RJN contribution to the Leeds Climate Change Citizens’ Jury

In October 2019 RJN were asked to present testimony to the Leeds Climate Change Citizens’ Jury.

Our chosen theme for this testimony was the need for an international perspective to be considered in all thoughts, recommendations and action.

The 15-minute presentation from RJN director Peninah Wangari-Jones and trustee Sai Murray is below (from 13mins 29):

In addition, we were posed several questions around the need to consider climate change from an international perspective. Videos available below:

We look forward to hearing the recommendations for the city of Leeds and will continue to engage with our local and global communities to push the agenda of climate justice, recognising the climate debt owed to the majority world from exploiting countries (such as the UK) and striving towards the goal of holistic, economic, spiritual, environmental and cultural repairs to end racial injustice and to address legacies of colonialism.

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.

Let Go of the Baby

Repost date: 03/11/2020

NOTE: THE RACIAL JUSTICE NETWORK WROTE THIS BLOG 03/03/2019. WE ARE REPOSTING IT IN RESPONSE TO COMIC RELIEF’S DECISION TO NO LONGER SEND CELEBRTITIES TO AFRICA.

As another Comic Relief approaches, now in it’s 33rd year, Black and Brown communities all over the UK brace ourselves for a narrative that presents us, our worlds and ancestries through a white, smug, self obsessed lens. As the Black film world rocks at yet another white saviour film has won an Oscar, sometimes we have to ask ourselves, what’s up with white peoples?

Why is it that stories not centring whiteness will shoe-horn it in at any cost? Why when this is pointed out by Black and Brown peoples isn’t there an “ok, sorry, we messed up”. From Driving Miss Daisy to The Help and Green Book, the white saviour trope holds so much traction that a white personality, holding a Black baby, displayed across the media and social media, under the guise of helping the unfortunate, incapable Black people is still something that becomes heavily debatable. Whiteness doesn’t want to let go of the Black baby. It’s laughable in its irony. It’s depressing in its consistency. We hold our breath, we curse underneath it, we hold back tears and anger, dodge the build up and the evenings worth of shallow programming and are expected to interact in a normal way the next day.

You’ve agreed to “loan us our black art” but not all of it and at the same time insist that we’re again grateful. Black gratitude or a lack of it sits in the middle of the discourse about Comic Relief like badly made jerk. No one listens. And that’s perhaps the most telling thing of all, that our voices continuously get silenced whilst the fund raises money for ‘us’ and at the same time we’re offered training schemes and ‘diversity’ concessions when perhaps listening is the very beginning of all of that. Guilt pays, not reality. And that’s not our fault as communities have been vocal about Comic Relief since its inception. As it pits communities against each other and sets up a charity dynamic that further supports Britishness as benevolent helper, rather than exploiter. That might never change. A snapshot of the issues when you read David Lammy’s Twitter responses is all you need to know about where we’re at… He was respectful of Dooley, he commends her on her good work, he says he is in no way trying to put down Comic Relief’s work, just how the message is delivered. And yet. People claiming that it’s putting them off from giving, “since you don’t want our money, I’m giving elsewhere”, that calling someone white is racist, that without a white saviour, people wouldn’t give because Black pain has to be framed by whiteness? That he’s a bully (a big Black one) attacking a small white girl. And crucially, where would these countries be without white benevolence? But it’s hard to watch a whole country giving itself a pat on the back for ‘helping’ to solve the problems it helped create. If we do not understand Empire and its colonial legacy as real life, then whiteness can continue to pretend it had nothing to do with the problems in the first place.

What every Black and Brown person knows after hours of footage of diseased and plague ridden Afrika is that this view of Afrika directly relates to us in the diaspora. That kids in school the next day will be told how ungrateful they are, workers will have to put up with colleagues that ‘never knew it was so bad’. That white celebrity doesn’t concern itself with racism on a daily but will put up with going over ‘there’ to make a film and then go back to the plush hotel afterwards. And importantly that those over there are those that are seeking asylum. That those seeking asylum are those same ones that are being helped. That those people in the ‘country; Of Africa are a homogenous whole. That Afrika has no cities, no roads, libraries, universities or banks. That Afrika corrupted itself into poverty. None of the programming discusses colonial legacies. That once a colony was granted ‘freedom’ the British left and took out all that it could, extracting wealth and resources as it left and continued to try to influence governments, with brutality if necessary. Remember Mark Thatcher trying to pull off a coup in Equatorial Guinea? That those countries that are war torn are being sold weapons from British manufacturers. Britain continues to make money out of Black and Brown suffering. Since Comic Relief is stuck in a model that it refuses to change, let the films reflect all the histories and let go of the baby.

By Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds @racejustice

Yorkshire Resists the Hostile Environment

Activists and organisers across Yorkshire are invited to create a network of alliances around the common goal of resisting the UK government’s hostile environment policies. Each group or individual will be asked to introduce themselves and talk about their current areas of interest, challenges and what resources they need and may offer to others. A constitution for a network’s operating principles will be presented and discussed. If we can reach agreement, a plan of action will be made. Attendance is free, but please register so we have an idea of numbers (places are limited). We’ll gather at 9.30am for a 10am start and finishing at 4pm.

A collective or organisations in Yorkshire resisting the Hostile Environment

Jamaican Deportation: Charter Flights Crime.

The way Black and Brown bodies are moved around is directly linked to the legacy of the Afrikan holocaust, chattel slavery. Our bodies are somehow disconnected from family, from love, emotions and thought. This is one of the cornerstones of the ideology that allows bodies to be shipped, packed, unpacked, killed, discarded and dehumanised. This is what is happening now. The deportation and treatment of our Elders has caused a scandal that the government is still keen to dodge. Our law abiding forebears deserved better. 

‘Law abiding’ is the narrative that works, it holds currency as well as the public imagination. But people who have been labelled as criminal are not considered the ‘right’ kind of citizens. Our siblings are being deported on flights chartered by the government, and managed by security personnel (one need only look at the case of Jimmy Mubenga to see how this can end). It’s become a conveyor belt: an industry capitalising on the transportation of human flesh. The flights are conducted in secret, men and women dragged from registration centres and detained and then deported. There is no room for enquiry or to be able to challenge the decision. Children are left behind.. people have died awaiting justice when ‘mistakes’ are brought to light.

Men and women, many of whom have been here since early childhood, are being told that to be labelled a criminal, makes them instantly not British, not a citizen, not quite human enough to be treated like a white person. They have been charged with predominantly minor offences. This does not take into account that Black and Brown people are more likely to be convicted in the first place and serve longer sentences than white counterparts, or that some of the ‘crimes’ are a direct consequence of migration status. This is a systemic farce to justify deportation!   The charter flights are nothing new, the loss of loved ones like this has been going on for some time, but there’s a change in pace.

What are those countries such as Ghana and Jamaica gaining by accepting these flights? Surely if they refused, the British government would have to make alternative arrangements. And it is clear that those governments do not care about the long-term impact the deportations are having, both upon the individuals and the communities of the deportees. Many of those who face deportation are experience high levels of depression and other mental health issues, they are subjected to rejection and in some cases violence, forced into communities they often have no connection to. After living here for so long they are themselves ‘othered’ in a country they are being told is home. As per usual the focus on ‘Black criminality’ as covered by the media buys into the racist notion of Black Crime and the idea that we are inherently more prone to criminal activity.

This is one of the ways oppressors justify their cruelty: it’s still being used today. The criminalisation of Blackness also functions to reduce collective sympathy towards mothers and fathers being separated from their children, and lives torn apart and lost. The statement issued by the Home Office states, Foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.

Ask any footballer or athlete about British hospitality, as they continues to dodge banana skins, ask any Black and Brown child excluded from school, or harassed by the police. Ask Black women suffering sexist racism in the workplace. Perhaps then, we can talk about British hospitality.   

The Racial Justice Network stands in solidarity with those facing deportation, support End deportations’ CALL TO ACTION and we urge this government to end its callous mistreatment of Black and Brown communities.

