This year we, at the Racial Justice Network, are celebrating our 5th anniversary as a charity! We thought this would be a great opportunity to recollect and reflect back on what the 5 years have been in 5 minutes.

The Racial Justice Network was registered as a charity in 2016  – a huge achievement in itself being one of the few anti-racist charities to exist in the North. Whilst this was a huge accomplishment, it was also daunting given  the responsibility that came with it. 

Having become frustrated about how superficial equality and the language of diversity had taken away the tools of understanding and challenging the injustice of race, racialism and racism, there was a drive to change that. 

The first year saw us work from home as there were no funds. We embarked on finding radical trustees who could see the vision and support a growing organisation.

This was also the year we were involved in undertaking transformational training with Training For Change, taking on national and international platforms as a Black-run organisation based in the north of England. 

Notable moments include speaking at Roundhouse in Camden, and at changehow in Islington, as well as putting together the 5 Ways to Disrupt Racism video that has since garnered over 35 million views, been translated into over 5 languages and continues to be used as a training tool to this day. 

With a dynamic team of trustees and skills, 2017 became a year of digging in and defining who we were and what we wanted to achieve. We decided that our who, what, how and why would be inspired, shaped, and rooted in Black radical tradition and liberation. Seeking racial justice and addressing colonial legacies as our  foundation. 

Our values and mission focused on repair, learning and resistance. Focusing at least 80% of our efforts on Black and Brown communities, our core was (and continues to be) centring race and how it intersects with other oppressions and different identities. 

We delivered a 6 month racial justice campaign course to Black and Brown communities based in the north of England. The course involved pastoral support that would assist individuals and communities achieve changes they were fighting for. From this course, the amazing Sisters United in Halifax was born. We also delivered national talks and began publishing articles, attracting audiences, influencing and informing on a local and national level.

Despite the many rejections for funding applications we received, 2018 was an opportunity to refine and lay our commitments and concepts that grew into projects. This was also the year we began to embark on international reach and strengthen solidarity with communities  in the Global South. 

We were extremely honoured to co-host former Black panthers Kathleen Cleaver with the Northern Police Monitoring Project (NPMP) in Manchester, and Bob Brown in Chapeltown Leeds. We formed Yorkshire Resists and shared our model with siblings in Glasgow. We were invited to speak about our organising at a global conference *women in movement* in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. As director of RJN, I received a year’s fellowship, giving more focus to RJN.

2019 saw us define our projects and align them well with our objectives, revisiting strategy and evaluating what was working well. There were reinforcements and serious time put towards  the emergence of the collective conversations projects, Unlearning Racism Course, and the Stop the Scan campaign. 

There was more focus also to work with committed volunteer activists and organisers who stepped forward. Training and pastoral support, as well as partnerships with organisations and individuals continue(d) to be offered throughout. Further cementing and tightening of relationships and siblings in Brazil occurred this year, as well as an invitation to speak at a conference in Nairobi. Nairobi reinforced and reignited our call and efforts on transnationalism.

2020 started on a high beginning with a trip to Kenya that followed on from the Nairobi university conference. It involved a week of action in the community, high school and university. In May of this year we released our short documentary Resist Remember Repair! Decolonising Education Kenya 2020. We facilitated the emergence of our new Race and Climate Justice working group and the launch of our #13recommendation . Last year also took a toll on our communities. With the global pandemic that further exposed and exacerbated the inequalities of global racist and capitalist structures, as well as the brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that served as *another* wake up call to the treatment of Black communities across the globe, last year took a toll on our communities. It was however, also a year that saw beautiful bonds of solidarity and creative means of resistance being formed which no doubt renewed our faith in our fight for justice.

We launched new campaigns, reports, papers, redesigned training, recruited a new team and trustees. We were able to offer donations to over 600 hundred individuals and families in West Yorkshire and offer antiracist training to over 600 people, gave over 100 talks, interviews and workshops. 2020 was the busiest we have ever been but also painful as there were many losses.

For the next five years we plan on:

  • Staying radical and true to the cause, learning from our ancestors whose shoulders we stand on.
  • To decenter whiteness and address coloniality and seek justice. 
  • To listen and engage with marginalised communities.
  • To centre intersectionality in all the work and organising, ‘there are no single issues.’
  • To continue building radical alternatives/imaginaries, built on radical love (rather than our exploitation) – i.e. something that is not simply grappling and ending the negative but building a positive?

Thank you for your continuous solidarity and support; for being part of the Racial Justice Network family.This wouldn’t have been possible without you!

Toast to the next 5! Tuko pamoja!

Penny Wangari-Jones


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