The first Black Lives Matter protest held in Port Talbot on 14th June 2020 was a massive success in a multitude of ways. It perfectly demonstrated solidarity, unity, community support and participation and seamlessly integrated a variety of different cultures, religions, and ethnic backgrounds for one cause, basic civil rights, and equality.
When organising the protest as an 18 year old, and fresh out of school I thought it would be such an imperative message to show everyone, not just in Port Talbot, but on a wider national scale, the importance of courage as well as using services such as social media to convey and promote such a pertinent and important message to other young leaders. It was to encourage the thought that every single one of us has a role and responsibility to make change to the society we live in and contribute our entire lives to. Being totally encapsulated by the beauty of black African culture my entire life, I felt a yearning responsibility to take action, and fulfil my role as a young leader by organising the protest, sharing my ideas of the need for education and increased integration with differing cultures and ways of life. I felt these two factors coupled would help to encourage acceptance of differences as well as finding unexpected similarities. Plainly, alienation and ignorance lead to discrimination and inequality. Unity, solidarity, the desire to learn and be educated on differences in a peaceful manner is so important to increase participation in raising and dealing with the issues of racial inequality and subjugation, not just on a local or national level, but a global one.
The community support that was received for the protest was astronomical, I had multiple people requesting to speak, and share their personal experiences as well as thoughts on the wider issues and how to address them. The speakers included Corie Haynes, Nigel Hunt, Faith Walker, Amelia Lloyd, Saifur Rahaman and myself. Each one of these powerful speakers delivered deeply passionate and relatable experiences that resonated with every listener in attendance despite each speakers’ different background and culture. I think this truly illustrates the importance of the movement, where such different individuals and communities are all afflicted by the same nonsensical, outdated, and imperialist attitudes to race and culture.
I chose to actively involve the local police in the protest, with several members volunteering to participate. I felt this was extremely important, as while the issues with police, abuse of power and discrimination are glaring, alienating and isolating them continues the trend of generalised discrimination, whereas education and participation can be used as a method to cultivate change, and understanding of their roles as protectors and peacekeepers rather than the oppressors. I thought this was an especially important message to relay to the local community.
Port Talbot’s BLM protest in every way was a massive success. Rather as thinking of it as a singular triumph, I see it as a catalyst for future successes, future gatherings, meetings, changes and collective efforts to raise awareness and the need to reform and adapt our local community in hopes of unifying an undeniably fragmented society on a macro-scale. My emphasis will always be peaceful, with stress and emphasis of education and acceptance of differences, particularly aimed at younger generations through a more diverse curriculum as well as other schemes promoting integration and the sharing and appreciating the unique beauties of differing cultures.
Hence, I would like to declare that this is merely the beginning of this cultural phenomenon, we will not stop now, we will fight, we will learn, and we will persevere to shape society into a place where individuals, groups and communities can thrive without discrimination, segregation and lack of opportunity.
Article written by Sean Suter