Article by Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds @racejustice

Reflecting on 2018 and looking forward to 2019 at the Racial Justice Network

2018 has been an eventful year for the Racial Justice Network and its been great to see the network go from strength to strength. We have been delighted to expand our board of trustees this year. Bringing a wealth of experience and expertise, Desiree Reynolds, Farzana Khan and Sipilien Birani have helped to consolidate and grow the work that we do at RJN.  We are also very pleased to have worked with many new members, friends and allied groups this year. We fondly remember hosting former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver with the Northern Police Monitoring Project in Manchester, and another former Black Panther, Bob Brown in Leeds. 

We have been drawing attention to the dangers of the Hostile Environment for a long time now, and are pleased to see the issues finally gaining attention in anti-racist and leftist circles, and even (fleetingly) in mainstream discourse. A gathering in solidarity with hunger strikes at Yarl’s Wood have led to the establishment of ‘Yorkshire Resists’, a loose network of allied groups to resist the hostile environment, and we were pleased to support our friends and members in Glasgow to establish ‘Glasgow Resists’. The launch was well attended and we will continue to support them and their work.

We will also continue with our pastoral work supporting our members and friends with projects in Bradford, Glasgow, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, and wherever else necessary.   As an organisation and as individuals we have delivered an incredible number of talks this year. Across the UK and internationally, we have spoken at universities, festivals, academic and professional conferences, and community events. We have also increased the number of blogs on our website, published a number of interventions in mainstream and leftist media, and released several statements on important issues affecting our communities.   

The successes of the RJN meetup group for ‘white allies’ has been particularly encouraging and we look forward to further developments of this project in 2019. We’ve also had valued opportunities to host film screenings and discussions in collaboration with Leeds Black Film Club and other groups, and, given the positive reactions from our members and local communities, we have plans for more of this in 2019.  

  We have taken particular inspiration from the successes of Sisters United this year, a group that includes a number of RJN members and friends. They’ve been campaigning tirelessly against the mismanagement of housing for people seeking asylum in Halifax (which we named as a concern in our 2017 round up), Sisters United have been successful in bringing greater attention to this issue and in developing Halifax G4S charter with support from local, regional and national organisations as well as the local authority.   

One of our aims for 2018 was to begin to develop international connections with groups involved in anti-racist struggle. We have made advances with regard to this aim, with our director Peninah Wangari-Jones attending Dialogue II women in movement in Brazil, and connecting with a number of groups and individuals, including Criola, Virada Feminista, and Bokantaj who came to visit RJN in the UK. We will continue to seek out international connections in 2019, and particularly hope to visit the African continent to build solidarities, and strengthen our anti-racist struggle.   Looking forward to 2019, building on the work of 2018, we will be hosting a ‘collective conversation’ series throughout the year. Through this series – funded with the support of Scurrah Wainwright Charity – we hope to bring together a wide range of people from our communities to discuss big issues, including race and mental health, race and disability, and a number of topical issues.   Amidst all of our successes, we were saddened to lose an important activist when our friend Jackie was forced to leave for Botswana. Whilst we continue connecting with Jackie on an international scale, this was also a stark reminder of how harsh and real British migration policies can be for our communities. Alongside our other activities, we have had to campaign and fund-raise against the threat of deportations facing several of our members, a constant reminder of how important our work is.   

We have been disappointed this year to have had unsuccessful applications for larger sources of funding, as this would really have enabled us to increase the scale and impact of our work. However, we recognise that remaining committed to our radical anti-racist principles limits our access to funding. We are grateful to those supporters who continue to donate through our Paypal. Anybody else willing and able to donate to support our work can do so by following this link.  In solidarity,   The Racial Justice Network 

Looking forward to 2019, building on the work of 2018, we will be hosting a collective conversation series throughout the year. Through this series – funded with the support of Scurrah Wainwright Charity – we hope to bring together a wide range of people from our communities to discuss big issues, including race and mental health, race and disability, and a number of topical issues.

Racial Justice Network statement on the unjust conviction of the Stansted 15

The Racial Justice Network statement on the unjust conviction of the Stansted 15   

We at the Racial Justice Network are deeply troubled by the conviction of the Stansted 15 this week. We have to ask important questions about what this says of our ‘justice’ system, and wonder what implications such a decision has for the right to protest, and for human rights.  

