you. Say it in a video, write it down on paper, draw, sing, whatever your chosen form of expression; we commit to amplify your voice and stand with you.
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