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5 Educational Black Voices to Listen and Learn From Now

Kelechi Okafor, Black Lives Matter

Photo: Instagram/@kelechnekoff

What does it mean to be persecuted for being black? What is the appropriate way to show your support as an ally and stand in solidarity? How can we all spread awareness about the racial injustices in the world?

While it’s OK to be unsure about how best to push for real and meaningful global change, it’s not OK to turn a blind eye. We can’t bury our heads any longer, hoping someone else will fix it. We have to fix it. Now is the time to educate ourselves. To learn is to listen, and below is a list of just some of the voices we need to be listening to right now.

Tamika D Mallory (@tamikadmallory)

Harlem-born activist Tamika D Mallory perfectly encapsulated feelings earlier this week when she delivered her powerful, poignant speech at a rally in Minneapolis.

Speaking of the protests sweeping the US, she said: “We cannot look at this as an isolated incident. The reason buildings are burning are not just for our brother George Floyd. They’re burning down because people here in Minnesota are saying to people in New York, to people in California, to people in Memphis, to people across this nation, enough is enough. We are not responsible for the mental illness that has been afflicted upon our people by the American government, institutions, and those people who are in positions of power.”

Mallory has been involved with civil rights politics from a young age, becoming a member of the National Action Network when she was just 11. Since then, she has worked tirelessly campaigning against racial and gender inequality. In 2017, in light of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, she co-founded the Women’s March, a global protest championing the rights of women. She is also a vigorous advocate for gun control.

Patrisse Cullors (@osopepatrisse)

LA-based artist, activist, and public speaker Patrisse Cullors is one of the most important figures fighting on the frontline for social justice. A longtime campaigner for civil rights, at just 22 Cullors was awarded the Mario Savio Young Activist Award for her work on the challenges of being a young, black American living in poverty.

After the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, and in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013, Cullors co-founded Black Lives Matter — a global movement dedicated to fighting racism worldwide.

Since then, Cullors has won awards for her work on criminal justice reform, produced and directed numerous theatrical pieces and artistic performances, written a New York Times best-selling book, When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (2018), and was recently named as an adjunct professor at Arizona’s Prescott College, where she is teaching a course on social justice.

Since the killing of George Floyd, Cullors has taken to social media to speak out against state violence and police terror amid the riots and the criminalization of black pain and grief.

Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff)

Lagos-born, south London-raised Kelechi Okafor is a British actress and founder of pole fitness and twerk studio Kelechnekoff. She is also a vocal advocate for gender and racial equality, both of which she touches on in her podcast Say Your Mind. In a recent episode — Would You Switch Places With a Black Person? — Okafor and her brother discuss the global reaction to George Floyd’s murder and interrogate why it’s taken so long for white people to get this angry. She partly attributes this to Covid-19, with people sitting at home being forced to confront what’s actually going on. Continuing the debate on Instagram, Okafor calls for further galvanization. “Anger is what we need to make it through this,” she writes. “Anger is what we need to get things moving.”

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Hannah Stoudemire (@hanitamarie)

Former Lanvin employee Hannah Stoudemire first rose to prominence in 2016 when she staged a Black Lives Matter silent demonstration during Men’s Fashion Week in New York, in response to the many unlawful killings by police officers in the US. After receiving a positive response from the media, and together with co-founder Ali Richmond, she set up Fashion For All Foundation — a nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting diversity and equality within the fashion industry.

Since the killing of George Floyd, Stoudemire has made an open call to the fashion industry to break its silence and stand in solidarity against racial injustice, with the hashtag #BreakingTheSilence.

“The fashion industry is one of the most influential industries and must use their platform responsibly,” she said on Instagram. “The police brutality and murders of unarmed black men and women is not a black issue, it is a human justice issue. The fashion industry must take a stand and speak up for justice. You must choose a side to stand on — the side of racial justice or racial injustice. If you choose silence, you are choosing to stand with racists. If you are not racist, you must break your silence. Human lives are hanging in the balance. Please use your platform to stand up for humanity by standing up for black lives. RACISM is not socially acceptable. MURDER is not socially acceptable. SILENCE is not socially acceptable.”

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (@sholamos1)

Lawyer Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu is a formidable voice in the fight for social justice. A political and women’s rights activist, Mos-Shogbamimu teaches intersectional feminism to female refugees and asylum seekers, as well as campaigning for greater gender and racial inclusion across the board. Her voice has been heard everywhere from Vogue to CNN.

She was founder and editor of Women in Leadership and is also the co-chair of the American Bar Association Africa Committee, recently establishing She@LawTalks to promote female and BAME leadership in the legal profession through universities and secondary schools.

Earlier this week she appeared on Sky News to condemn Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet. “Donald Trump’s tweet was egregious and unacceptable,” she said. “It was absolutely reprehensible, knowing full well it would give licence to the military, to the National Guard, to shoot black people indiscriminately because that is what’s going to happen.”

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