On Saturday 15th August, I attended Brighton and Hove’s third Black Lives Matter protest. Equipped with masks, placards and affirmations of strength and solidarity, we took to the streets of Brighton to remind our city that the Black Lives Matter movement has far from diminished, despite the recent lack of media coverage. This particular protest reminded us all of the intersectionality of the movement, with many protestors carrying placards with LGBTQ+ flags painted brightly underneath their statements.
As we wove through the city, our chanting grew louder and our courage and pride was infectious. The atmosphere was invigorating, there were no signs of counter-protestors, and we passed through the streets peacefully yet proudly defiant.
We came to a halt at The Level but maintained our vivacity whilst watching the speeches and performances given by numerous people of varying ethnicities, ages and genders. After several hours of listening, applauding and almost being moved to tears, I walked to the Open Market to chat to one of the speakers of the event.
I spotted Lianne, a 24 year-old, British-Chinese woman on an old leather sofa outside The Flying Saucer café, giggling with her fiancé. As I sat down, he offered to get me a coffee and then we settled into discussing the events of the day and Lianne’s role in anti-racist activism.
When asked about how she felt about the day’s protest, Lianne described all three of the marches that have taken place in Brighton as ‘energetic, empowering, safe and protected’. Being one of the few speakers that did not have African or Caribbean ancestry, Lianne offered a different perspective into colourism and racism within Asian communities. ‘I’ve grown up with…not being treated as ‘Chinese enough’ by my peers and I was favoured by teachers and being treated with a superiority [compared] to my peers because of my whiteness.’ With insights into both sides of a white supremacist system, she became determined to join the fight for equality.
We discussed the role of the education system in perpetuating the ignorance of colonialism. Although Lianne attended an international school, she agreed that racism and its roots in western culture were brushed over: ‘It was never really talked about that much, it was never really in discussion, I never really learned about it’. After hearing of George Floyd’s death, Lianne began searching for an understanding of our colonial history, largely aided by online resources through Instagram. ‘In this society that we live in and the technology that we have…ignorance in this time is a choice.’ She believes that, due to the accessible and far-reaching nature of social media and online resources, ‘times will never be the same…The momentum will never go away now.’
What really interested me was Lianne’s eagerness to re-enter the education system after discovering her newfound passion for anthropology, as a result of being involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘My passion has always been in understanding why it is that people seem to be so unempathetic [sic] towards issues of race and other types of injustices’, she enthused. ‘I owe my ambitions…to the Black Lives Matter movement.’
I couldn’t help but feel inspired by Lianne’s optimism and enthusiasm for the cause; however, it can be easy to feel defeated when, for some, the fight for equality has already been a long and draining battle. One of the speakers that I found perhaps the most inspirational of the day was a 64 year-old gentleman with Trinidadian parents, who spoke about his distrust in the justice and education systems. He explained that he was taught by his father, and in turn taught his sons, that they must stay strong and be unashamedly themselves – but also constantly watch their behaviour, not their teachers or the police and, most importantly, appear as non-threatening as possible at all times. As a retired teacher from London, he moved to Brighton 10 years ago, feeling ‘broken inside by the effects of racism in [his] community’. Having witnessed racial violence and prejudice in Britain since the 1950s, he encouragingly declared that, ‘this is a historic time right now, because this is the first time that I can remember when so many people have been together and have echoed the single message: that black lives matter’. Surely, this shows the significance of the patient, yet powerful, continuation of our activism.
More on Lianne’s activism can be found on her Instagram page @liannefox7, where she regularly shares resources relating to anti-racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Her first year studying Anthropology at the University of Sussex will commence next month, where she hopes to study the social, cultural and political causes and effects of racial prejudice.