Still here and caring: RJN responds to Covid-19

To protect the health and safety of our communities and friends we have sadly decided to postpone/suspend all our upcoming events, training, media appearances and face-to-face support.

At this time of the continued global Coronavirus pandemic, we know that our most vulnerable those with migrant status, those suffering under the hostile environment, those with no recourse to public funds – will be disproportionately affected by any lock down. It is the most vulnerable that will be affected by the closing of services, deepening economic hardship, and the seeping of border regimes into our GP practices. With many of our communities unemployed, or in low-paid and insecure work, and many living in shared housing, self isolation simply isn’t an option. 

We will continue to work to protect ourselves and our communities. We are in the process of moving ourselves online with our Collective Conversations and our Unlearning Racism course, with more information to follow. Notwithstanding the ways that the digital world excludes many of our members, we will also endeavour to continue liaising with our core membership digitally or by phone to ensure their needs are brought to the attention of policy makers and funders.

We extend our solidarity to the frontline medical and care workers who, as a result of deliberate underfunding, are massively under resourced, underpaid and over stretched. We also offer solidarity to any migrant and especially migrant medical staff who are still being asked to pay a fee to use the NHS that they serve. We send love to the cleaners who are being treated so badly, expected to work without even the most basic safety provisions, by contracted cleaning companies. This crisis has shown, if we did not already know, that for profiteering companies and our government alike, too many of our lives are seen to be entirely expendable. . 

We send love to our siblings in indefinite detention, we have not forgotten you and will continue to put your case forward at every opportunity. Waiting for news of your release. 

Peace to the prisoners in overcrowded, underfunded prisons, whilst the owners can self isolate in luxury. To those on misdemeanour charges that should by now, have been released . 

To those without a roof and food, to the women of colour who are always disproportionately affected by testing times, to the dis/abled people whose needs are too often ignored, we send love and solidarity.

Article by Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds

The Racial Justice Network statement on the UK’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic

We at The Racial Justice Network are deeply concerned about three aspects of the UK governments’ response in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic:

1. The unjustifiable danger to the lives of up to 2,000 people in immigration detention

We support the letter from 10 organisations led by Bail for Immigration Detainees, in calling for the immediate release of all people detained by the Home Office in order to curb the serious health risk to those being held for administrative reasons which, while never justified, are entirely redundant at a time when deportation flights are grounded.

2. The threat to freedom from emergency police powers

Emergency police powers being rushed through parliament this month – but potentially applicable for years – will enable officers to detain anyone under the justification of their suspected potential infection risk. Returning the police to a border force role is a serious threat to the liberty of UK citizens, particularly when viewed in the context of the growing use of police biometrics with racist  Stop and Search practices. We note that MP Layla Moran shares this concern, stating “I worry that these new detention powers will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless.

3. The risk to public health posed by the Hostile Environment

As Liberty, Medact, JCWI and others have pointed out, the Hostile Environment, prevents migrants from accessing healthcare, making them acutely vulnerable to the Coronavirus. We echo those groups’ calls to end all data sharing between the NHS and the Home Office and the NHS charges which form a barrier for accessing screening and treatment. 

We stand in solidarity with everyone being placed in danger by these issues and urge the government to take fast, responsible action.

Supported by

Decolonising Education Kenya 2020

A collaboration between The Racial Justice Network, University of Nairobi, African Digital Media Institute and University of Manchester.

Between the 13th and the 16th January, 6 of us from the UK and 5 others from Kenya have curated a programme of events focused on the decolonization of education and activisms. This programme seeks to bring a range of partners together in order to build international solidarity between activists, artists and scholars in Kenya, and their UK counterparts.

Whilst calls to ‘decolonize’ are now commonplace on UK university campuses, the term is at risk of being reduced to a mere buzzword, bereft of historical and socio-political context, and emptied of its radical impetus. Through this programme of events, we hope to recapture the radical potential of decolonial thought and action. 

Given the colonial relationship between Kenya and Britain, and given the decolonization that Kenyans fought for, this international collaboration enables us to engage in meaningful and generative ways as we seek to explore what contemporary decolonize movements should look like. 

The four day series of events have been designed as an intervention against the systems of colonial power that structure our places of learning, our existence and ways of living. We ask: what do colonial legacies look like? What do we learn? How do we build and reinforce decolonial resistances and solidarities across borders. All of the sessions will feed into a decolonial framework that will be made available after the event.

This framework will be developed for attendees to implement in their educational spaces, workplaces, and in the prospective international network. Whilst decolonization cannot be reduced only to a ‘framework’, we hope that this is a starting point from which our network might build. As the framework will become an open-online-resource, we hope that it will be drawn upon (and refined) by a range of other activist organisations, including ourselves

Activities over the course of the week:

Monday 13th January – Rep the road workshop in a high school in Nairobi ( not open to public). 

