PHYLL OPOKU- GY­IMAH

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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

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