For those of you who didn’t know, last month the SU observed Black History Month. As a part of the observance, the University of Leicester Amnesty International Student Division ran a campaign spreading awareness about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. I wanted to know more about it, so I got in touch with them and was put into contact with Mwakamui Iluya, the Media Executive for Amnesty, and asked her some questions about BLM and why it’s important.
Lucie: What is the Black Lives Matter movement?
Mwaka: The Black Lives Matter movement is a movement founded by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. These three black women (two of whom identify as queer) have experience with other social justice movements, including labour rights and immigration rights. Essentially, BLM is a protest against the overt violence black communities face and anti-black racism and how it impacts black people. [They started it in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, and it has since spread to 40 chapters across the US.]
L: What are the goals of the movement?
M: The movement began in the United States and last year a new 40-point policy agenda was created, [entitled ‘A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice‘]. Examples of some of their policy reform demands include: demilitarizing law enforcement, end money bails, end deportations, and end the systematic attack against black youth, trans, gender non-conforming and queer folks.
In the United Kingdom, before BLM UK, there were (and, I think, still are) the London Black Revolutionaries, and the Black Dissidents. This is evident from the recent documentary film Generation Revolution (activists in London and beyond the city fighting for the liberation for all – I recommend watching it!).
What role does Amnesty International play in BLM?
I’m not sure what role but I know Amnesty International does stand in solidarity and have attempted to put the movement in a discussion in a context of international human rights law with lawyers and activists.
Why is BLM important?
When interviewed, Cullors has stated that anti-black racism is global and that this is a big fight for the entire black diaspora. In her exact words, she stated: ‘It’s essential that we centre the conversation and also our practice in an international frame. If we don’t have those critical dialogues, if we don’t have that praxis [or, accepted practice or custom] around internationalism, we won’t have a movement that it is all about black lives.’
This is furthered by the fact that they went to Palestine and wanted to build black communities with indigenous people because of how black people have been displaced themselves. In other words, by placing all black people – queer, gender non-conforming, trans, queer, poor, (and, of course, they can all intersect) and so on, this movement has the ability to save all black lives. On top of being able to build transnational solidarity networks with other social movements that want justice, this is why it’s so important.
Why do you think people aren’t talking about it?
Perhaps they feel uncomfortable? I’m not sure, this is a weird question to answer because I think I’m lucky enough to have found myself people who do talk and are active. [I’m surrounded by] people whose lives are affected by this, so in a way, I think it’s more than people talking about it. People are [being proactive] because no one is ever passive when faced with oppression, you know? It has been shown historically and [it’s also happening] presently. I don’t know! Maybe it’s because people are not well-informed enough. I mean, it wasn’t until I read Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter that I found out about Brazil’s Pacifying Police Units waging war on poor Black favela residents. I had watched City of God quite a while back, but it was only a few years ago that I watched City of God: Ten Years Later (the documentary). The actors Seu Jorge and Roberta Rodrigues talked about the difficulties of being black in Brazil. Also, the Strolling web series by Cecile Emeke, that gives the diaspora a voice on social media, plays a massive role. I honestly don’t know.
How are you spreading the word?
For Black History Month, we took inspiration from Humans of New York. We interviewed and talked to people on campus. We informed them and talked about the deaths of people such as Rashan Charles, Da Costa, David Oluwale, Sean Riggs…the list goes on.
What can we do to help?
Educate yourself. I always say it just starts off with curiosity, the things you can discover and learn when you’re just curious is amazing. I recommend reading Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter. I also recommend watching the documentary film ‘Injustice’, for a UK context. It’s [also] good to share things on social media, and it’s good to attend/participate in events, protests, etc. Be an ally and be [with us] in solidarity.
*NB: the bits between square brackets are my own edits