In the Spring of 2020, we found ourselves, a worldwide community, facing some horrific scenes of police brutality and racism that we have long worked hard to abolish. As a staffing body, we felt the need to come together and form a safe space where these events could be discussed, debated, and opinions could be shared with the hope of spreading awareness and education in our little corner of East London.
Our main concern in the first few weeks was for the young people of our city that wanted to rise and protest, something that we all have the right to do but during a global pandemic, we were particularly concerned as tempers were bubbling away under the surface and there was the added threat of infection to Covid-19.
So, we began our weekly live broadcasts using Microsoft Teams and invited staff and students who had experienced of racism, particularly those who had been involved in unlawful stop and searches and interactions with the police, to come and share their stories and advice on protesting safely.
We combined safe protesting tips with Covid-19 safety and encouraged protesters to attend marches that were properly organised; offering social distancing, and handwashing stations.
During the first few weeks of our live forum events, we kept abreast of what protests were organised each weekend and reiterated our protesting safely tips. The forum grew and grew with over 1200 viewers across our 6 events held in the run-up to the summer holidays. We had guest speakers from the police force, anti-racism charities, and youth workers that specialised in supporting young people who had experienced police brutality.
As a group, we were so impressed and inspired by the students that joined us to share their views and could see future politicians and activists growing in front of us… in 2D of course!
Although the topics of our sessions were often challenging and quite harrowing at times, we found strength together at a time when some felt ever more isolated.
The sessions are recommencing in October and we hope they will become a part of our Team Forest schedule ongoing, giving a safe and welcoming space for all members of our community to learn and grow.