The UK immigration system is despicably cruel, and we stand in solidarity with the Stansted 15 and others who seek to oppose the ruthless injustice it produces. The Racial Justice Network has the utmost admiration for the heroic non-violent actions of the protesters. As a consequence of which, several of those threatened with deportation are pursuing, or have granted, permission to remain in the UK.    

In light of this travesty of justice, we must redouble our efforts to dismantle borders, and make what should be an obvious point: no human being is illegal. We stand in solidarity with the Stansted 15.  

Resisting Racial Injustice with Kathleen Cleaver

Based on the event on 20th of June 2018 and in partnership with Northern Police Monitoring Project.

The underlying reason for our resistance lies in our vision; Holistic, Economic, Cultural and Spiritual repairs to end Racial Injustice and address legacies of colonialism.

We acknowledge there is no biological or anthropological basis for race, and claim we are but one race. However, the socio-political reality dictates that opportunities for participation are organised on the basis of the myth of race. Centuries of colonisation and enslavement have created psyches that believe in white supremacy, therefore mean black and brown bodies all over the world continue to be allocated inferior status.

Racial Justice Network engages with marginalised communities because racially minoritised communities in the UK have endured decades of being invisible, silenced, marginalised. In some cases, this has resulted in the accepting of suffering as part of existence, picking up adaptive as well as maladaptive practices, internalising powerless, becoming self destructive and expecting immediacy in changes to overcome apathy. So, we aim to reach and organise with people who acknowledge the continuing injustice and inequity and hold a desire to act and disrupt the status quo.

Our members and partnerships include people who have recently migrated, those who were born and raised in the UK, those from former British colonies and many more.

We hold Race at the core of our work and build on race analysis as it intersects with other injustices or oppressions like (but not limited to) gender, disability, migration, mental health, religion and sexuality. and by doing this we centre those most on the margin.

The US Civil rights Act was struck down in 1883 with Jim Crow Legislation that pushed for the separate and subordinate status of African Americans. The legislation ensured all social institutions organised themselves according to tenets of white superiority. All people who did not learn or abide by prevailing rules of white superiority were subject to severe consequences.

In the United Kingdom, Theresa May and her (dwindling) team have come up with a similar set of laws targeting people who have migrated into the UK (the majority from ex-colonies) with consequences of fines, prison sentences and the possible loss of business and income for those who do not comply with discriminative laws. With reasons of migration deeply connected to empire, foreign policy, ethnic conflicts instigated and rooted to European colonial divide and rule, foreign debt that cripples economies so inequality, poverty and lack of opportunities becoming a real driver. The Hostile Environment policy targets health, housing, driving, banking, education, employment and many other areas leading to a sharp increase in racial profiling, targeting and turning everyone to border control officers.

Migration policies are racist and we encourage others to over-stand racism as they tackle and challenge these policies: by so doing they will over-stand why people are fleeing their homes, why shutting down normal channels of seeking refuge have led to thousands dying in the Mediterranean and why having bodies floating on the sea, in villages, in camps is not as shocking as it would be if they were of European decent. They will understand the connections between the, Windrush scandal, racist over-policing, Grenfell, the thousands who are locked up in detention centres, and the toxic narrative behind Brexit.

Western society spent decades institutionalising racism and comes up every so often to condemn, blame or offer tokenistic gestures to silence and distract: complete eradication will take time. Dominant societal understandings see racism as individual rather that state led and structural. The state assisted by the media and other neoliberal sectors poison and misinform the public, then act surprised or punish the few individuals who act out or verbalise what the state is doing under the guise of policies and laws.

Connecting the dots of colonialism, Imperialism, Capitalism, neo-liberalism, migration, climate change destruction of cultures and peoples way of life, foreign policies, arms trade, medical experiments, debt, greed, greed, greed explains why we are where we are and offers a useful point to think about what next and what is just.

Racial Justice sees hope in; genuine and un-exploitative solidarity with humans and nature, remembering and reclaiming our awesomeness, growing our connections locally, regionally, nationally and internationally with other groups, individuals, struggles that intersect with ours, inspiring and getting inspired, creating platforms to share and raise our voices, supporting and getting support, remaining present and resisting unapologetically as we tackle the source of the problem not just the symptoms.

Use this link to view some of the images from the event.