Episode 5 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Peninah from the Racial Justice Network (RJN).
“We have race at the core of the work and then see how it intersects with other other struggles or identities.”
Show notes, links
- The Collective Conversations project
- Stop the Scan
- 13th Recommendation on climate justice
- Black and Brown community space
- Unlearning Racism Collective
- International solidarities with Brazil and Kenya
- COVID Response
Ali: This is Resist + Renew.
Kat: A UK-based podcast about social movements.
Sami: What we’re fighting for, why, and how it all happens.
Ali: The hosts of the show are:
Kat: Me, Kat,
Sami: Me, Sami,
Ali: and me, Ali,
Sami: I’m recording this now baby
Ali: Shit it’s a podcast.
Ali: So welcome everybody. Welcome back to the Resist+Renew podcast. Sami and I are interviewing Peninah Wangari-Jones today from the Racial Justice Network. And we’re really excited to have you. Thanks for joining us.
Peninah: Thank you for having me.
Ali: So a little bit about Peninah. Peninah Wangari-Jones is an anti racist activist organiser and director of the Racial Justice Network, and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Manchester, focusing on how coloniality shapes black activism. Peninah was born and raised in Kenya, her experiences of discrimination and racism, after migrating to the UK became a catalyst for fighting for racial and social justice. She is interested in race equity, intersectionality, migration, coloniality and internationalising social movements, what a great list of things to be interested in, like, so excited to see where we go from here. So thank you. Um, to kick us off, we would love to know a bit about the contexts you are organising. And so like, what do you see as like, the issues that are of, like, the most urgent or the most pressing things that you’re focusing on right now? And how do you choose those things?
Peninah: Yeah, I think perhaps it just kind of fits all within the interest. And so yeah, race equity, race. Raising awareness, raising awareness about racism and stuff like that. It’s kind of where we sit. And definitely the organisation, but I know the organisation has been informed by like it says there a bit of my own journey. And so part of it right now, I think, as we know, these would not just got COVID, we had the murder of George Floyd, which is kind of more recently just pushed a lot of things out there. But we also know, like, in terms of the treatment of black and brown people, is this kinda goes on centuries. And so the choice to kind of the question was around how do we tackle racism, because there’s a sentiment that we kind of go into the spaces, and everybody’s talking about equality and diversity, and that nobody’s kind of really like bold or courageous enough to kind of go down the race route. And we felt a little bit of that was intentional, but the consequences of that, we will feeling those consequences. So the desire to push, race and colour, make race, like bit more mainstream, was something that we wanted, but also kind of, to build solidarities across. So sometimes, there’s a feeling that if somebody is working on this just doing race, as opposed to race and other oppressions and struggles. So it felt right, and he felt fair to kind of really start to begin to connect these struggles in terms of who really interested in tilting or dismantling, they’re not just the white supremacy structures, but imperialism, capitalism, and all of that stuff. We needed to kind of do the interconnectedness of race and class and, you know, a migration, gender, sexual orientation and all of those things. And so at the moment, that’s kind of where we are. That’s what we do. And it’s not been easy for sure. And but we also, I think there was an another angle, maybe just to add was around how people who do, I don’t know, not just equal opportunities, and equality and diversity training. There was something about we’re not really addressing the root cause of a lot of these things. And so the desire to pull in colonialism. And the desire to kind of talk about the enslavement of people was to say, this is the way that this starts – of the root causes. So we cannot just because we have the Race Act, we have the Equality Act to have all sorts of things, but the one we’ll be addressing what where is it that it comes from this fear, anxiety, hatred, treatment of people just on the basis of a were the born this, you know, the colour of their skin and things like that, so, but there was also another angle, of course, the focus, which we have is, is we predominantly black and brown communities. So I’d say 80% of our work is with those communities, and and part of it was just being tired of being spoken for, or, you know, assumptions of solutions or been made or started off elsewhere, as opposed to coming from us in terms of what do we really want? What do we consider a way forward. And so the angle of like mobilising black and brown communities, was somewhat unique of a time when we started. And, and that’s kind of what’s made things different, including now, what we see is what we’re working on at the moment, it’s definitely come from focusing on black and brown communities and then building outwards, because there are people out there who care but who haven’t known, including because I mean, I’ll talk about it later on, the allies who have wanted to, but not sure what to do, because not just the PCness. So by opening this door of race analysis, really recently, teacher or listen, race literacy, we’ve we’ve allowed for people to step in and really began to practice anti racism from somewhere where it really attacks and tackles the systemic stuff.
