More than 100 take a knee at Black Lives Matter protest outside Redbridge Town Hall
PUBLISHED: 18:54 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 20:26 03 July 2020
A group of about 100 people took a knee in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement outside of Redbridge Town Hall on Wednesday, July 1.
The event was organised by activists from different ethnicities and backgrounds who decided to come together to highlight issues faced by the black community in Redbridge.
Organiser Giselle Richelieu, 31, of Ilford, said many people feel action on challenging anti-black racism has not always been a priority in the borough.
One of seven speakers at the protest, she addressed the crowd by recalling her first racist encounter:
“I left my home, hand-in-hand with my dad and sister. I was maybe four or five when a toddler wandered out of their house and onto the street, into our park.
“The toddler looked at my dad and pointed, saying the ‘N’ word over and over and over again, with as much hatefulness as a two-year-old can muster.
“I remember my dad squeezing my hand; sensing his anger and pain, and wondered how someone who could barely speak knew that hateful word and felt no fear when hurling it at a grown man.
“We are here because that child’s parents thought it was more important to teach him to be racist than to teach him about personal safety. And that child is now a man.”
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The socially-distanced protest featured speeches covering an array of issues facing black people, both historical and current.
One speaker, Winslow Green, said he had previously been reluctant to march and protest. Founder of the Melting Pot charity, Winslow — who was born in Barbados but has lived most of his life in Redbridge — said that he had seen positive change, but that more could be done.
Venda Premkumar, district secretary of the National Education Union, highlighted the role that schools must play: “The idea that black lives are worth less starts in schools, which is a shameful thing to admit.”
One of the co-founders of Ageless Teenagers, Janice Francis-Irwin, questioned the accuracy of how history is taught in schools.
The star of Back in Time for Brixton, Janice said Redbridge Council must do more to help the Afro-Caribbean community that has been living in the borough “for years — building and contributing positively to Ilford”.
Co-founder of the BLM Redbridge group Isha Isidore focused on how black women are viewed and treated: “We can’t wait for the government or society to see us as important. We’ve got to see ourselves as important.”
In her speech, community activist Sultanah Parvin emphasised that racism against black people is not perpetrated solely by white people, but that south Asians can also be culpable.
She added that such prejudice is particularly felt in areas such as Redbridge which have a strong south Asian population.
The final speech was by Sutharshan Sukumaran on behalf of South Ilford MP Sam Tarry. In referencing a recent comment by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Sutharshan said: “Let me be clear – this is a movement, not a moment.”
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