Tuesday 14th January – Decoloniality workshops at Arboretum Nairobi,10-3 pm. Bringing community, scholars and activists together. 22 places available for community members, activists and scholars only. EMAIL TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE

Wednesday 15th January – Resistance and solidarity workshops at PAWA 254, 10-2pm. Bringing 22 community members, scholars and activists only. EMAIL TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE

Followed by a panel discussion in the auditorium, 6-8pm. By asking if we are complicit in colonial legacies, we will share and listen to a range of speakers covering topics like Education, Culture, Politics, Land and much more. BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE.

Thursday 16th January – Decolonising Education conference at the University of Nairobi (Kikuyu campus), 9.30-5pm. Bringing all of the week’s activities together, a day of focused discussion, response, solidarity-building and planning for decolonial resistances. This conference includes an opening and closing plenary as well as presentations from scholars, community educators and activists. BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE

Booking, admission and other details:

Admission to all workshop events is free of charge, however spaces are limited and booking for each event is required, followed by further information including location details. 

Light refreshments and lunch will be provided.

The events will be filmed and recorded.

Speakers and workshop organisers for this event include:

Racial Justice Network – with Desiree Reynolds, Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Sharon Anyiam, Sai Murray, Kwame Gad and Peninah Wangari-Jones.

Field Marshall’s- Githuku Ndungi

From the roots – Wangui wa Kamonji

University of Nairobi- Dr. Christine Kahigi

For any questions or further queries, please contact:

Legacies of Colonialism: How are we complicit

Happening on the 15th of January 2020 and held at PAWA 254, 2nd floor, Africa Alliance of YMCAs Building, Nairobi, Kenya

RACIAL JUSTICE NETWORK, 2019 round-up, looking forward to 2020


It’s been a busy, remarkable year for us. Whilst we try our best to respond to the continued and worsening hardships that are undoubtedly on the way, we have striven always to keep our core beliefs and lived experiences at the heart of our practice. We do not want to paint a picture that is so bleak that we can do nothing, and yet we do not want to shirk away from what is to come. In our experiences, we have seen hate crimes increase and institutional racisms deepen. Simultaneously, the resources needed to resist are becoming increasingly (over-)stretched, and often entirely absent. 

We understand that we are in a time of great upheaval, reflection and regrouping. We will continue to work and listen, in order to build anti-racist resistance. Throughout our work, we will continue to place race and the legacies of colonialism and empire at the centre of our analysis. 

Despite the continued emboldening of the far-right, we saw many successes in 2019. Particularly worthy of mention are our Collective Conversations series, our Unlearning racism course, and the continuation of the Stop the Scan campaign. We also hosted our first AGM, secured funding, have made significant progress in our building of international solidarities, and launched our new website

Our Collective Conversations series has been a huge success and has brought more and more people into our network. Focusing on a different topic each month, whilst always centring race and racism, this series has seen us consider important issues, as suggested by our members. The sessions covered, ‘Race and Education’, ‘Race and Policing’, ‘Race and Disability’,’Race and Sexuality’, ‘Feminisms for Men of Colour’, ‘Intergenerational Activisms’, and several more. It has been nice to raise awareness about issues, and to create a space for people to talk, share and vent. 

The Unlearning racism course was developed to move away from the expectation that racially oppressed communities do all of the anti-racist work. We also wanted to counter the continuous fragmentation of movements and campaigns due to a lack of necessary race analyses. In 2019, we ran two classes over 8 weeks supported by a collective of 6 volunteers. The course ‘graduates’ were encouraged to apply their learning by joining the collective to develop future courses and support anti-racist work in their own environments. 

Stop the Scan, is a campaign, in collaboration with other groups, that draws attention to police use of mobile fingerprint scanners with links to immigration databases – an extension of the ‘hostile environment’. This is a real issue that will, unsurprisingly, disproportionately impact upon racially minoritized communities. We encourage everybody to read more about the campaign here

The building of international links has been one of the key aims of our last two annual round-ups, and is driven by our desire to understand the global nature of the colonial legacies we seek to challenge. It has been great, therefore, to see this work really strengthen in 2019. Our director returned to Brazil for the second year running, to attend and participate in a dialogue on women in movements and strengthening global alliances conference. A  delegation from our network also attended a conference at the University of Nairobi, and spent time with activists and community organisers in Kenya. In January of 2020, we return to Kenya for ‘Decolonising Education Kenya 2020’ collaborating with activists and academics in Nairobi, as part of a programme of events focusing on the decolonisation of activism and education. We hope that these events will lay the groundwork for a long and enduring series of collaborations.

Our culture and media work has continued, being invited to speak at numerous spaces like film screenings, in collaboration with local independent cinemas and film makers. In this time of greater cultural output being seen as progress we feel it has to be supplemented by a more critical (race) understanding. For this reason, we have also spoken at events across the country – in universities, and community spaces , and have started supporting Afrikan History Classes in Leeds. 