Ali: Amazing. I’m curious about some, I feel like there’s some juicy stuff in the equality and diversity training stuff. I think maybe we’ll circle back to that in a little bit. But you mentioned George Floyd, and obviously, Breonna Taylor as well, like a lot of like, the murders in the US police, police violence and the uprisings that have been happening in there. And that spread worldwide, which has been fantastic. And like, amazing to watch. And I’m also curious about what do you see as like, different to the US here in the UK? What’s like, how does racism or white supremacy show up in the UK? And like, what’s, what’s the similar similarities? And what are the differences you see here?
Peninah: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think I should know it like it should just roll off my tongue now. Because I see the difficulty with the UK the fact that racism is quite subtle, and and we’re also quite good at pointing to the US where a) people are dying at the hands of the police and other white supremacist including armoured… So over here, it’s different because there’s the niceties that we see but in terms of can of if we look at white supremacy as a conduct prison, we cannot focus and think racism is the overt stuff, as opposed to the covert stuff, like policies like treatments that you have, or you experience when you’re kind of getting around employment, housing, and, and all of those things. I think, a bigger part has been the fact that that the UK, not just the education system, has completely ignored and whitewashed or distorted the history of Empire, their history, colonial history, in terms of the hands that happened, that continue to impact until today. The hams that continue on in terms of treaties that were signed, and that mean that corporations are still like completely ruling over debt that they you know, the majority world have relating to that colonial legacy. So when we see migrations not just connected to conflicts that were started by me, nor like the institutions around the colonial legacy, the divide and conquer divide and rule, we also see, for example, climate damage, or climate, people having to been forcibly displaced because of climate. When we come here, there’s a sentiment that or we should be grateful that we’re here as opposed to actually be here has had a big role to play in the fact that we’ve coming back whether it’s industrialization and the damage to the climate, and whatever else will we talk about climate debt. And so that in itself, so by the time you come here, you’re almost, the system itself treats you so badly. So we work a lot with communities who are seeking asylum, are destitute, are refugees, and they’re just going through the process is one of the most humiliating dehumanising thing ever. And that’s because you’re not coming in almost as entitled. And for me, because I talk about my own family history. My granddad was resisting the occupation in Kenya, I grew up in Kenya, as we said before, and there is a part of me that really feels I have every right to be here. Our ancestors contributed to this, you know, gold paved pavements is some politicians would like to see it. And so we come here and we are entitled, or we should be entitled to some of whatever it is, is here, but when you come and you have the policies, so in the US, you might, yes, the police have guns, and they’ll do whatever they need to do, or what they feel they ought to do. Which is not right. But over here we have policies were just killing people in the same manner. You know, we’ve had deaths, for example, in Scotland, Manchester, people migrated and held in these horrible conditions. People can’t work, people who can deteriorate not just the mental well being, but everything else around you. Because you think parents who come in a) emasculated, because you can’t work and you can’t provide for your family, and you’re living on five pounds a week, but then that what do you do you punch down, so then you have cases of domestic abuse. And then because of the hostile environment, people can remain can leave or men can’t leave, because I know domestic violence kind of works both ways. And they’re stalking they’re the children in the middle of it. What do they do because they’re growing up in a system, or seeing their parents in this manner. So the damage continues in quite a big way. So yeah, the question on, we see, and we point to the US, and again, we know now we’re coming up to a Black History Month where, again, the focus of activism and people who challenge the system is usually on the US. And for me this the other flip side, because he makes us think nothing’s ever happened to here that needed icons or activism to resist. But on the other hand, it kind of continues that pattern of things that only as bad as it could be over there, as opposed to here. And and I wish, because for me, I think this law subtleness when you having to second guess we know when when I experienced the I know what it is I’m experiencing, going to prove the reason that sense is really hard. And I think that can take from you continue to kind of take out a view for for quite a while. And I think that’s what needs to stop.
Sami: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. I was, I was reading a book earlier today, the book, “Feminism interrupted”, and like, came up quite recently. And if I was the kind of person that could remember quotes, there’s a really good quote in that about the thing you were just talking about, but I can’t remember quotes, maybe I’ll look it up later than more seamlessly edited in. And so I think it’d be really useful to hear Peninah from you about your role within you work within an organise within the Racial Justice Network, if you could say a little bit about what the Racial Justice Network does, and, and what kind of stuff you’ve got going on.
