Deja Vu (Ive Been Here Before). The 1979 track by the soulful singer-songwriter Teena Marie that my husband Joe Casely-Hayford and I loved and played during late nights working in our studio says much about our life experiences with the question of race.
I wonder what Joe, who died at the beginning of 2019, would have made of this years traumatic events and the subsequent demands for racial justice and systemic change. Joe was a compulsive follower of politics and current affairs, and would have been profoundly affected by the racial tragedies and the societal changes hurriedly put in place as a consequence. He would have wondered, like me, if Black people are now truly able to hope for the meaningful transitions we have waited centuries for.
As teenagers, we had cause for hope in the mid-Seventies, 45 years ago, when we thought it was a time of reckoning, of change at last. We were young, gifted and Black. We felt we could do anything if we had the talent. In 1975 we celebrated Arthur Ashes historic winning of the Wimbledon trophy. Ashes win was symbolic for Black people and we revered him as an exceptional athlete and an admirable role model. It was a step towards visibility and a momentous cultural and social move towards inclusion in worlds from which we had previously been excluded, or in which we had been unacknowledged.
That same year, Joe and I were admitted to Saint Martins School of Art, where we were happy but not surprised to see a number of other people of colour at this most prestigious art institution. In 1978 Trevor Phillips was elected president of the National Union of Students, and we felt empowered seeing him and other young Black people like us speaking eloquently and confidently on television, on the radio and in the print media.
The backlash came all too soon in the late Seventies. Racial tension was at the forefront of current affairs: the daily news programmes covered the increasingly controversial SUS laws, which saw a disproportionate number of Black men stopped by the police, particularly on their way home at night. Home Office statistics issued in 2017 stated that men and women who identify as Black British are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than their white counterparts, and it is still happening in the UK today.
In the Eighties and Nineties, we fought hard to make multiculturalism work against the backdrop of the Broadwater Farm riots, the Brixton riots, the beating of Rodney King, the murder of Stephen Lawrence and many other devastating incidents which threatened our human rights and our pursuit of justice and equality. But on an everyday level it was, and continues to be, the chipping away, the slights, the casual racism that starts at a very young age and becomes second nature, that does the ongoing damage and is the most difficult to rethink.
The way in which pernicious racism seems to have played a notable part earlier this year in the resignation of a Credit Suisse chief executive (the only Black chief executive in the top tier of global banking) was particularly distressing to me.
But I do believe that the paradigm shift engendered by Black Lives Matter (BLM) after the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is real and has already caused seismic changes. What happened this year with BLM has impacted society globally. It has been a cultural wake-up call such as I have never seen in my lifetime: political and business leaders have been removed from their roles, institutions have rushed to implement diversity credentials. Of course, there will be virtue signalling and insincere gestures, but we can live with that if it helps to facilitate a genuine re-evaluation and honest quest for change.
It is heartening to see now that many of the ugly faces of bigotry, anti-Semitism and racism have become socially condemned, though at the same time it is shocking to acknowledge that these institutionalised markers of a divided humanity could ever have been allowed to exist with impunity. Jim Crow laws, apartheid, miscegenation, Blackface (still a part of light-entertainment repertoire well into the Eighties) and hugely disparaging references to Jewish and Black people in the Western canon by highly esteemed and relatively modern European writers, philosophers and artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries are all, rightly, now publicly denounced. With our white allies, we continue our endeavours for a better future. A future of liberation.
Liberation is being allowed to misstep without letting down the entire Black community. Liberation is not experiencing a lifetime of daily microaggressions whilst trying to stay positive. Liberation is no longer seeing that flicker of unconscious bias in our daily encounters with liberal white people.
We will have liberation when our part played in global society is valued. We will have liberation when we are free to be treated as individuals. As the African- American playwright and director Robert OHara said last year about the first play he scripted, Black people are not a monolith. There are so many different ways to examine who we are. The more we acknowledge that, the better we are.
I remain hopeful for my grandchildren and Black and white descendants. And I believe that Black people and Black cultures rich contribution to the world over the centuries will gradually be honoured and appreciated by the global community. When we look back at this time in 100 years from now, it will be with disbelief that terms such as white privilege, or negative pigeonholing such as not Black enough, or not white enough were a real and damaging part of our human existence.
The future of change will be difficult. It will be countered by self-preservationist individuals and institutions, and by those threatened by the prospect of sharing in a more balanced and fair society. The journey will not be linear, but it will definitely always be hopeful.
Shaznay Lewis celebrates 11 Black British trailblazers
For the AW20 issue of GQ Style, the Black Square is our cover star
Welcome to GQ Styles 15th Anniversary Issue: Liberation
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- 'Ingraham Angle' on Black Lives Matter, inflation - Fox News - November 13th, 2021
- Kyle Rittenhouse Gives Testimony on Deadly Shooting at Black Lives Matter Protest in Wisconsin - The Peoples Vanguard of Davis - November 13th, 2021
- USC professor speaks out on refusal to remove pro-police flag from office: Campus is a 'progressive bubble' - Fox News - November 13th, 2021
- TikTok Influencer Of Color Faced `Frustrating Obstacle Trying To Add The Word Black To His Creator Marketplace Bio - Forbes - July 12th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter and pandemic focus of this year's 'Art and Social Justice Exhibition' - South Bend Tribune - July 12th, 2021
- 'Person flying it is a racist,' Utah Black Lives Matter says of those who fly American flag - Salt Lake Tribune - July 12th, 2021
- Philly cops brother charged with assaulting Black Lives Matter protester in Fishtown - The Philadelphia Inquirer - July 12th, 2021
- Florida man admits murder-for-hire plot that he tried to blame on Black Lives Matter - The Independent - July 12th, 2021
- TikTok blocked creators from using 'Black Lives Matter' in bios | TheHill - The Hill - July 12th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter Sudbury reflects on first year of local activism - CBC.ca - July 12th, 2021
- Do Black Lives Really Matter at Lululemon? - The Root - July 12th, 2021
- Fact check: Has Japan has banned all Black Lives Matter apparel from the Olympics? - WRAL.com - July 12th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter marks one year in Sudbury - CTV Toronto - July 12th, 2021
- Reparations: Can Money Absolve the Sins of the Past? - Voice of America - July 12th, 2021
- Hear Ministry's Seething New Song "Good Trouble," Inspired by Black Lives Matter - Revolver Magazine - July 12th, 2021
- How Black Lives Matter put slave reparations back on the agenda - FRANCE 24 English - April 20th, 2021
- Albany Black Lives Matter protest takes to the streets - Times Union - April 20th, 2021
- Miss Grand International wins the crown in Black Lives Matter-inspired dress: 'I'm proud to be Black' - Yahoo Sports - April 20th, 2021
- Breonna Taylors mother blasts Black Lives Matter movement - The Independent - April 20th, 2021
- "Enough is Enough": Black Lives Matter Twin Ports marches through Duluth to spread their message - KBJR 6 - April 20th, 2021
- 'The fear increases. The anger grows' Black Lives Matter rally held at Monongalia County Courthouse in Morgantown (West Virgina) - WV News - April 20th, 2021
- Face facts: Black Lives Matter is all about hate - February 10th, 2021
- What Is The Black Lives Matter Movement? - WorldAtlas - February 10th, 2021
- Who Is Black Lives Matter? - Washington Examiner - February 10th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S ... - February 10th, 2021
- The Agenda of Black Lives Matter Is Far Different From the ... - February 10th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter: A primer on what it is and what it ... - February 10th, 2021
- PolitiFact | Is Black Lives Matter a Marxist movement? - February 10th, 2021
- Boulder's Motus Theater to hear about immigration from Black Lives Matter founder - coloradopolitics.com - February 10th, 2021
- These BLM activists are fighting for the civil rights of the next generation - CNN - February 10th, 2021
- Lompoc Black Lives Matter organizers awarded Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize - Lompoc Record - February 10th, 2021
- #BlackLivesMatter: A Silver Lining to the Movement's Aesthetic - Harvard Political Review - February 10th, 2021
- Livingston Kicks Off Black History Month Events with Black Lives Matter Banner Dedication - TAPinto.net - February 10th, 2021
- BLM influencers: 10 Black Lives Matter activists on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter you should follow - USA TODAY - February 4th, 2021
- A man in Illinois pleaded guilty to inciting a violent riot in support of Black Lives Matter - Insider - Insider - February 4th, 2021
- From Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter: The fight for equality continues - KTVU San Francisco - February 4th, 2021
- How Black Lives Matter Came to the Academy - The New Yorker - February 4th, 2021
- Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize awarded to Lompoc Black Lives Matter organizers - Lompoc Record - February 4th, 2021
- Nonprofit barred for supporting Black Lives Matter may be allowed back in Maine jail - Press Herald - February 4th, 2021