We are very proud to announce the introduction of two patrons to our network –  reparations activist and scholar Esther Stanford- Xosie, and rapper and activist Lowkey. Both patrons reflect our values and vision, and are deeply committed to anti racist work. They share our commitment to the necessary unpacking of global oppressive histories to current forms of neocolonialism now. 

When Human Suffering is Not Enough

A four year old boy sleeping on a floor wasn’t enough and that feels shitty. But that four year old was never enough, neither the elderly Jamaican man dying in a country he never knew, or that woman under the rubble created by UK arms dealers, or the species that are being choked by big business, the deaths on universal credit, None of it. But for some reason we’re still not talking about capitalism. 

Thatcher destroyed the unions, Blair destroyed Labour. That is when the rift started. So now middle class Londoners are more Labour than working class northerners. Orwell would be having a field day. And solidarities have disappeared. Working Class solidarities don’t hold up under racial scrutiny. The left is being accused of piety, being preachy, far too distant from its base. Really? And the right isn’t preachy? Curious. I wonder how many people have died at the hands of a far left extremist recently. The right comes with entitlement over bodies, women’s bodies, Brown and Black bodies, working class bodies. And those bodies are still commodities. 

Society has always been broken. There has always been the haves and the have nots. What has happened is that the haves have managed to convince the have nots that they are working in their best interests. 

Brexit was never about sovereignty but about elite ambition and money. Look at how much Rees Mogg has made since the referendum. Capitalism. Like salt it runs through everything. 

Look at whose to gain from Brexit, look at who gets the tax breaks, who gets the most help. Not our most vulnerable. Those that spent time and labour, out canvassing and making phone calls and writing op eds and signing petitions were doing it for that thing that feels more invisible today, that sits tasteless on the tongue and just in the shadows of our vision, the hope of something better. But when will we learn we must always follow the money? If you’re shocked by this result you’re part of the problem. If you thought anything else could be possible then you haven’t been watching. It doesn’t make it any less shitty tho, it doesn’t mean our hearts can’t break. 

We have no answers, but we continue to fight, to agitate on behalf of those that can’t or won’t, to defend and organise. We hope you join us.

By Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds (RJN Trustee)

Hope not Fear, This Election…

As an anti-racist organisation, we are urging everybody that can to get out and vote in what looks set to be one of the biggest election in our lifetimes. 

Whilst we maintain that change primarily occurs outside of electoral politics, there is simply too much at stake to stand by in this election. Indeed, as the last decade of austerity has shown, when inequalities deepen, racial minorities are too often at the sharp end.

If we turn out to vote, Black, Brown and migrant communities have the power to influence this election and we must take it. We must also count on others to stand in solidarity with us, and we must vote for those of us who can’t. 

The choices at this election could not be starker. There is a real opportunity to vote for change that will improve many lives. 

We must push to end the hostile environment, to save the NHS, to tackle poverty, invest in education, deal with the climate emergency and address the mental health crisis. All of these issues disproportionately impact upon our communities.

Look beyond the tabloid press and unsubstantiated claims by a skewed media and look at the track-records of the party leaders on issues of race and racism.

Whatever happens tomorrow, we will be ready to hold the new government to account and our grassroots work and commitment to Race Justice will, necessarily, go on. Let us do so in hope, not fear

By Remi Joseph-Salisbury @RemiJS90

What Blackness Can Do

We’re living in performative times. That social media enables us to offer a running commentary of our everyday lives means that much of what we do is with an eye to what looks good, will get the most likes, will go viral. But in that capturing, that life on pause, to be examined and re-examined, ‘Blackness’ performs a very specific function. 

As a creative writer/novelist, I have long despaired about what cultural activity gets funded, resourced, distributed.  And now that market forces has come round to the idea the Black lives, can be commodified, someone somewhere is making a raise. Black pain, trauma and death is still the most funded. And  Black reactions to pain and trauma and death is quickly memed or Giffed and viralised. Don’t get me wrong, all parts of life should be explored, nothing should be off the table, whether it be Black love or hate. This is one of the reasons why I write. I don’t have to defend it, it’s just what I do. 

The violent Black Male trope has been used for centuries as an excuse for violence to be perpetrated against Black men. Doing to them exactly what they are accused of doing.  Images of happy lynching party picnics come to mind. With a gleeful white crowd in awe of its own power, white men and women and children, smiling at having contained the ‘threat’ of Black men or a Black child. With each threat of violence at the hands of a lawless ‘Blackness’ there is justification now for increased militarised policing. 