Peninah: So our vision, which is kind of very mouthy, or kinda long, is, is holistic, economic, spiritual, environmental, and cultural repairs, to end race injustice, and address colonial legacies. And that in itself, I know, it’s kind of quite condensed, but it’s really how do we end racial injustice, or at least make a way towards ending racial injustice. And we do this obviously, by proactively promoting racial justice. And I know I mentioned a little bit earlier about mobilising black and brown communities, but other you know, communities around to kind of do and change things. And we, we kind of, I think, I also mentioned about how we have race at the core of the work and then how it intersects with other other struggles or identities. And, and the way we see and have seen, this really manifests itself. It’s not a case of kinda continuing the victimisation of black and brown communities or migrant communities, we see a sense of like, also celebrating the resilience, because, again, I’m not good at quotes, either. But there’s a guy who gives this kind of like a real long example of how people survived, you know, when you talk about it, they took the best in this is not he was he was talking about enslavement, and you know, the people who were picked in kind of forced into these ships, and you know, and then and he talks about, only the best could survive, and only the best could survive. So the journey itself, you land you get there, you kind of you’re not just sold by then you work in all these conditions. And it’s almost a case of only the best could survive. And for me when you cannot imagine all the all the horrible experiences that people have, because it’s social economic conditions that people are escaping from people crossing the Mediterranean going through Libya and the desert, for example. Mediterranean, you survived that, then you survive the back of like, the lorries and kind of freezers and all of that stuff. And you saw all of that by the time you get here. Yes, the system really beat you down because it ties you hands tells you can’t work. And we’re going to give you this horrible accommodation, you can’t speak up anybody can come in whenever we don’t care about whether you can have been tortured and raped and all of that stuff, but the resilient in those communities because What we see we work, for example, obviously, we’re in the north of England, we work with communities in Halifax, in Bradford, in Leeds. And when you see how the people flourish, despite these conditions, and is something worth really like pushing out, so it’s not so much focusing on the victimisation or ‘oh poor us’ is kind of really pushing on, on the resilience. So we do a lot of training, and and the training is really to upskill on okay, how do we, you know, how do we push back? How do we, how do we channel, how do we do, you know, to channel our anger or frustration, energy to really build forward and build a good, good. So we kinda do that we also kinda take up spaces in forming in influencing in terms of decision making spaces. So we do that only again, for the same reason of not wanting to be spoken for. So if I go in maybe might be a couple of meetings before I, you know, encourage somebody else to come with me or I see that this space is really not safe for me better somebody else came along. And we kind of do that, where are we building our capacities in the spaces because those people who’ve not just migrated and not coming to just leave, I know, obviously, there’s the detention, these people were deported. But that’s a small number compared to the people who actually settle here. So it’s kind of really embracing what the Ubuntu, which is a kind of South African, sentimental, “I am because we are” and connect pushing back or with collectivities and having spaces where we can connect with each other because we know capitalism. And it’s about individual it’s about individual wealth, individual everything. And and by pushing on the collectives and communities, it’s countering that, but it’s also the communities that you can repair and you can heal and you can nourish from.
And it’s about participating. Because when you were not allowed to do anything and juicy on your hands, and not even got tellies and things like that it takes from you so, so yeah, so we kind of build capacity, continuously building capacity. We also do media like this, you know, where we are able to share perspectives to talk about the things that we’re doing. And that also kind of reach and inform other people beyond our kind of immediate circle. And and that seems to obviously like in terms of campaigns, I could name a few, because I know I’ve spoken about going and looking beyond that internationalism and pushing internationalism is one of the things that we really wanted and have managed to do. So I’ve been very lucky, obviously, not so much this year, but in the few years before where I’ve connected with groups and been in parts to to kind of Brazil and connected with women in Brazil, women in movements, who are not just in the Amazon, in the Kilombos and and and again in Kenya. And now beginning of earlier this year, actually was last year that we went in started doing about decolonizing education. And then this year, we went and did a whole week of action around decolonizing education because I think it was a very few opportunities I had to see, what did they learn in my school years because what I learned was not the history of resistance. It’s not about not, you know, amazingness, or the awesomeness of our, you know, communities that existed before colonisers stepped foot. It was different stories, Livingstone’s and then da da da, but not even African people. So we were able to go back and kind of begin those works. And we feel like we as again, people in the global north, we need to be continuously doing that. Because those communities who are outside in the majority world in the global south haven’t got some of the resources that we have. But we also learn from them in terms of not just resilience, but methods of doing things. And this kind of goes again to the conversation around climate movement and environmentalism. Because sometimes the solutions that we seek are very much from euro century co elitist or classist, as opposed to really work with people who’ve been connected to the land who’ve been doing these things much longer. We need to be learning from them. So for us, the exchange is kind of been vital.
