At the end of July we were invited to the monthly meeting of the very inspiring African Rainbow Family in Manchester to have a discussion and training about direct action.
African rainbow family is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex support group for Africans living in the UK. It was established by a lesbian in the wake of the toxic and draconian anti-gay laws, persecutions and environment which seek to criminalise #LGBTIQs for the preference of whom they choose to love. ARF seeks to work with the growing African #LGBTIQ asylum seeking and refugees communities who face constant harassment, hate crimes and discrimination heaped on them by an ignorant society because of their sexuality or sexual preferences as well as trans phobia.
As with all our trainings we want to work with what people already know and have experienced, so we mainly discussed actions related to migration and borders. We looked at a variety of different case studies including:
- Theatrical interventions to raise awareness
- Demos – such as those outside detention centres
- Strikes – such as the successes by the LSE Cleaners
Given that participants had experiences of the immigration detention system, we also were able to discuss what it’s like to be in detention and to know that people are outside supporting you. One woman was in Yarl’s Wood detention centre, and felt that because she was connected to a number of different support groups outside, she felt stronger and felt like the Home Office was pressured to release her after a few days. This, for her, showed the importance of going to demonstrations outside detention centres and telling people they are not alone.
When it comes to direct action and breaking the law there are clearly risks involved and some people are more able to take those risks than others. If people are undocumented or are in the process of getting their asylum claim reviewed it’s probably not the best idea to get arrested as it could quite easily lead to being put in a detention centre or be deported. But actions aren’t just made possible by people who get arrested – there are a variety of types of actions and a variety of roles required to make a successful action, which means there’s a need for all levels of risk.
None of this is to say that anyone should be told they shouldn’t take action. As one woman said ‘I’ve got nothing left to lose!’ and was keen to show solidarity and make sure others aren’t deported however she could.
We are really grateful for being invited to work with the African Rainbow Family and look forward to working with them again in the future. To keep up to date with them you can follow them on Facebook.