Challenging Systemic Racism: An online Journey to Justice event
For anyone who wants to discuss what we can do about systemic racism.
Wednesday September 2nd 2020 20.00 – 21.30
Following the success of our July event where people shared their responses to the murder of George Floyd, there were requests for a chance to focus on what we can do about systemic racism – in the workplace or any institution, understanding where power lies and how to effect change.
At our September 2nd event we want to offer examples of how embedded racism has been challenged and some change achieved, with an opportunity for you to share experiences.
To get us started we will hear from guest speakers doing anti-racist work in education and the arts.
Donald McLean Vice Principal, Longley Sixth Form College, Sheffield
Sahar Beyad National Museums Liverpool, PR and Communications
Dr Sharon Curtis Manager, Ellesmere Children’s Centre, Sheffield
We know change is possible – we tell many stories of those who have made it happen. Their courage and perseverance are at the heart of our work. We need to work together to be creative, inclusive, clever and kind.
We asked why people chose to attend:
“I’m keen to find out more perspectives and practical ideas on such a vital topic.”
“I participated in the last JtoJ event and learnt a great deal and want to hear more in this longer event. To go beyond policy and rhetoric to know what kind of action can and should be taken.”
“Too important not to be here – need to see and help build a fairer set of opportunities particularly for all our children and young people.”
“Hoping to hear what others think will be valuable in schools.”
“I work with a wide age range of artists from diverse backgrounds. I want to check my own unconscious bias and reflect on what more I can be doing to celebrate and empower them.
“I am from Sheffield AntiRacist Education and would like to meet with others and hear new ideas, especially on education.”
“I am frustrated by the number of ‘surface’ distractions to getting down to changing institutionalised racism. We are distracted by trying to change the icing on the cake instead of being a new cake with better ingredients”
“I would like to hear views / join a discussion around how systemic racism surfaces in heritage presentation and how it is engaged with”
“To discuss what more can be done to tackle racism, both at individual level and institutional and organisational. Integrating Black history into mainstream British history.”
“I am here to get more insights from people with a more in-depth experience on what can we do about systemic racism.”
OUR SPEAKERS COVERED A WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE, EXAMPLES AND ADVICE
I want my legacy to be that Every Child Matters, including Black girls and boys so they are not racialised and seen as ‘Black bodies’.
Young men often lose their self-esteem and are denigrated for their language. They need support.
We created spaces for young people to talk about their mental health and sexuality with each other.
We work with the NHS and University. [In my experience] Black teenage boys are less likely to be referred to CAMHS and therefore they go into a pipeline ending in prison.
I think we talked more about race and racism in the 1970s and 80s with Burnage and Bernard Coard. We’re less prepared to talk about it now. We need to find the confidence to talk about race again.
We addressed issues around lack of funding, low pay, having our qualifications questioned, not having enough or appropriate staff and not being trusted because of being a Black led organisation. We raised £500,000 via the Lottery and have got better at “navigating the local power structures.”
The things we have done are quite ‘ordinary’.
It was hard work with Covid 19 and lockdown and it all intensified after the murder of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter is not radical.
I had to explain to the Senior Leadership Team that we needed to vocalise what we’re about.
As a museum and education centre, we had to show how we can make change happen or else what’s the point? People come to us to learn and make a connection. We have a national voice. If we’re not relevant what’s the purpose?
We issued a statement but our wonderful director Laura Pye said we would only say things we intended to implement and that we must not pay lip service to the issue of systemic racism.
We could only say things we could and would follow up.
We created a steering group of people from all over the organisation (we have 800 workers) and agreed everyone has to be involved. Some were too sad or angry to take part in talks at first.
We created a space for time out, for people who wanted to talk about what was going on.
We looked internally with our teams and agreed we first had to listen to each other, especially to marginalised groups.
We all wrote action plans short, medium and long term – only things which are realistic. And we involved HR in thinking how to implement the plans.
It’s not enough to say we need a ‘diverse’ workforce (“I don’t like that expression”) but how do we retain staff?
We have to have the conversations. They are not comfortable or easy. They are uncomfortable. This is not an easy subject. But we must have them.
We ran three Break Out Groups asking:
- How to begin to bring about change? (Challenging racism in your organisation and your head)
- What are the sort of obstacles you might face and how to overcome them? (NB allies inside and outside the organisation
- What does success look like? How to maintain and build on initial efforts.
Feedback was very positive:
“Hugely powerful session. Not only were the speakers wonderfully impressive and inspirational, but I also loved meeting and hearing the thoughts and experiences of the people I met in the break out rooms. As a group you have so much to teach our institutions.
“I would love to learn more of the Liverpool Museums’ actions – I know that my school has a vast amount to learn from their work, and having spoken with colleagues the following day, there is a definite enthusiastic and willing group who would be very interested in forming a steering group of our own.”
“Another very interesting Zoom. Thanks for organising it. The speakers were extremely interesting. There was a lot to think about & reflect on afterwards, which I think is the test of a good session.”
“We need to challenge resistance and opposition to Black-led work and recognise the need for self-organisation. I gained insights into provision for specific needs.”
“I am always interested in the experiences of the speakers and they are doing excellent work that is very necessary and hopefully will inspire more people to do something similar…. I think racism is so deeply built in all our system by centuries of white male default thinking that it is normalised and unconsciously reinforced by women and non-white people who have to live within the systems. It is too slow to tackle it at individual level only. It needs simultaneous work on it at collective level. It needs a network of ongoing discussion groups across the country of decision makers (local councils?) with representatives of all their community minorities. Preferably, mandated discussion groups accountable (regular report) to a government minister. Minds have to be changed across the community by hearing the experiences of non-white people of marginalisation, devaluation and invisibility and exposing stereotypes ignorance and attitudes for scrutiny.”
“If people came to the event wanting guidance as to how they might address things in their spaces, Sahar’s experience was so helpful. She spoke with clarity and honesty but also practically. The importance of difficult discussions … but also an example of a framework.”
“Bearing in mind how difficult a question we were tackling in so short a time, it was a successful meeting – bringing people together, sowing seeds of ideas, creating a safe space.”
“This event has given me energy!”
Please register your interest by August 31st
A Zoom link will be sent to you.
To read about our last meeting see:
See our list of anti-racist resources recommended by JtoJ supporters:
“Unity is a superpower they don’t want us to unlock”