With the Black Lives Matter demonstration planned tomorrow in Glasgow Green, we asked members of Glasgow’s Black community what the BLM movement in the city means to them.

Glasgow Times:

Graham Campbell, 53, SNP councillor for Springburn and Royston and Glasgow’s first African Caribbean councillor. (Pictured above)

“THE death of George Floyd – although it was horrifying and reminded us so much of the death of Sheku Bayoh by asphyxiation at Police Scotland’s hands in 2015 – happened not long after Ferguson erupted over the death of Mike Brown.

“This latest upsurge of solidarity with Black Lives Matter (BLM) has inspired a new generation of African, Caribbean Asian and Minority community activists to come forward. The movement has had a real victory in one week’s protest by getting the police officers arrested, charged and fired. That’s more than any other such protest has ever managed.

“My involvement with Black Lives Matter movement in the UK goes back to my London days when I linked up with the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC). I attended demonstrations in Tottenham, where my father stays, against the killing of Mark Duggan.

“When the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, US, occurred and Black Lives Matter was first heard internationally I immediately made the link then to injustices and oppression in the US and over here.

“One-thousand, five-hundred and eighteen deaths in custody and counting in the UK – I had a T-shirt with those words in 2013. The number is now at 1741 and still no police officers have been prosecuted.

“I helped organise the first BLM events in Glasgow in 2015: a candlelit vigil with African Caribbean students at Glasgow University arches. In my role as Secretary of the Ethnic Minority Civic Congress (EMCC Scotland), we joined forces with UFFC to co-host a Glasgow wing of the Ferguson Black Lives Matter speaking tour. Patrisse Cullors, a founding BLM activist from Los Angeles, spoke at our rally at Strathclyde Union. BLM co-founder Alicia Garza was also invited to Glasgow by the Radical Independence Convention.

“We can be inspired to achieve the same for Sheku Bayoh, here in Scotland. I reckon the public inquiry ordered by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf will be a pivotal moment in Scotland’s history and a springboard for exposing and taking serious measures against institutionalised racism in the police and in all other public bodies – including my own council.

“BLM in Scotland is not just about protesting what’s happening over there – it’s about the everyday racism faced by Black people living here in Scotland. We need the country to recognise this – that racism is linked to the very bones of the economic, political and social system.

“Racism is not an anomaly – it’s hard-wired into the DNA of any society likes ours derived from a history of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. That’s why we need a Black Lives Matter movement.”

Glasgow Times:

Barrington Reeves, West End, 28, owner of Too Gallus Glasgow and organiser of Sunday’s BLM demonstration. (Pictured above)

“WHAT is it like to grow up Black in Glasgow? It’s a funny thing, I was born in a Bellshill maternity ward, grew up in Coatbridge and have spent my entire life here. When I’m on holiday I’m always so proud to tell people I’m from Glasgow because I know the joy it’s going to elicit, but my life has always been plagued by one question that seems to follow up: ‘Where are you from, originally?’

“As if somehow, although I am Glasgow born and bred, it isn’t quite enough. I still belong to a land I have no ties to, a swept-away citizen from a country I’ve never visited. In my mind I’m from Glasgow through and through, but that doesn’t always seem to be enough for some people.

“Growing up Black in Glasgow is growing up in a town of 60,000 people but only three others who look like you. It’s not getting into clubs because you and your friends look like trouble, questioning your identity and belonging, having to be the kill-joy when you ask to call out racist jokes. It’s having an office in Merchant City and knowing its rich architecture was paid for with the lives of slaves. It’s people touching your hair, only ever being cast as the wise man in the nativity play and having to grow a very thick skin at a very young age.

“I think what happened in Minneapolis is horrible. It really shakes people all around the world. A loss like that is felt in the BME community everywhere. It draws up to the surface the inequality that we do face.

“We wanted to create the Black Lives Matter event tomorrow as a space for people to come and protest. It wasn’t a huge organisational thing, it was a space for people to come and have their voice heard. Hopefully by protesting, our voice can be heard and people recognise other issues as well.

“Growing up Black in Glasgow is beautiful. It is rough and it challenges you, but what doesn’t in this city? Glasgow is the only city I’ve grown up in, and it’s the only city I would want to grow up in.”

Glasgow Times:

Phina Amahoro, 28, from Maryhill, nurse, co-founders of Baba Yangu Foundation. (Pictured above and quoted)

“I’VE lived in Scotland for 20 years; I’m of dual nationality – Rwandan born and raised in Glasgow.

“We as a family experienced racism from day one. From disgusting racial slurs, to being chased and having things thrown at us – this happened most days for several years.

“We did call the police on a couple of occasions but the message we received was basically ‘ignore them and they will stop’ – no other intervention or consequences for the people responsible.

“The racism became more subtle over the years and was now presenting as micro-aggressions, racial bias and profiling that occurred consistently in the form of security guards following me around the store without just cause, patients or clients bypassing me and speaking or engaging with my white colleagues despite me being just as qualified and competent to meet their healthcare needs, white people being surprised at how articulate you are – the list is endless.