Peninah: And we also working currently on a campaign called stop the scan, which is try not connect splain all of the but maybe suggest at the end to people to go look on the website. And but it’s amazing. It’s about it’s about the police, who introduced biometrics, where they’re able to fingerprint people and when and these biometrics have contacted the home office, as well as a criminal record and that for us, again, we’re talking about Black and Brown, migrant communities, trans communities, the impact that has because the police have power, if they doubt your identity, then they can tap into and the consequences of that is not just detention its death.
Peninah: Then we’re also doing some other work around 13th, which, again, I’ve alluded to about climate. And in the 13th recommendation as, as a campaign is really pushing on three elements on really acknowledging colonial legacies within the climate movement. I think part of us were tired of seeing why is the climate movement, white. And, and, and, and all of that, and we were like, is because they don’t understand the interconnectedness of the struggles. But they also don’t understand if you’re not talking for or you’re not even regarding me in your conversation, why do I need to come in and step in there, when a real so I understand the struggles that some of the people have in terms of jobs. So when, or precarious, not just conditions that they’re living in, which means they’re not able to step in. So pushing on the 13th, at the moment, which we’re launching on the 13th of October, has been to, to bring in international perspective of colonial legacies, activist solidarity. And, and, and really looking at the interconnectedness of struggles, so to see climate justice as social justice. And as well, I think,
Peninah: Oh, yeah, one final project, which I kind of said, I might mention is, is called unlearning racism collective. And that’s also emerged out of exhaustion of teaching and talking to white people about racism. And it was almost like, Okay, white people need to do their own learning white people need to do their own and learning, but not at a cost of a black and brown people. So we designed courses, or modular course, where they could kind of do the checking in with each other. And what started off is to something small, and just training packages become something quite huge. And I think, because again, unfortunately, with George Floyd’s murder, we had overwhelmed with people who wanted to learn and who wanted to kind of get involved in our trainings. And we’ve ended up now delivering a course webinars for over, we had about 1000 people register for our course, we bought usually quite small, tiny courses, because we try and make them as interactive as possible, because it’s about the learning needs to deepen. So it’s not just talking at people. And then we were like, okay, we can’t do this with 1000 people. And we pulled in as many resources as we could. But we ended up doing webinars, so we delivered to about 600 people. And now we’re kind of now settling to a phase of like, really looking, but really not just to talk about the course is we’ve seen the fruits of that work in the two years that we’ve been doing it in terms of the learning that the people who’ve kind of taken on the anti racism practice, because it’s not just about knowing not how not to mess up, it’s about what you do with that learning. And that’s we’ve seen that kind of working for kind of full, fully and, and that’s what we want to kind of maybe encourage others to do. And but yeah, I’ll stop there.
Ali: I’m a bit in awe of all those things.
Sami: It was a very, very long list.
Ali: And they all sound so like, deep and well thought through, like lots of lots of groups have lots of things they do. But these sound, well thought through, grounded in like community grounded in experience, a lot of like, connection between the people. And yeah, linking that to like structural things that’s like, pretty special. It’s amazing.
Sami: But you want making our jobs very difficult, because we have to pick which things we talked about. And we’d like to talk about all of them. And that makes it a struggle. Ali, do you have a thought about how we delve into some of those things that Peninah has been raising?
Ali: I mean, I think I think you talked about mobilising, like black and brown communities. And I think that’s something that, you know, the people who are seen as the movement don’t necessarily be seen as those communities. So I’d be curious, like, how did those kind of how is your mobilisation process work? And like, what specific like which of these amazing list of programmes do you find you have like specific demands on and working towards like, yeah, shifting something?
Sami: Can I maybe ask a kind of related question to that? It’s probably bad for them to give you two questions at once. But I think it’s kind of related to Ali’s question is of all of those things like, how did you decide which of those things to work on? Like, how do you decide as a group which things to work on? Like, do you have kind of like, is the group, is Racial Justice Network, like a crew of people? And then like, these ideas are like coming out of the relationship and discussion amongst yourselves, or is it? Like, these are ideas that come up, like coalition work, like, where do these ideas come from?
