The British Youth Council express discomfort and dismay at the murder of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis. The UK Government must directly call out the abhorrent murder of another black person in the United States but it must also take steps to address deep-rooted racism in the UK. The statement follows widespread calls for an end to police brutality against black Americans.
The British Youth Council believes that black young people living in the UK should be treated equally in our communities and in society, stressing that the law should ensure this is the case. The youth-led charity repeats calls for the government to address racism in the UK. According to the charities own research, racism remains a prevalent issue in the lives of young people. The charity also found people’s attitudes towards racism have become normalised, suggesting the government needs to do more to address racism.
Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council said: “Black young people continue to face the abhorrent scourge of racism, and despite having rights enshrined in law, racism continues to remain prevalent in everyday life of many people living in the UK.
“Young people have repeatedly made demands for political action on this issue and yet we have not seen any meaningful changes. From the police brutality that has taken Black lives, to the Windrush scandal and the hostile environment that has destroyed Black communities, it is clear that change is needed. It’s with that in mind, that this government must take steps to address deep-rooted racism in the UK because black young people deserve better.”
The British Youth Council are also concerned to learn about the findings of Public Health England’s investigation into the disproportionate number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic deaths during the outbreak of Coronavirus. The report concludes there were a combination of factors but explicitly states that the impact Coronavirus has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, has increased them. The national youth council, which is mandated by the views of its members, calls on the government to make a comprehensive response to the report, taking direct action to address the issues that have been highlighted.
Aiyana Stanley-Jones was 7 years old when she was shot by police in Detroit, USA while sleeping. Her life mattered. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was playing with a toy gun and was shot by police in Ohio, USA. His life mattered. João Pedro Matos Pinto was 14 when he was shot during a police raid in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. His life mattered. Seni Lewis was 23 when he voluntarily sought mental health support and was restrained by up to 11 police officers in London, UK for over 30 minutes he died. His life mattered. Anti-Black police brutality taking Black lives, including Black children and young people’s lives, is a global pandemic that people have created, and have the power to stop.
At the British Youth Council, we unequivocally support the movement for Black lives, and are proud to see youth-led organising against anti-Black racism here in the UK, and around the world. Young people are, so often, at the helm of challenging injustice and fundamentally reimagining the systems and structures that not only allow, but create, these injustices. I wanted to share some of this transformative work with you – please read about their work and their visions for a different world, learn more about anti-Blackness, anti-racism, and what liberation for Black lives really means.
The 4Front Project, UK
The 4Front Project was founded by Temi Mwale in 2012 after her childhood friend, Marvin Henry, 17, was shot dead in October 2010. It is a member-led youth organisation empowering young people and communities to fight for justice, peace and freedom.
In seeking justice, the project mobilises those most affected by injustice, exposes structural injustice and builds transformative justice practices. Their work for peace advocates for approaches that increase safety, build community accountability and support members to heal, promoting radical self-care. And in moving towards freedom, the project builds pride in cultural identity, creates space to envision freedom and provides anti-oppression and liberation education.
Dream Defenders, USA
The Dream Defenders was founded in April 2012 after the tragic killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. That Spring, young Black, Latinx, and Arab youth marched from Daytona Beach Florida to Sanford Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed. With that fire in their bellies, they then went back to their communities and campuses to organise.
Today, they continue to build power in their communities to advance a new vision they have for the state. Their agenda is called the Freedom Papers. Through it, they are advancing their vision of safety and security – away from policing, prisons, surveillance, punishment, deportation, and war – and towards healthcare, housing, jobs and movement for all.
Black Liberation Collective, Canada
This is a collective of Black students who are dedicated to transforming institutions of higher education through unity, coalition building, direct action and political education. They have three national demands which represent collective efforts by Black students to address widespread institutional inequity: firstly, at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by the national percentage of Black folk in the country, secondly, free tuition for Black and indigenous students, and, finally, a divestment from prisons and investment in communities.
They have created a prison divestment toolkit for campus organisers across Canada, which provides practical steps towards decarceration, reparation and liberation. These student-led efforts are crucial to addressing larger systemic issues, and serve as a catalyst to dismantle institutions that promote and engage in anti-Blackness.
These are but a few examples of youth-led efforts to end the global pandemic of anti-Black police brutality. I hope they inspire you to turn your rage and sadness for the deeply tragic loss of Black lives into action so that we can reimagine and change our world for the better. Because yesterday, today, and always, Black Lives Matter.