Like millions of others all over the world I was upset and angry to witness George Floyd, an unarmed black man, die in the US as a white police officer knelt on his neck. Although not the first of such callous killings, it is sadly not the last but that video footage has triggered reactions and events that others before have not. It has bought the lived reality of the dangers of being non white to a bigger audience than ever before. Maybe being part of a captive UK audience during lockdown, one that has also witnessed the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the BAME community, made it all the more effecting and although faraway drew so many parallels to those that have died from police contact here.
I felt incredibly moved to see slaver's statues toppled but I know this is not enough. The emotions it has churned up has made a lot of white folk, like myself, look at how we can educate ourselves and our children on black history to understand systemic racism, become actively anti-racist and help dismantle unjust structures . It was to this end that I scoured the internet to find educational resources on slavery and colonialism to send to my son's teacher in request that they be used in their online learning. I am happy to say that this was taken on willingly by the school and I thought it might be useful to some of you as well.
Educational resources and teaching must of course be age appropriate and as you know your own child you will know what is suitable for them. It is not an easy or light subject to tackle, but it is time now to be honest about Britain's brutal history and acknowledge how this past has benefited and repressed different groups of people.
Below are links from various sources, most of which are suitable for Key Stage 2 (Primary aged children).
A guide to colonial history of country houses guide
Colonial history of country houses resources
My personal opinion on talking about these issues with children is that it's important to make it clear that although this is 'history', racial prejudice and brutality are still happening now. From a fashion perspective too slavery has not ended and 'fast' fashion is only possible by the enslavement and subjugation of black and brown people. You can refer to some of my previous blog posts on this subject area below:
Join the Fashion Revolution
Wake up to Child Labour
Who made my Jeans Pt1
Who made my jeans Pt2
This is why we make ethically in Britain, so you can trust that no slave or child labour has been used to make our products.
The boy wonder and I stand in solidarity with all BAME communities to say that 'black lives matter' and we will work together towards a more just and more equal world.
Please see our equality and diversity policy here.
I penned this brief piece to mark Extinction Rebellion's first birthday on the 1st November which was read out at my XR group's celebrations. It is further insight into the October Rebellion and why I am involved. I hope you like it x
I first grew rebellious in my youth, but matured into sensible behaviour in my thirties. Now, I am rebelling again and I have to say I have rather a taste for disobedience! There is an illicit, childish thrill to sticking your fingers in your ears and humming, whilst an officer of the law is issuing you with a section 14! And a swelling of pride in seeing the boys in blue being diverted by chasing after a decoy structure, so we could get more packed into our little love rebellion village.
My activist parents have led by example, both having been arrested in their past for direct action. So, a family tradition had perhaps begun, as I sat in the Rose blockade with my mum by my side. A passing down of values and protest, which I hope to instil in my son too as it’s his future I am fighting for.
But fighting for action shouldn’t be so much fun though surely? Although tempered with discomfort from the cold, rain and restricted space at times, it was also a bit of a wheeze. The first night on the Poppy blockade the air was filled with the sound of our harmonious rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody led by a young Freddie Mercury lookalike (moustache and all), I am sure Boris (Johnson) appreciated our singing talents as he tried to get to sleep!
I made the decision to be arrestable some weeks before London and wrote a pre-prepared statement that could not be read without tears streaming down my face. Although I was ready and in the right headspace the day it looked possible, I was still very apprehensive. My stomach churned as my flight response kicked in. I knew I could back out at any time, but the camaraderie and energy of the day kept me true. I told myself that I have faced far worse in my life than a few hours in a police cell and it’s certainly not as frightening as what is coming.
We sat on the Rose blockade for many hours, our spirits kept high with the help of the samba band, rounds of singing, Rebel Roos and copious amounts of snacks generously handed out. Please note, I will be happy if I never see another flapjack again! The incredible ingenuity of the Da Vinci bridge matched by the amazing temerity of the young woman atop kept the buzzies busy for some time. I was asked if I had anything to say, and being very smart I had written SAVE EARTH on my hands, which I held aloft for all to see. Embarrassingly, as my hands were turned the other way they actually stated EARTH SAVE sounding more like an ethical bank account than a plea to the authorities!
