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Exclusive Interview With Blackout LDN

Other | Tuesday 5th April 2016 | Arash

Tell me a bit about you, what is your background?

In terms of my background, I have quite a few strings to my bow, I do photography, TV production, but mainly right now I am in artist management.

 

Whereabouts are you from?

I was born in London; I’m an East Londoner so I’m happy here, not too far at all.

 

I know you’ve been involved in the Blackout London protest and movement, before we jump into that, have you experienced  much racism in London yourself?

I have, in terms of the U.K. it’s quite subtle, unless you’re a person that experiences it you wouldn’t know what is occurring, and because of these experiences and because of the prejudice, you start to behave in a certain way.

  For instance I was with Denise, the co-founder of Blackout and another lady, both happened to be white and there were a group of older white ladies walking up ahead in their 70s or 80s and as we got closer, I moved a lot slower and moved slowly around them whereas those two didn’t even think and just carried on walking and they said, “what was that about?” I said, “you don’t realise what just happened do you?” and they were like, “well, what do you mean?” 

 

Well usually what happens is sometimes when older white people are around black people they start to feel nervous, they see things in the media and they believe them to be true of all black people, so when you’re around them you don’t want to alarm them, you don’t want to be accused of something that you haven’t done and you don’t want to upset anybody, so you start to behave in a certain way and it becomes natural, you don’t actually realise you’re doing it until it’s done.

  This led into another conversation that I had with Denise, she’s recently moved to Cambridge and she was like, “it’s a lovely village, come and visit me” and I was like, “I don’t really want to do that” and she didn’t understand why. I said “well, Denise really there’s not really any black people there, it’s gonna be a village full of white people and I’m not gonna be too comfortable.” I’ve experienced racism in small villages before where I’ve actually been called a nigger, like straight out and the man was red faced and angry, because I happened to be in his village and not be white and I don’t want to intentionally put myself into a situation to feel like that again, and she was like, “Oh, my gosh, I really didn’t realise” and I said “that’s not your fault, you shouldn’t feel bad about this”, but this is what happens to us all the time.

 

Was there a particular driving factor in the asking you to get up and doing something yourself for the cause?

Well, it actually came out of a conversation, I’ve always been involved in speaking up and involved in different organisations, but in terms of I myself, Denise and I had a conversation about Sandra Bland when she was killed in Texas by a cop over there and basically we were just upset, we were angry, we were hurt, we actually physically felt the pain of what this poor woman went through, you know? You could hear her screaming on the tape, and then she just ends up dead, you obviously believe that these things happen, but to actually see it. You don’t know what happened to her but she’s dead, that’s the point and there is no justice for this woman, they’re still fighting for justice, that was the driving force for us, to actually, stand up and do something.

 

Some people might not know about this incident, and like to ask you, what single thing can you remember that most led you to think a policeman has probably killed this woman?

You could clearly hear her on say on the dash cam, those who don’t know what a dash cam is, it’s basically a camera inside a police officer’s car that records audio and visual, and you could hear her say, “I can’t wait to go to court, you’re violating my rights, I can’t wait to go to court, you’re wrong, what you’re doing is wrong, you have no right to remove me from my car”, so she was already making it very clear she knew her rights and she would be taking it further, and it was the way that he removed her from the car as well, there was no reason for her to be removed from the car, and it was aggressive, I don’t know if anyone’s seen the tape of the way that he dealt with her but he pointed his Taser at her and said he’ll light her up and she was like, “why are you removing me from my car?”and he just wouldn’t answer, he was just really aggressive so at that point of course she got out of the car, she had no choice and he just continued to be aggressive and obviously she’s upset, ‘you’ve removed me from my car, you’re violating my rights, I’m gonna take you to court, I can’t wait to go to court’, and then suddenly she’s dead. 

 

So tell me about the protest that you organised in London.

it wasn’t really about letting the authorities know that we know and we’re upset about this, but it was about letting her family know and letting black people in America know that we are here, we understand what’s going on and we’re gonna make some noise about it basically, so it was like okay, how do we cause the most impact? The American embassy, let’s go and do that, which is where the whole race thing comes in again, because Denise is white, I’m not, so it was like do I really as a black person with dreadlocks want to walk into a police station and say I wanted to have a demonstration about oppression of black people and invite the nation of Islam, I don’t really think that would work.