Peninah: Wow. We do a lot of listening. And so for me, I think me The beginning part of all of this is listening. So, and, and I think that’s what kind of makes the work just expand and expand. And then we kind of try and put into boxes of like, you know, yes, strategizing, or in putting them into boxes and thinking, Okay, this is, this is what this is, and this is what this looks like. But just just in terms of so just as an example, we we delivered a campaign course. And we wanted the campaign course to just have black and brown people. And and the reason for that was we not just for avoiding the gaze, but we wanted people who really know this. I don’t know where that can swear, but I was gonna say shit happens, but people know the stuff goes on, rather, as opposed to kind of trying to convince them and kind of go into ‘yeah but,’, or if so we kind of put people who stepped up, I think in the end, we had about 40 people in the training courses for about six months.
Why not? So we were kind of doing the power mapping and power analyses and, and kind of movement kind of histories. But we were asking people to bring in ideas of other movements. And what was really interesting is hearing of movements that none of us have come across when you read books here, because people come in, we know, I know, I was talking about the Mau Maus and somebody else talking about something else in South Africa, somebody else you know, but towards the end of the course, rather than learn and then go, Okay, now you learn how to do campaigning goodbye kind of thing. We wanted people to bring an idea in, and we were going to work on it as we did the campaign course so I work, for example, with G4s resisting this difference emerged from that, because the people who are on the course were living in different properties. So then it was a case of Okay, we can prioritise who thinks what do you think. And then we started, obviously took a while, where we ended up like actually dropping the Charter. And this particular two women started a women’s group, which obviously, RJN supported, ended up having, like 50 people attend this camp, you know, this women’s group on a Monday, led by women who are going through the asylum process for women can I call “sisters united”, they ended up getting national awards because of this. But from just during that campaign, and going through the procedure of involving the community, local churches, involving the local council, and telling them of the conditions that people living in asylum G4S accommodation, we’re living in who they were shocked, first of all, but then they’ve gone on to do much more things like, you know, challenge the schools who say, Oh, you can wear, you don’t have to wear your uniform, and you can come in and pay a pound. And actually, these, you know, parents who can’t afford a pound when you’re five pounds a day, which means your child sticks out. And so then they go in and join in the PAs and, and the boards and they say we can’t do this. So we’ve seen some real changes in there. But a lot of it begins with the kind of listening we have a sentiment for centering the most marginalised,and and and in that way you feel like you’re not least likely to leave anybody out. And this is not oppression Olympics, it’s not about necessarily around identity politics. But if you really kind of look at the same thing that you’re working on from multiple angles, and you’re less likely to leave anybody and and what we’ve done because we then began to do like monthly meetings, which we do even now, obviously, now we’re doing them online, black and brown spaces, and was and and collective conversations which is again, you pick a topic you pull people in and you talk about it is deep learning that emerges because somebody might come in who’s a Muslim who has no idea what it means to kind of experience homophobia. And but when we’re in this spaces, and we’re learning so that this the sessions are usually led by people who have lived experience. So but the learning that emerges out of it is we really see that actually, there’s a structure, there’s something that’s pulling us apart from each other as opposed to, it’s just me and you or it’s just my issue. And I don’t care about anybody else’s issue. So I think that’s definitely something that’s worked, we’ve seen by doing this exchange learnings on different struggles. And we’ve been able to really understand from each other’s perspective and really recognise, okay, I don’t have to be of that particular experience to have compassion, or to stand in solidarity with. And that’s the way we felt that the group has moved forward, and kind of moved as a collective. So it’s so in terms of how we pick things is really whoever comes in. And I just give one final example of something that we’ve done again, and this was after COVID was announced, and all the lockdown was announced. So this is one of the most recent I didn’t even talk about this one. But this is one of the most recent campaign that we kind of went on. And yeah, and maybe in response to your answer a lot of this so RJN is quite small, but we probably work with about 50 odd people. The majority of them are volunteer members. So is only this year actually funding that’s kind of allowed for us to employ more than me, it’s just been me working for quite a long time. But now this is the overgrowing team, but the people who still who step forward to continue to give, who continue to connect, show up for this community. And and it’s because we also work quite holistically as well. So it’s not just about what you’re bringing into the room. It’s also we understand when you down we are there for you as well, so, because I think understanding, especially when people who are experiencing all these harms in staff in mental well being is not always like 100%. So I know we kind of have spaces for when you’re able to come in when you’re not able to you don’t have to you don’t feel obliged to you’re not kicked out or anything like that. And so yeah, the COVID thing was real, I think, a recognition because we also I’m also involved in a lot of strategic species with the council and others. And it was the moment that happened was like, Oh, yeah, we’re going to do food parcels. And we’re going to provide this number and get people to ring it. And now like not everybody’s going to ring that number. So we