Finally arrests began to happen in earnest and it looked like our waiting was over. With lock-ons and glue-ons around us the adrenaline was coursing… only for the police to walk away! Their cells and vans full and rebels being de-arrested. Although I was disappointed, I like to think I made their job a bit more difficult and what’s more important I stood my ground for what I believe in. I do feel that I should have stayed as the later threat of forceful removal did move me away. But, I now know I can put myself in that space when the time comes again.
When people ask me what the rebellion was like, the first word that comes to mind is intense. The mixture of emotions coupled with a high dose of adrenaline is a heady cocktail (with a similar hangover afterwards) and difficult to express to the uninitiated. Expectations after my April rebellion experience were high, but I was not disappointed. The incredible sense of community, love, power, purpose and hope embraced me in an almost spiritual way. So much so that when I am now asked if I am part of Extinction Rebellion, I defiantly said “yes, I am!”
I once read that activism is like ripples in water, every action spreads out even when it feels like it hasn’t achieved much. We will be mostly unaware of how much our efforts have affected other people and drawn them into the fight. I had a friend down to visit us on our blockade, who until I met her would have only been a petition filler and an MP writer, but my bad influence has led her astray. But better than that she is singing the praise of activists like us in the very conservative town where I live, where she holds far more sway then I have.
Finding XR has been like finding my tribe. After losing my husband, I lost a lot of friends and have been very isolated. Becoming aware of the true extent of climate crisis was doubly isolating. But now I am finally surrounded by people who are willing to do pretty much anything about it and are pretty amazing too. So, I feel honoured to stand beside you all and call you my friends.
#tellthetruth #actnow #rebelforlife
Rebel for Life
Why I am Rebelling
5 Ways to Save the Planet pt2
Responding to Criticism of the Rebellion
After spending a week in London with XR (Extinction Rebellion) I wanted to try and share some of the experience with you. It is very difficult to express it to people who were not there but I will do my best!
It was a really intense experience and a roller-coaster of emotions with long days, late nights, little sleep and lots of adrenalin. While holding sites there was discomfort from long periods of sitting down in tight spaces, little access to toilets and food as well as the cold & rain of autumn. I chose to take time off work and be away from my son and put my liberty at risk, but I would take all the down sides and do it all again in heartbeat to highlight the severity of the climate crisis and push for action. There are environmental activists around the world who die trying to protect our plant and our future, so these all seem insignificant in comparison. witnessing other rebels and friends making huge statements of sacrifice by gluing and locking themselves onto buildings and structures is very humbling. However, I do recognise my privilege as a white, middle class woman to be able to be part of the rebellion, but I do feel that I should use this and whatever platform I can for the cause.
On our sites we created our own XR villages complete with sustenance, art, meditation, wellbeing, first aid and stewards tents. We even had toilet tents with buckets, as the police confiscated our portaloos! Our site was next to St. James' Park where the campers had a lovely setting next to the lake and the pelicans. For me this embodied the natural world we are fighting for whilst being directly opposite the opulent buildings of Horseguards Rd which embody the establishment we are fighting against. We heard speeches from many notables including Gail Bradbrook, Mark Rylance, Bruce Parry and Rupert Read. We had live music from KT Tunstall and many others. Entertainment came from the Red Rebel Brigade, Rebel Roos, the Skeleton Parade and the dancing birds and of course people’s assemblies to make all the group decisions for the site. We truly created the society we want to see with inclusion, community and resilience.
It is difficult to describe the incredible energy of the experience in standing beside like-minded, passionate people who are using civil resistance to drive change. You begin to realise what power we all have when we come together and disobey the powers that be. That immense power of communal spirit and love was summed up for me while we protested outside the BBC by singing 'Amazing Grace'. It was so moving it had the police officers struggling to hold back tears. You also start to realise how much social conditioning we have in society to ‘put up, and shut up’, not just from the authorities but also from peers for fear of disapproval. I was quite anxious about what some friends and family would think about what we are doing in XR, but have been pleasantly surprised with all the support I have had. It is really empowering after years of feeling like we are getting nowhere with letters, petitions and marches to see people rising up and taking action.