So Denise went and that was fine, we got there, we had massive support from the nation of Islam, they came down it was fantastic it was amazing and Lee Jasper, Zita Houlbourne of BARAC U.K. they were really fantastic, and we had poets, singers and just generally people who wanted to make a stand too, and it was a really overwhelming day because we didn’t really think about the attention that it would get, we just hoped that it would get to the right people.

  Fortunately, people from the Black Lives Matter organisation reached out, London Black Revs reached out and a few different key organisations too, so we’re really thankful for all of the support, but yeah, it was overwhelming.

 

What result surprised you the most as a result of the protest?

Just that so many people know about it, I mean, we were just two friends who sat down and said no, we want to make a stand, it’s really amazing, it shows the power of people together.

 

Do you think that just the mention of black lives matter is taboo?

I think that people are trying to make it taboo. I think that black lives do matter, but I think that people misunderstand exactly what that means, and I think that that the all lives matter thing comes up a lot.

 

What about all lives matter?

Well, it’s quite evident that all lives matter, we’re born knowing that our lives matter; I’m sure ALL lives matter to our parents. However, society tells us that black lives don’t matter, so we have to tell them that black lives do matter, that’s the whole point.

 

Does protesting make a difference?

Does it make a difference in terms of going to your oppressor to ask not to be oppressed? No, of course not, you don’t get results by asking, you get results by taking. So, no, not in that sense, but in terms of feeling like you’re a part of something, in terms of feeling like you’re supported, in terms of finding likeminded individuals, in terms of reaching over oceans, hell yes, it definitely makes a difference.

 

What would be the process of taking something?

Well, it depends context. if you’re saying you want to be free in England as a black person, not gonna happen, but if you say okay, I want to take steps to make sure that I only bring myself around certain individuals, around certain companies; I only shop with certain people, I only go to certain places, you can take certain steps towards those types of freedoms because those are your choices, but in terms of freedom itself, I don’t think any of us are free.

 

If people were to make positive buying decisions, have you got any places where they can start?

I’d say start by researching. What is it that you’re trying to do? If you’re just trying to buy from people of colour, why not research, and say okay, well, I want to keep the money within the non-white community, then say okay, I need to start researching who owns things, not who runs things, who the manager is, but who owns these places, where is the money really going, and start from there, don’t trust any research but your own.

 

What are the plans for Blackout LND now?

The plan is to work with different organisations to support them as well as do our own thing, which brings me to the youth programme. The youth programme, it’s basically events for young offenders or those at risk of offending and  the idea is to give them a chance, to train them in events and have people that are already doing events help us do that.

 

What kind of support do you think people need in London?

Just to find out that people care, really. You know, I respond to the a mother who is having a problem with their son being stopped and searched by the same officer all the time, I respond to everybody as much as I can and it’s just about basically information sharing, letting this lady know that you can do some things yourself, you can take down the officer’s shoulder number, you can complain at his station and if he has enough complaints within the month he will be investigated, but people don’t know their rights, and that’s why it’s important to share information, and the things that we don’t know, we always know somebody that does so we can always refer to these people and that makes a difference.

 

Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?

We are basically looking for anybody that wants to help, so if you’re about the cause, we want to hear about it. In terms of any future projects, we will definitely be letting you guys know about anything so that we can reach people to gain that support or reach people to let them know that they are supported.

 

Where should people come to if they want to find out more about you?

If you want to find out more about Blackout LDN, see

 

BlackoutLDN.co.uk

 Twitter: @BlackoutLDN2015 or we’re on Instagram: BlackoutLDN, Facebook: BlackoutLDN, so we’re We do answer personally and we will be in touch. Everybody is welcome and you don’t have to be black, if you’re about the cause, if you don’t like oppression, if you want to stand up and be counted, stand up and be counted.

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