began, again, the group of us, the different organisers who kind of are doing and working within some of these who said, Okay, we’re gonna ring ring ring people, and ask them what what is what’s showing up in their community. And that’s for us, it was like the, within a week of lockdown was, yeah, digital divide was quite there. You know, when you know, a woman who has four children and only has one phone? How is she now going to support these children to do you know, homework, as somebody who’s English, they’ve not recently arrived, they don’t even understand what the kids do school, somehow they’re supposed to support them. People who have living in accommodation, where they haven’t got television, they haven’t got Internet, and they’re locked out completely. And then they all that miscommunication. So we launched a campaign to really ask communities to donate. So we wanted to find an activity books, puzzles, things like that, that we can provide and give to kids in their homes and families and adults as well. And then people donated money. And with that money, we were able to buy phones, like cheap phones, but at least they were, you know, you’re able to connect, go online and also provide credit. And I think the phone credit was when we had to So in the end, we reached about maybe 600 people locally, families and children and and yeah, again, that begins with the listening so even though now we’ve got a to build the campaign around it from receiving these things and giving these things out. We’ve we weren’t liaising with community advocates who do it for nothing who are also perhaps not even employed, not even got status. And and what they’ve said, they were our doors to those communities. So now, we started to pull this community advocates together to kind of for lobbying purposes. That’s kind of what’s happening at the moment. But that emerged out of COVID. So yeah, the work. It works well, I think, in some ways, but also it can be quite overwhelming other times as well.
*Music by Screaming Toenail – song “white savior”*
Ali: That’s so amazing, like to reach 600 people all mostly on volunteer work. And in the middle of a pandemic, responding to people’s needs. It’s, it’s amazing, like, so, so amazing. Yeah, and I really like what you’re saying around like, how listening was like a really core factor in like, how all these campaigns have come together, all these projects have come together. And I feel like alongside listening, you’ve mentioned a few other values, like taking care of for each other, and the idea of Ubuntu and I it feels it feels very evident that you do live these values. And I’m, I’m curious, like, how do you feel like you put these values into practice with internally within within the groups that you’re you’re part of and the people who are working through the network?
Peninah: Yeah, I think well, partly because, even though because I in some ways, I feel like it’s just too much, but in others, I feel like I’m quite lucky that I get to work and, and, and do what I do. But when I’m any other when I’m out there, I’m a Black woman. So I’m is just as vulnerable in terms of when I’m out and about when I’m trying, you know, in the shop or parking whatever. And so I think that I have the constant reminders of of what it is that I’m fighting for, as well. I think working on kinda as you see grassroots and working with directly with these communities, I’m also constantly reminded of, because I can winge and say, Oh, my God, you know, lockdown data dad, not being able to see people and all that. And then you kind of have a chat with somebody who, who like not just the journey, but what they’re going through. And I think that, for me is a constant reminders are constant reminders of what it is that we want to change in terms of migration policies, in terms of policing, and and and how policing works in town for the black and brown communities, employment, housing, you know, even health because, you know, some people have conditions. And we know, for example, mental health for this kind of like, you can see with an article, I wrote some time back about decolonizing mental health, the treatment that people get, which, so when you hear these stories, I think for me, it’s like, yeah, I cannot rest I can’t, it’s not is not done, the work needs to be done. But I’m also experiencing them at the same time in terms of the multiple oppression of what it means to be a black female, immigrant and trying not to say migrant its immigrant, and living in the UK in this kind of day and age. And so yeah, so those things I don’t, I’m not able to escape from. But, we we really honour and hold on to the lived experience as as, as, as expertise, and because I know sometimes we have experts learn to come in and tell you things, but no, we value to them in terms of hierarchy of, of what’s more important lived experience, you cannot play or mess with that. And, and I know a lot of it kind of comes with trauma. And those traumas can sometimes stop views can, but we have to acknowledge them as well. So one of the things we really hold on to is about being open to learning, and know where I am now is not where I was five years ago in terms of my own kind of race consciousness, how they exist and how I do things. So but I’m, I’m learning and being patient with people, because can we have this thing of like thinking on a scale of one to 10 where are you and and, and some of us and I think this is a problem we have within movements of somebody who’s on a two engaging with somebody on a seven to seven is like has no patience whatsoever. And it’s really like recognising we need more of us to really be really interested in changing systems, we need more of us and it’s kind of having that patience of, of growing with and growing as others are growing as well. And, and ensuring that the work is intersectional I talked about having ensuring that kind of we center the most marginalised, but for me, there’s no way you can kind of think or see liberation, for example of of racism, if we’re not looking at patriarchy, if we’re not looking at kinda heteronormativity if you’re not looking at so we have to do all of these things at the same time. And, and and for us, that’s what matters. And that’s what made the work that we do really very relevant to communities who are often excluded from other spaces because of one thing or another.