“My experience with racism taught me a few things. Racists are not just ‘ignorant or uneducated’ like I was so constantly told in an attempt to pacify me. They are teachers, politicians, police – people in power. We at Baba Yangu Foundation (myself and the founder Agatha Kabera) have been attempting to create a safe space for people in the Black community to speak about such experiences as well as deal with mental health issues that arise from said experiences.

Glasgow Times:

Baba Yangu Trustee, and Agatha Kabera, below right, 29, from Woodlands. Founders of Baba Yangu Foundation (pictured above).

Phina continues: “We organised the Black Lives Matter protest in Glasgow on May 31, after witnessing the atrocities of people like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery in the States, and Belly Mujinga and Sheku Bayoh in the UK dying because they were Black. We had enough. It’s traumatic, exhausting and we’ve had enough.

“We had to do something more than the usual social media update, lamenting for a few days then going back to business as usual. We’re ready to contend for the Black community – to use our voices, spheres of influence and platforms to make a change.

“Although we cannot eradicate the deep-rooted racism against the Black community that was birthed in slavery, colonialism and is ingrained into the systems and institutions of this country and so many in the western world in one day, with one protest – it is a start. We must educate ourselves and one another. We must confront and challenge racist people, their speech and actions.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to open the dialogue and challenge the negative narratives.

“Don’t just celebrate and appropriate the good things about our blackness and culture – be allies and stand with us to end racism.”

Glasgow Times:

Greg Dron, 22, South Side of Glasgow, political consultant. (Pictured above)

“IMAGES of protests against racial prejudice and police brutality have flooded into news streams over the past week. As demonstrations gather momentum across the US and the UK, my family and friends have acknowledged the need for action, sharing their anguish at the racial injustice that remains so prevalent across the globe.

“In light of these developments, I am saddened that there has been little word on Glasgow’s personal relationship with Black history, and crucially, Scotland’s own contribution to the subjugation and oppression of Black people.

“But this is no surprise to me. For too long there has been little public acknowledgement of how Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, found large proportions of its wealth through slavery. The evidence of this is not so much under our noses, but often above our heads.

“The names of some of Glasgow’s most infamous streets pay homage to an era of unprecedented wealth creation and mass exploitation. Buchanan Street is named after so-called ‘Tobacco Lord’ Andrew Buchanan and Ingram Street is a tribute to Archibald Ingram, a wealthy plantation owner. But this is only one part of a trend that sees Black experiences erased from popular Scottish history.

“I only recently discovered that in 1919, amidst the infamous Red Clydeside protests, Black sailors staying on the Broomielaw were attacked by white sailors and members of the public with bricks, bottles and knives. This event has been conveniently removed from the romanticised accounts of Glaswegian folklore, presumably in an attempt to preserve and protect a distinctly Scottish self-image of progressivism.

“A century on, I, a Scottish man of Jamaican heritage, watched proudly as MSPs pledged ‘total solidarity’ with the Black Lives Matter movement. But they did so in a Scottish Parliament that has managed in two decades and five elections to elect just four members from BAME backgrounds.

“I’ve been encouraged by the support expressed over the past week. But moving forward, these good intentions must be matched with real activism. It’s vital that any conversation, retweet, like or share stating that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is grounded in an acceptance that Scotland has played its own role in a brutal history and now has a duty to serve its minority communities.”

Glasgow Times:

Louie Aiken, 19, South Side, interior design student. (Pictured above) 

“‘WHERE are you from?’ is a common question in Scotland that all people of colour will relate to.

“Sometimes I find it flattering, other times invasive. I respond with ‘My mother is French-Caribbean and grew up in Paris while my grandparents live in Martinique’. This is the expected answer.

“If I simply replied ‘Glasgow’ this leads to an awkward follow-up mentioning ‘heritage’, ‘nationality’, ‘origin’.

“I’m used to it but find the question increasingly irritating; I realise my Scottish accent won’t suffice and I’ll always look foriegn in Glasgow.

“Black people represent less than one per cent of the Scottish population. This carries huge realisations for me. This explains my feelings of disconnection with Black culture, the alienation Black people face every day and feeling discomfort knowing you are different to your peers. Being mixed means I have white privilege. I’m less likely to be discriminated against, seen as a criminal by the law and subjected to racial slurs.

“As everything comes to the surface around systematic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, I feel like awareness is key.

“I’m amazed with the influx of information circulating the internet, white people addressing their privileges and fighting back. This is the first time in my life I’ve felt Scotland as a nation is getting involved and participating in Black Lives Matter. Uncomfortable conversations are being had about Glasgow’s dark past in relation to slavery.

“I love Glasgow but can’t see myself here forever. It lacks diversity which is visible in every way and it lacks energy that only culture can cure. I feel more comfortable in cities like London or Paris. My presence feels welcome, my mind feels confident and my heart feels full.

“The importance of seeing your own reflection is massive and you only realise this if you’re the minority most of your life.”