PRESS: Cumbria unites against racism

NOW is the time to act if we are to build an equitable and Anti Racist Cumbria, a day-long conference heard.

Hundreds of people gathered for the inaugural Anti Racist Cumbria Summit, which was held at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal on  Tues Nov 2.

Through a series of powerful lectures, workshops and discussion sessions, the long term impact of racism towards people with black and brown skin was laid bare.

Delegates were asked to consider how they, their colleagues, businesses, friends and family could contribute to a society where racism is called out.

And the challenging road to Cumbria being one of – if not the first – actively anti-racist counties in the UK was discussed.

Janett Walker, the CEO of Anti Racist Cumbria, said:

“There is so much to do and this is only the start. It is clear from today that Cumbria is ready to change, to challenge itself and to work towards a future where we can all be proud to be Cumbrian.

“The fact that in a county which is predominantly white, we have had such an encouraging response to our vision for a Cumbria which actively challenges racism in all of its forms, shows we are ready to take individual responsibility and leave this world in a better place than when we arrived.

“I’d like to offer my thanks to all of our sponsors, attendees, speakers and panellists for their support, valuable input and shared determination to make a positive and long-lasting change.”

 

The summit started in spectacular and thought-provoking fashion, as Nykia Herron-Ash performed an enchanting version of Ella’s Song, originally sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

As the conference got under way, it was announced that Anti Racist Cumbria – which was founded in 2020 – had been awarded a grant of £200,000 by Esmé Fairbairn Foundation to continue its work for another three years.

The day was characterised by a series of powerful and moving workshops, during which black and brown people shared their experiences of racism and the long-lasting effects it has had on them.

Hope and dreams for the future along with the individual and collective responsibility everyone can all take on the road to building an actively anti racist county were themes that ran throughout all sessions.

There was a standing ovation for the young people involved in the Animated Futures project.  Led by Carlisle Youth Zone’s Jess Butler and Lou Kneath, the CEO of 3K Animation Studios, it works with a group of 30 black and brown children who are producing a film about growing up in Cumbria when you are not white.

The keynote speaker for the summit was author, activist, political commentator and lawyer, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, who spoke about a range of issues, calling on every delegate to challenge themselves to actively promote anti racism.

In the context of Cumbria’s 98 per cent-plus white demographic, she told attendees:

“Anti racism is important, regardless of the makeup of your population. That has no factor in the reality of people’s experiences – especially those who are not white.

 “I don’t think it is the responsibility of those who have to bear the brunt of oppression and racism to bring on board those who benefit from this institutional racist structure that we live in.

“We need them to understand; to come on board. It’s 2021. Why should those who have to deal with the mess that is racism have to then continue to appeal to the hearts of our white brothers and sisters to understand the need to be consciously intentional about eradicating white supremacy.

“If you understand there is nothing superior about being white. If you understand that when god created us, he created us all equal; and god loves colour. There is beauty in colour. There is beauty in our different backgrounds. They are not there to be denigrated or abused. They are there to be celebrated.”

 The team at Anti Racist Cumbria is available to work with schools, colleges and workplaces which wish to start their journey to becoming anti racist. Email hello@antiracistcumbria.uk for more details.