Basingstoke Unites Against Racism: Protest in War Memorial Park
Effie Grant and Jojo Blankson, together with Ayóbami Okanlanwon and Martin Flood recently led residents of Basingstoke to The War Memorial Park in a peaceful protest against racism following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA. The protest was on Tuesday 9th June, the same day as he was being buried next to his mother in Houston, Texas, USA, whom he called out for in his final breaths. We cannot forget the powerful words ‘I can’t breathe’.
Effie Grant, lead organiser, in her speech traced her lineage back to a Scotsman who sailed to the shores of Ghana decades ago to echo the need to know one’s self and worth, asking, “I challenge you that before we embark on this journey to change the headlines and the systems that have long oppressed us, know yourself and self-worth.”
The need to bring change was echoed by Bishop David in his speech saying that “we need a new language to express the fundamental clarity of what happens when people are demonised, excluded, deprived, oppressed and killed because of the colour of their skin”. He went on to examine humanity saying that racism is a human thing that can be solved, but meant “facing the truth that many of us have been lied to about our history”.
Other community leaders followed suit. Imam Mohammed said, “it is inhumane to be racist; diversity is a blessing and we should not turn it into a curse”. Pastor Martin Flood, after apologising for having failed the BAME community on too many occasions said, “it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” Arun Mummalaneni of Basingstoke Multicultural Forum said, “racial injustice anywhere in the world is an attack on humanity.”
Local MP Maria Miller’s speech was read on her behalf by Andrew Henderson where she said, “not only should we say we will not tolerate racism of any kind; we need to put those words into practice.” That practice was swift in her announcement to launch a local inquiry.
Bishop David affirmed taking action when he said, “we know what to do. I must insist on the human rights of all people…this is a great moment in the life of humanity. It is rich in the possibilities for change and maybe ‘I can’t breathe’ will begin the real change that our world so desperately needs, so the day would come when all of us can breathe”.
Jojo Blankson highlighted the “need to take responsibility and be at the table to build something better... Should we rise to these challenges and prescribed actions to recognise that black lives matter and say no to racism, perhaps, soon enough the headlines can reflect the change our world desperately wants to see. May God help us all.”