Black Lives Matter, A Protest Speech by Clementine E. Burnley
I speak to you today from a place of deep grief. I speak from a place of anger and of tiredness. We have said: Racism is here, Racism kills. Patriarchal violence, and class violence, kill. We see it with our own eyes; the systems that killed George Floyd are being used all over the world.
It happens here; Sheku Bayoh, Sarah Reed, Jimmy Mubenga, Joy Gardner. It’s been going on for a long time.
As for racism and the “ghetto”, we know from the Kerner Commission in the U.S.A.: Seventy years ago the Kerner Commission said; “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, white society condones it.”
We also know that white solidarity is able to transform institutions.
White solidarity can end racial inequality in assets, in housing, in employment, and in education. White solidarity can reform the police in white majority countries.
Together, this new generation can bring about a lasting change.
I want to name the global systems of patriarchy, and class exploitation. Tsitsi Dangarembga (Writer, and feminist from Zimbabwe), has talked about the way in which women and gender nonconforming people are made marginal under patriarchy. Patriarchal violence attacks all bodies which do not fit the gender, sexual, or religious norm.
In Cameroon, my country of birth, many people live in fear of police violence. They suffer state violence and class violence.
Imperial and colonial systems created the Black run institutions which now carry out class violence against Black people in Cameroon.
If migrants die in the Sahara, it is the violence of global economic systems which drives them into the desert.
If gender fluid people, men, women, and children are sold in Libya, they are there because they cannot stay at home.
If people drown in the Mediterranean, it is the European Agency Frontex which is responsible.
If they are interned under horrible conditions in Greece, Turkey, Spain and Italy, if they are hurt or get sick in Germany, it is Europe’s migration regime which is to blame.
If Black people are made to harvest food in unsafe conditions, that is economic violence.
If Black people are attacked on the street in Paris, it is state and class violence which injure them. Without the current political and economic systems many Cameroonians would stay at home.
So what do we do? What is our hope?
How do we use our suffering? How do we grow through our pain?
How do we fully acknowledge our fear, our rage: how do we transform what we feel?
How do we grieve? How do we hold each other?
How do we heal?
One way to heal is to honour those who fall in struggle, with respect, with joy and care.
One way to heal is to speak of our connection to them, and to the people who have gone before them.
One way to heal ourselves is to remember the historic continuity between those who fall and we who remain.
I want to quote the words of one of my political mothers:
More than a hundred years ago, Sojourner Truth said; “I will not allow my life’s light to be determined by the darkness around me.”
We experience violence. And we continue to dream. We find happiness. We experiment. We organise. We build. We nurture. We tell stories. We make art. We preserve wisdom.
Sojourner Truth said; ”Life is a hard battle anyway.”
We have been in this fight for five hundred years. If it takes another five hundred years we will continue. We have no choice but to fight.
We do have a choice how we fight.
I speak to you today from a place of trust, of respect, of care, of commitment, of interdependence. Most of all I speak from a place of tenderness.
bell hooks says: “love is the only sane and satisfactory response to the problem of human existence.”
Let’s continue to demand justice!
Lets learn how to fight well, and to reconnect fast.
When we do wrong, let’s hold each other accountable!
And let us love one another. No matter what it takes.
Let me end with Sojourner Truth: “Life is a hard battle anyway.
If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier.
This speech was written and presented by Clementine E. Burnley for her local Black Lives Matter protest. Our blog content is always free to read, but if this piece speaks to you in some way, we suggest a £5 donation to Black Minds Matter UK: https://www.gofundme.com/f/black-minds-matter-uk
Clementine E. Burnley is a migrant mother, writer and community organiser. She’s been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, First Pages Prize, Amsterdam Open Book Prize, and the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her most recent work appears in the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Barren Magazine. Follow her Twitter: @Decolonialheart
Find her on clementineburnley.com