And, and I think the struggles with that, obviously, the more radical you are, the less likely you are to be funded and and I know we’ve experienced that so we’ve survived on very difficult for the years that we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing, but it almost, it did matter in a way because the sacrifices I know personally that I’ve had to do and make because just to hold the organisation and grow the organisation but I also know where we if we if that was if I was pushing and asking and demanding money at first before any of this is the organisation wouldn’t be here right now. So there has been struggles like that there’s also struggles of you know, working with different personalities and egos as well because you often get those that jumping in the movement who were there to not just there to make names for themselves but do things that are quite harmful. And you know, once the ones would be on the mics and kind of not really have the good at mobilising but really don’t understand how to really organise and ensure that you’ve pushing people forward as opposed to you being the front, and all of that. So. And I think a big part, and this is more for me, I can’t speak for everybody. Everybody else in the organisation is really relying on my gut in terms of how I operate, because these things you sense that you won’t even have words for why’s, why don’t I want to go here? Why don’t I want to work with this person in a way or reading this article, and others just don’t want to put my name to me? So. So yeah, there’s, there’s lots of that. And people kind of do like performative solidarities as well. So there is kind of harms that we’ve learned. And we’re kind of constantly like, down on the floor back up again, you know, back on the floor again, but, but I think on a bigger general kind of point of view, and, but ensuring that sentiment about knowing that I’m constantly learning and and engaging with others in a way that’s coming with compassion, even if people mess up, because I mess up. And I know, I would, and I probably would do again. And it’s brilliant with compassion, as opposed to writing people off, because I know, we need more of us, I can’t just be all we need to be perfect. And, and I think that’s kind of what made things maybe more, including staying radical and true to our roots. Because you can sell your soul to the devil, you know, and end up you know, you gain that thing, that position, and then actually you lose the community. So we we’ve had to be very clear, for example, even now, where who’s funding we’re getting from because these funding that will say no to as skint as we are. Yeah. So yeah.
Ali: Yeah, I just wanted to point out my, my neck is hurting, because I’m nodding along. This. And it’s like, a lot of what you’re saying is like, things that I could read and like, understand in abstract terms, but just the ways that you’re saying it sound, I can just get a sense that it’s like from experience and from like relationships that is like, so much richer than like, like, putting a value, a random value out like listening is important. And then like marginalised people should be centred, like, yeah, loads of people say that, but the way that you’re saying it, and like that it’s grounded in those relationships just feels like 100% different. So we’re kind of winding up now. And of all the amazing stuff that you’ve mentioned that you’re doing, if someone is listening to this podcast, and they’re like, how do I get involved? Or how do I support the work of the Racial Justice Network? What should they do? Like? how can how can people help out and support this great work?
