Thu,30 May 2024

Remembering George Floyd

Mural of George Floyd

It’s May 2024.

4 years after the murder of George Floyd.

4 years since the emergence of the nascent Black Leadership Group (BLG).

3 years after BLG’s inaugural symposium in partnership with the Education and Training Foundation Leading Anti-racism in further education: For movement not a moment.

2 months after the BLG’s 4th Annual Conference, Tracks, Trails & Threads: Courageous Leadership in a Fractured World.

1 month to the BLG London Crisis Summit.

0 days to collective action against racism. The time is now.

Lest we forget, 4 years ago, the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in public view, and the aftermath events had a profound effect on individuals, organisations, and diverse ethnic groups worldwide. We saw this Black man, with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, pleading for his life to no avail, finally crying out for his mama before his breath was snuffed out of him. We suspended disbelief at this sub-human treatment, a lamb to the slaughter. We felt the raw pain of his family and his community. We heard again and again the accounts of the lived experience of black communities in the face of age-old systemic racism. We were outraged. We were reminded that lynching of Black people is not new. We wept for humanity, for both victims and perpetrators.  It was a summer of global riots and demonstrations. And one more time, we resolved to change.

And 4 years ago, harnessing the outrage of George Floyd’s murder and in response to the lack of representation in leadership and the disparities in attainment of *Black students in further education, the BLG was formed in 2020 to challenge systemic racism for the benefit of Black communities and wider UK society. We were surprised, overwhelmed, and uplifted by the hundreds of individuals and organisations that embraced our vision of an anti-racist culture at the core of all aspects of UK life and aligned with us through affiliation, membership, and training.

In May 2021, 3 years ago, ten years since the Equality Act 2010 (of questionable impact), just two weeks to the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, we held our  inaugural symposium in partnership with the Education and Training Foundation ‘Leading Anti-racism in further education: For movement not a moment’. This unique Symposium event prompted us to respond to this question, amongst others, – How can we ensure that the events of summer 2020 are more than a moment and we deliver movement on the Anti-racism agenda?

Introducing the Symposium, Lord Simon Woolley, foregrounded the Anti-racist imperative with a challenge – ‘what’s our role, what’s my role, what can I do, what can we do?’ Lord Woolley also called for people of colour to ‘come out of the shadows’. He envisioned a ‘golden thread’ weaving all the symposium participants and contributions together so that ‘the sum is greater than the parts’. Nazir Afzal OBE, chair of the symposium, challenged all participants to listen, to act, to get others to act, to hold people to account, to get rid of obstacles to racial equity for the benefit of our children.  He reminded us of the strength and benefit of partnership and allyship. 

It’s now 2024. The events and realities of recent years compel us to acknowledge that we live in a fractured world. Conflict and division are increasing at an alarming rate. Global mega threats and trends impose additional layers of complexity and challenge.  At the confluence of all these issues lie the devastating realities of ethnic inequities rooted in the many forms of racism, cutting deep into the fabric of our society, leaving lasting wounds that may not heal for generations to come. Racism remains a plague in our society that demands courageous leadership to address it.

This is why 2 months ago, we put courageous leadership, trailblazers, and calls to action at the centre of our BLG Annual UK 4 Nations & Global Conference -Tracks, Trails, and Threads: Courageous Leadership in a Fractured World held on 21 March 2024. The conference, designed to be both provocative and optimistic, took place simultaneously in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and on-line, recognising that racism, the common enemy, manifests itself differently in urban, rural, multicultural, and sectarian environments.

Next month, June 2024, together with our strategic partners, stakeholders, and allies, we will hold a London Crisis Summit to look at Black representation, and not least, because we believe there is a causal link between under-representation and the attainment gaps by ethnicity that continue to characterise student outcomes nationally, and particularly in London. This is the first in a series of regional summits to be rolled out as part of our Ethnic Equity in Education (FE, HE, Schools) campaign launched 1 year ago.

Whilst the educational, moral, social, and economic imperatives for race equity are very well researched and compelling, progress towards an anti-racist society remains too slow. Despite the evidence and recommendations from numerous reviews – Macpherson, Lammy, McGregor-Smith, Casey, London Fire Brigade and more, systemic racism persists in all corners of the UK. It has far-reaching consequences on all those affected, permeating education, employment, healthcare, and criminal justice. Not a day goes by without reports of violence, discrimination, and bias that have the race construct at their core.  Paradoxically, ethnic diversity in all its beauty is so often a source of terrible division and conflict.

When all is said and done, what kind of humans are we to look in the mirror and see daily injustices, murderous intent, conceived and executed, ignored or brushed aside? What kind of humans are we to straightway turn our back, forget the reflection, cast the evidence of our eyes and our hearts to the back of our minds, continue to live our lives in the paradox of conscious ignorance?   

Gracela Cowger, CEO of Schawbe, said: “Silence is not merely complacency, but an endorsement of racism.”

It is time to end the silence. To put an end to performative acts. To accept accountability as leaders. To act within our own spheres of influence to end racism and to create a fair and economically vibrant UK society. To work together, rugged and individualistic campaigners, black groups, allies, and champions alike, to make the most of an ethnically diverse Britain.

The time is now. Surely, we can espouse a more vigorous and positive narrative, a better story and counterposing argument to fear and populism that divides to conquer; we can endorse anti-racist core values, skills, and approaches and be unafraid to live by them. The prize is worth the fight.

This is why, we, the Black Leadership Group will not forget you, George Floyd. We will remember that countless women, children, and men are in anguish, daily, because of racial injustices. We will remember those with whom we share a lived experience of the effects of racism. We remember all.

Stella Ngozi Mbubaegbu CBE

Co-founder & Director, Black Leadership Group (BLG)

NB BLG uses ‘Black’ as an inclusive definition for people from ethnically diverse backgrounds who share a lived experience of the effects of racism.