The main thing I take away from the whole experience is the amazing sense of love. We went to London as thousands of rebels and came back as friends. Everywhere I went hugs and words of support were given, food and supplies shared and hopes bolstered. Whilst we are sitting blocking the road, the wellbeing team would pass us food, blankets, cushions and handwarmers, while legal observers would check we knew our rights. Supporters would cheer and the samba band would drum in defiance of the police. We had pizzas delivered to us from anonymous supporters, our home rebels raised money to buy extra supplies and visitors dropped off folding chairs and head lamps. We sang together, laughed together and cried together and it was the most incredible experience of my life.
#rebelforlife #actnow #tellthetruth
Why I am Rebelling
5 ways to save the planet pt2
Responding to Criticisms of the Rebellion
On Monday the 7th of October I will be taking to the streets of London with Extinction Rebellion to protest against the British government's lack of action on the climate emergency and ecological breakdown. Now, I am aware that some people may be critical of this, so in the spirit of XR's (Extinction Rebellion) first demand to tell the truth, I thought I should be open about it and try to explain why.
Having been environmentally aware for most of my life (thanks to hippy parents) I knew the climate crisis was bad. I had signed petitions, supported and donated to green groups, gone on strikes, marches, became vegan and zero waste and fostered many other individual actions to 'do my bit', But when I watched 'Heading for Extinction and What to do about it' and read the undisputable science behind it I was truly shocked. I strongly believe that if everybody knows the dire truth, most people would do something about it. Some of the key facts that stood out for me were that the IPCC report is actually somewhat conservative and doesn't include dangerous feedback loops that make the situation worse. But also if we continue on the course we are on we are headed for 3.5-5 degrees of warming or more which will not be survivable. I now know that all the laudable things I had been doing are not enough. In some ways they have even been a distraction or an illusion that suits the fossil fuel producers and their enablers in government to point the finger at us so they can carry on with business as usual.
"Humanity and life on Earth now face a ‘direct existential threat’ UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres
I am really scared for my son's future and even for my own, as the risks we face are also very likely within my own lifetime. I had always hoped to have another child with my late husband and although I am still single, I have decided that I cannot now bring another child into the world. The risks of mass starvation, drought, societal breakdown and violent unrest (even in the UK) are not the world I would want my child (or anyone's) to have to live through. We are already experiencing the melting of artic sea ice, arctic forest fires, record breaking temperatures, mass biodiversity loss and global crop failures many of which were predicted to happen many years from now so it's not hard to imagine these rapidly increasing.
"Climate Change is now reaching the end-game... the issue is the very survival of our civilisation" Prof. Hans Schellnhuber
I love my son more than anything else in the whole world, He is the Boy Wonder, my incredible miracle and the embodiment of my love for my late husband. I am doing this for him more than anything as I want him to be able to grow up in a safe and beautiful world. I love this earth too, especially this small part of it that we call home, and want to be able to protect it and pass it on to him and future generations along with all the wonderful animals and living things in it. My son should be able to enjoy clean air, clear blue seas and the wonderful, rich natural world that I grew up with. All children and all people deserve this.
Change is not happening quickly enough and the 1.5 degree target set by the Paris Climate Accord according to the science is now impossible to meet. Our emissions have not declined to meet these hard won targets, but are actually rapidly increasing. We have all the solutions to drawdown these carbon emissions. We know what we need to do, but need the political will and complete system change to bring it about and fast. The 11 years the IPCC report gave us to turn things around is now 10 years and many scientists in fact say that the next 18 months are critical in getting things moving. Studies and history show that Non Violent Direct Action and civil disobedience is the most effective way to do this; from the civil rights movement to the suffragettes. Indeed, the actions that XR took in April have already changed the public's opinion on climate change with over 64% saying that we are running out of time. It also helped to change the dialogue enough to get parliament to declare a climate emergency. All this has helped raise awareness, but no positive actions have yet been taken; instead support for renewable energy has been withdrawn and the 3rd runway at Heathrow and new coal mines approved.
"It takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change." Erica Chenoweth
So, the government has failed us. As a widowed parent I will not put myself forward for arrest, however it is my duty as a mother to do all I can to protect my child. This is why I am rebelling against government and the system they uphold. I hope you will join me on the streets x
#actnow #tellthetruth #extinctionrebellion
Responding to criticism of the rebellion
5 ways to save the planet pt2
How to talk to kids about the Eco Crisis
How to stay climate positive
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