Black Lives Matter: A movement now making waves in Redbridge

Protesters at the Black Lives Matter protest in Ilford, organised by BLM Redbridge. Picture: Hazel G

Protesters at the Black Lives Matter protest in Ilford, organised by BLM Redbridge. - Credit: Hazel Griffin

BLM Redbridge co-founder Giselle Richelieu on the recently formed grassroots organisation championing change in the borough.

How did BLM Redbridge start?

On June 9, someone had put up a Black Lives Matter (BLM) memorial on the wall outside of Bodgers.

It had pictures of people who had lost their lives because of police brutality, quotes from residents showing solidarity with the local black community, and information on how to protest peacefully - it was non-offensive and peaceful.

The council took it down before anyone got to see it and when we found this out, we felt hurt and frustrated that that had happened.

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I started speaking to people in the area about the removal of the memorial, and a small group of women - we all have different ethnicities and backgrounds - came together on a Zoom call to talk about it and the eight of us started BLM Redbridge.

We now have more than 100 people in our Facebook group. They are people who have experienced racism and our allies.

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We are not activists by trade, we are just regular people that care about people.

BLM Redbridge held their first protest on July 1. How did you feel the protest went?

It was a powerful event that we are proud of, and it was overwhelming to see so many people turn out.

The protest started conversations between people, which is important. It enabled people who don’t directly experience racism or who think it’s not their problem examine their experiences and understand how all sorts of oppression impacts us as a community.

What changes do you want to see in the Redbridge community?

The black community is underrepresented in the borough, so they don’t have a platform to share their issues.

We are reaching out and consulting with the community to work out what the key issues are, and then campaigning about the issues which are raised.

It’s about zooming down to see what is happening in our borough and connecting to the black community and our allies so we can make change in our community.

We will be raising issues with the council about the lack of representation and challenging the police about the over-policing and under-protection of certain communities.

We are also thinking about local community groups as the few services supporting black and Afro-Caribbean communities are struggling and under-funded.

On a holistic level, we are working towards creating safe spaces for the black community to express their experiences.

We’d like to hold a black woman healing space, where women can come together and co-create a community that recognises the experiences they have.

We’d also like to run sessions for young black and Asian people, who are more likely to get stopped and searched, so they know their rights, as well as sessions on bystander intervention that look at how you can safely observe such an interaction, and let the person know they are being seen and cared for while holding the police to account.

How has the community responded to BLM Redbridge?

The more we reach out to the community, the more we hear something like this is needed here.

A lot of people have said Redbridge has been quite dormant in terms of activism, so we have had a positive response.

We only started in June, so we are in the early stages. It is exciting to see where BLM Redbridge will go and how we can collaborate with local people, services and organisations, to create meaningful change in the borough.

How does it feel to take a stand?

I have mixed feelings if I’m honest. Yes, it feels good that I am using my own personal power to speak up for what I believe in, but it’s also quite draining and can be painful.

The moment you raise your voice about a certain thing you become visible to the people who are anti your cause.

After the Recorder covered the protest, the comments under the article on the paper’s Facebook page perfectly articulated why we need a movement in the area.

They were really hateful and that takes a toll, especially on those who experience the racism we are challenging– we’re being exposed to the bigotry we’re fighting against.

At the end of August, BLM Redbridge will be holding a free outdoor community get together which will have activities and discussions on community issues.

For more information find the organisation on Facebook at BLM Redbridge or email the organisation.

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