- USC looks to preserve the Black Lives Matter Movement through firsthand experiences - WLTX.com - February 4th, 2021
- Bills filed to counter Black Lives Matter protests - The Herald Bulletin - February 4th, 2021
- Breonna Taylor: A beloved sister becomes a symbol of pain, an icon of hope - USA TODAY - February 4th, 2021
- How the Radical Graphic Design of the Black Panthers Influences the Movement for Black Lives - HarpersBAZAAR.com - February 4th, 2021
- Beethoven Meets Black Lives Matter in Heartbeat Opera's Breathing Free - San Francisco Classical Voice - February 4th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action 2021 - School Library Journal - February 4th, 2021
- A summer of solidarity: Looking back on the Black Lives Matter marches in Japan - The Japan Times - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter has brought a global reckoning with history. This is why the Uluru Statement is so crucial - The Conversation AU - December 22nd, 2020
- New WA Black Lives Matter Alliance agenda aims for 'liberation' - KUOW News and Information - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter 757 organizing toy drive and distribution - WAVY.com - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter Protests Spur Creation of Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice - Rutgers Today - December 22nd, 2020
- Asking the Clergy: Black Lives Matter movement and Kwanzaa - Newsday - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter Backlash: The NYPD's War on Protesters Intensifies - The Indypendent - December 22nd, 2020
- Year in Review: How Black Lives Matter Inspired a New Generation of Youth Activists - Rolling Stone - December 17th, 2020
- In 2021, we must show that Black Lives Matter beyond diversity theater - Fast Company - December 17th, 2020
- Why Black Lives Matter: African American thriving for the twenty-first century - Religion News Service - December 17th, 2020
- Six months after mass protests began, what is the future of BLM? - The Economist - December 17th, 2020
- The City of Portland Fines a Building Owner for Oversized Black Lives Matter Sign - Willamette Week - December 17th, 2020
- Fact check: Story about United Airlines, Black Lives Matter and a toddler is satirical - USA TODAY - December 17th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter and the Color of the Public Square - Religion & Politics - December 17th, 2020
- 2020 Best of the Beat Forsyth County Edition: Black Lives Matter - Triad City Beat - December 17th, 2020
- Organizer of Black Lives Matter mural in Florence requests that the city does not remove it - WBTW - December 17th, 2020
- What's Happened To Charlotte's Black-Owned Businesses In The Wake Of COVID-19 And BLM Movement? - WFAE - September 26th, 2020
- Youth Spotlight Column: Black lives matter in the hearts of Ipswich Students - The Local Ne.ws - September 26th, 2020
- Back the Blue, Black Lives Matter rallies meet on Clinton Street - The Ithaca Voice - September 26th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter's Goal to 'Disrupt' the Nuclear Family Fits a Marxist Aim That Goes Back a Century and a Half | Jon Miltimore - Foundation for... - September 26th, 2020
- Letter to the editor: If you don't agree that Black lives matter, you are racist - Summit Daily News - September 26th, 2020
- The sheriff's race pitting Trump against Black Lives Matter - NBC News - September 26th, 2020
- 4 Things the Liberal Media Wont Tell You About Black ... - September 4th, 2020
- You're Being Duped: Black Lives Matter Founder Admits "We ... - September 4th, 2020
- Here's What Black Lives Matter Leaders' Ultimate Goal Is - September 4th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter Just Entered Its Next Phase - The Atlantic - September 4th, 2020
- Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter protests face off in Danvers - Boston Herald - September 4th, 2020
- Utah police union accuses teachers of 'political indoctrination' by supporting Black Lives Matter movement in class - Salt Lake Tribune - September 4th, 2020
- Mayor one-ups Black Lives Matter rally with his own plans - ABC News - September 4th, 2020
- Webster Groves neighbors mailed anonymous letter asking them to remove Black Lives Matter signs - KMOV.com - September 4th, 2020
- Man arrested after carrying AR-15 near Black Lives Matter protests in Vermont - NBC News - September 4th, 2020
- How to be an ally for Black lives - Medical News Today - September 4th, 2020
- Black Lives Don't Matter to Black Lives Matter, Says Rudy Giuliani - Mother Jones - August 28th, 2020
- 'Black Lives Matter' mural to be painted along Grace Street in Downtown - Richmond Free Press - August 28th, 2020
- NHLs lack of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests out of touch, say critics - News 1130 - August 28th, 2020