But ‘Blackness’ in Europe has always been young. Even in paintings of the three kings, Balthazar is youthful, trendy, in beautiful colours and jewellery, a representation of ‘new worlds’ rather than ancient ones. And what do we assign to the modern Black youth? Moral panics, crime and drug culture, increasing knife crime. In a word ‘violence’. In the white imagination, Blackness is dangerous and in need of policing and control. Is one culture more violent than another? As we look at the historical evidence of ‘moral panics’, violence certainly seems to be ‘young’, generating a reason for the old to fear the young. And of course in recent ears violence has now been framed as ‘Black’. But no, most victims and perpetrators of violent crime are white and yet we still use phrases like ‘Black on Black Crime’ when we mean crime. 

So a cinema chain, bans a black film fearing it to be the cause of violence…more so than any of the other violent films on offer? And despite the brawl involved Asian youth, the pictures accompanying the story covered by a racist media are of young, black men. Whiteness expects them to be violent and so. The young men that started the fight were even too young to see the film. Blue Story’s writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu, said Saturday’s disturbance in Birmingham was “truly unfortunate”.

Blue Story is a film about love not violence.

I can’t be sure that that was why it was funded and distributed, because it’s about love… And this has nothing to do with the creatives who tell these stories, it’s an important story, but an industry, like hip hop, that chooses very carefully what will make it the most money, not what represents us.

And now more police are called for, more stops and searches, increase the pressure on Black and Brown communities to not act like their fellow white citizens. With every new leap in tech comes new concerns about what that means for the controlling of Blackness. The face recognition that sees only Black not a person, the Stop and Scan campaign we’ve been running about police scanners hooked up to the home office. All in an effort to contain a threat that doesn’t play out in stats, doesn’t represent a reality or lived experiences but one that exists in the minds of a whiteness with a siege mentality. No atrocity too big if you’re scared. 

Is no one gonna arrest Michael Gove for his crimes against humanity? His Twitter chat reminiscent of boarding school black face jokes, Blackness for him is comedy. And yet his coke habits are well known, he’s still not quite a criminal tho is he, not as much as a Black man taking coke. 

We can only hope that the discussion on violence includes the amount of women that are killed by partners or exes, the violence suffered by sex workers, the refugee children being beaten and filmed in schools. Violent behaviour is complex and has a myriad of reasonings, papers, books, tv, art about it. Perhaps we should ban all films with violence in it. And spend more time staring at pictures of the young, Baltizar, or better yet, make a meme or GIF  out of him, but there will be complaints, he won’t be funny or violent enough. Article by Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds

Christchurch massacre: a symptom of deep-rooted Islamophobia

The Christchurch massacre is a brutal and despicable act of terror. The targeted murder of 49 Muslims in two New Zealand mosques demonstrates the seriousness with which we must treat Islamophobia. In much of the subsequent media coverage and political condemnation, we can see a deliberate and dangerous attempt to omit that the victims were Muslim, that they were in a place of worship, and that this was an Islamophobic attack.

However, as Asim Qureshi makes clear, we cannot and must not allow these events to be understood in abstraction from these fundamental factors. As Waqas Tufail puts it, when Islamophobia and the threat of the far-right are not taken seriously, this is the outcome. We should make no mistake about the severity of Islamophobia, and the devastating impact on Muslim communities across the world. For far too long our politicians, the media, and academics, have contributed to a climate of hate and intolerance towards Muslims. Somehow, Islamophobia has become a seemingly respectable face of racism. Whilst right-wing outlets like Spiked condemn the rush to pin the blame for the New Zealand massacre on right-wing columnists and media outlets, the attack cannot be severed from the nationalist and Islamophobic sentiments that proliferate across our societies. We see evidence of this on our streets and across our institutions, including in our schools and media. 

The ties between the attack and the global manifestations of Islamophobic white supremacy are clear: not only through neo-Nazi symbols and the dates of historic Christian battles, but in the killer’s so-called ‘manifesto’. Direct reference was made to events in Europe, to supporting Brexit, to seeing Trump as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose, and to Oswald Mosley who led the British Union of Fascists. As Tarek Younis suggests, [t]he attacker belongs to the racist structures which have normalised Islamophobia in Western politics. The connections and implications are global and plain for us to see. When widely-read papers like The Sun and the Daily Mail put so much energy into fuelling prejudice (as a report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance showed), we should not be surprised when there are consequences. Real people pay with their actual lives.

It is all the more disappointing that BBC Newsnight chose to give a platform for the far-right group Generation Identity to discuss the events. On that very same night, a Muslim worshipper was attacked with a hammer outside a London mosque. What has happened should shame us all. We have allowed a culture of Islamophobia to take root in such a terrifying way and we cannot continue to let Muslim lives pay the price. It is important now that our society stands up to hold our politicians, our media, and our academics to account. The lives of Muslims must be taken seriously. Islamophobia must be challenged. And we must stand in solidarity.   The Racial Justice Network stands in solidarity with our Muslim members, friends, and Muslims across the world, particularly those in Christchurch.