PHYLL OPOKU- GYIMAH
People say protest doesn’t work – tell that to Rosa Parks
Hey DIVA reader, it’s so nice to hear that I was missed during my break last issue. Fortunately for me and maybe unfortunately for you, I was taking time out. It’s all about self- care. I needed time for me, and to reflect on what has happened since Trump’s inauguration and how our world now feels like a very different place.
I am finding myself becoming increasingly political. I didn’t even know that was possible! I am shouting from the rooftops and up and down the streets, wherever I can be heard. I’m turning up the volume and letting everyone know that my bold, strong blackness, my beautiful womanhood, my political queerness, my principled socialist- self and my intersectional approach to life must be seen and heard 365 days of the year – without apology for who I am.
I guess some of you will read this paragraph, roll your eyes, and move on to something which feels a little easier to digest. I get it. I talk about matters that make people feel uncomfortable. I don’t always take a nice, soft approach, that everyone must “love and be loved”. I talk about feminists who don’t care about intersectionality – those who urge you to join them in their fight against sexism and misogyny – yet erase part of what makes me so unique. I am not afraid to call out racism when it rears its ugly head, especially in the LGBTQI+ community. I will talk about socialism and neoliberalism, about smashing patriarchy. I want to address white fragility and privilege, and talk about how many have benefited from colonialism and enslavement. So if you want to call me an angry queer black
woman – go right ahead. Because I have a lot to be angry about. But I’m trying to normalise these conversations so we can get to the root cause and change things.
There has been a huge worldwide movement sparked by the inauguration of Trump, most notably because of his disregard for hard- fought equality rights and equity, the disgusting Muslim ban, his outright sexism, racism, Islamophobia, his horrendous insensitivity to disabled people, his inarticulate speeches and constant swipes at the media for reporting the truth. But of course, he says it’s all fake news. Just like the colour of his hair (am I allowed to say that?).
This is not all about Trump. We in the UK have our own challenges. For example, what will Brexit look and feel like for many of us, when Article 50 is eventually triggered by the Prime Minister? After all, we have already seen a huge spike in reported hate crime following the referendum.
I am seeing women in the UK galvanised by these troubling times and taking to the streets. Black Girls Picnic, the Women’s March, Million Women Rise, Southall Black Sisters, Sisters Uncut, Black Pride Women, and many more. Because we want to roar loudly and be heard as we highlight the injustice here and abroad, while also seeking real change. But what I would like is to unite these movements. To form a rainbow coalition capable of formidably challenging the hurt, pain and distress we are experiencing. I want to see victims/ survivors, Muslims, Black and Brown women, and of course all women, respected and placed at the centre of such coalitions because these are the people who are disproportionately targeted.
People say protest does not work. Tell that to Harvey Milk, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, the Suffragettes, South Africa’s anti- apartheid movement. The ends of segregation and apartheid, the women’s vote – these were not given voluntarily by those in power; they were fought for. We now hold these freedom fighters in high esteem but let’s go back to what was said about them at the time. They were troublemakers. Dismissive language was often used against those who challenged the status quo and wanted to make change. And not all that much has changed. Like us, they were fighting against men like Trump, his reactionary cabinet and governments here in the UK and abroad who insist on rolling back the hands of time on equality.
This is why I protest. If we don’t, we make a big mistake. If history has taught us anything, it’s that we should never dismiss the power of protest. The members of such movements are not the rabble, they are the custodians of change. And I want to be a change- maker. I may not be Muslim, Mexican, an asylum seeker or a migrant, but if Trump is coming for them, then he needs to get through me first. I need you to stand/ sit with me if we are going to stop hate in its tracks.
In the words of the iconic African American poet and thinker Audre Lorde: “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t. So in our work and in our living, we must recognise that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.”
Solidarity # Blackfistsalute
People say protest does not work. Tell that to Harvey Milk and Rosa Parks IT IS TIME TO MAKE OUR ANGER VISIBLE, SAYS PHYLL OPOKUGYIMAH