Black Lives Matter lookback: How one woman decided to tackle Cambridge’s racism problem
Hear the story of one woman’s mission to tackle Cambridge’s race problem
(Image: Caitlin Chantelle)
The murder of George Floyd in May last year sparked anti-racism protests across the world.
In England, many reacted by asking questions about the country’s own racist legacy, some seeing the racist underbelly of an old nations colonial and slave trade past, while others saw the complaints of unnecessarily divisive identity politics.
By June 6, 2020, Cambridge witnessed a microcosm of the people-powered movement that had been happening across the world. Cambridgeshire Live looks back on a moment that changed the city and one resident for good.
Safiya Mawusi chose the June 6 protest to be the first protest she had ever attended. Safiya, who is mixed-race from Cambridge, didn’t know it was going to be the first of many she would organise throughout the pandemic, with the goal to change how her city thinks about race.
Safiya, a 27-year-old criminologist, said: “Watching [the video of George Floyd’s murder] triggered something inside me. Living in a place like Cambridge, where racism isn’t addressed or even acknowledged as existing, it’s easy to go about your life.
“You go with the flow, not seeing people get shot in England. We don’t have guns, so the racism doesn’t have the same shock factor as in the US.
“Since that video, I realised talking about it and having conversations isn’t enough. I need to put some other action behind the campaign.”
Safiya joined an estimated 6000 people who attended a socially distanced protest in the torrential rain to chant the last words of George Floyd, ‘I can’t breathe’ and support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protestors were instructed to wear masks and sit three metres apart, organised by group Cambridge Black Lives. Powerful speeches were made, including one from Munya Jiri, 23, who spoke of the racism and slurs he endured from age seven. He was recorded saying: “I’m really proud of everyone in Cambridge for the way we’ve come and done this in a respectful manner.
“We’re out in our numbers, social distancing, but I think it’s important for us all to remember this isn’t just an American problem. This is rife in our own city.”
Though the speeches were moving, Safiya wanted to do more: “The protest was nice but there was something incomplete. We had come here to hear stories, make a statement for everyone to see, stand for those unable to attend the protest, as well as be able to let that emotion out. A march is an incredible way to do that. We thought that was important, so we marched.”
According to Safiya, the Cambridge Black Lives group were instructed not to march. It was three months into the first UK-wide Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions were still tight.
It is thought between four and six thousand people attended the Cambridge BLM protest on June 6, 2020