Peninah: Yeah, I think that the typical and we say to people is follow us so we can see some of the work that we’re doing. And, and, yeah, and hope that not just learning from it. But I think there’s an aspect also of like, of acknowledging us, or acknowledging because a lot of this stuff is obviously it’s created. It’s kind of hybrid. And, and, and obviously, I’ve learned lots from other spaces, and I’ve, I’ve given lots to other spaces. But what it is that we have now is kind of hybrid of things taken on from like, between direct education training and organising training, it did it. But acknowledging, I think it goes a long way in terms of feeling like it’s not just taking from, and people go and do and replicate. And we have that we tend to kind of also like what people have donated, we did see a surge in donations, and obviously not to the extent of kind of other people put word out because we didn’t put word out just people kind of came to us and donated. But that’s also a really effective and has been useful, including like the donations towards because we when we should have explain, when we’ve done the unlearning racism for white groups, we’ve asked for payment. So majority of the work that we do trainings, but majority of the work that we deliver to black and brown is kind of been for free, because most of our communities don’t even have the fees and the monies to pay for it. And so what we have now even with the donations that we get in coming in, it goes on to do the work for the communities that are not able to pay for the accessibility because some of the communities have not even got the bus fares. We will do conduct dinners where we can be used to bring in share but we also want to provide them for bit food. And so that money that comes in actually goes into do other work. And so yeah, and but also connect to invite I’m grateful that I’m here doing this now and having this conversation to share some of our work, but it’s good to Yeah, we ask people if they have platforms where they can showcase, they can celebrate and where we can reach more people can definitely do that as well. And I know, I say because I know sometimes people say, Yeah, what can I do? Or can you can you come in and do this training. And at the same time, as I’m seeing this, getting right to our platforms, I think it’d be so stretched at the moment, like, three months from now, maybe, you know, and but then we had, we did at one point, when we started thinking, we were thinking of, because it needs, it’s very rare. And I know this also is a person who’s studying and doing PhD on coloniality. And studying black activism, it’s very rare to find not just black led organisations, but also the kinda, the issues we face is being in the North, because in terms of the narrative, or we have being outnumbered, by the far right, by the resources, I tend tend to be London centric and all of that. And so there is other adversities that we face, just as an organisation being in the North. But so yeah, to kind of, but we did have in mind, like what we have done, and what we have now is really unique as not just as a project programme of work, the everything else exists in between, and the people we engaging, were able to reach like huge numbers. And so we did think quanti wonder whether we could open chapters in different places if people want to replicate what we are doing. But maybe that’s for another for another time. But yeah, the the concept of kind of being anti colonial or anti imperialist, anti capitalist, and kind of really tackling patriarchy and all the other “normativities” I put that in quotes, that exist out there is, is not very, I don’t see it very often. And I think it’d be good to kind of meet and maybe have more and engage with that organisations who are doing that. So we are also happy to share some of our models and to people who are interested in doing this. Because the the one thing again, I should should mention with the unlearning racism course, is that it is accountable to us. And I think we have seen people who start things and that they don’t have any accountability processes. For us. The reason why this course has been also unique is because it’s it’s accountable to a black organisation, as opposed to existing by itself. So I think sharing models like this with other people and other spaces is, is something that we’d want to do not just because you want to be famous is because we think we’ve seen the results in the short time that we’ve existed. And we’d like to do and reach more in terms of even beyond borders, because we’re doing amazing work now in Kenya, and I know that there’s some solidarity groups in Maxine Brazil, but I imagine there’s more that could be done.
Sami: I think there’s always more that can be done. But I think if I were an external facilitator brought into a Racial Justice Network strategy day, I feel like what I’d be saying would be more. “Wow, you’ve got a lot on, maybe less”. But I love the ambition. And I think it’s just so heartening to see so many, like Ali was saying before, so many projects that are just so grounded in relationships, so grounded in experience, so grounded in organising, it’s just it’s beautiful, bringing hope to a ever gloomier world, especially now we’re past the equinox.
Ali: And that is all of our questions. But is there anything you would like to say that we haven’t asked about? Is there something you’d like to add?
Sami: Any other secret projects? You’ve been hiding up your sleeve?
Peninah: No, there’s no secret project. But I just I think there was a question about why we do or why do i do and and that for me, it feels like I didn’t choose the work to work towards me. So maybe a lot of us including you guys, and out there in not just in Resist Renew. But other spaces. There’s many people who kind of get chosen by the work as opposed to Yeah, so I just wanted to throw that in. And, and I’m great for you both for having me here. Yeah, that’s all
Ali: so grateful for you coming and very much feel pulled to like, learn more from you. And like, if there are spaces that we can do some more connecting that that would be amazing. I really like to dig into some of those models and some of those all the all the things you’ve been talking about, I’ve just been like, I want to learn it. I want to see it.
Sami: Well, you offered Peninah. So we are gonna take you up on that offer.
Ali: Thanks once again to Peninah Wangari-Jones for joining us from the Racial Justice Network. You can follow the their work on instagram at #theracialjusticenetwork, on Twitter @racejustice, and on their website, which is racialjusticenetwork.co.uk. This week we also had music from Screaming Toenail with their song white Saviour, which is on their new release Growth. You can find them on Bandcamp and on social media. Thanks as always to Klaus for letting us use the song and Neff for our backing track.
Ali: And if you’re wanting to find out more about Resist + Renew as a training and facilitation collective, we are at resistrenew.com and you can support the work of producing this podcast there as well. Thanks for listening and see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai