We have published the letter from Abi Adebayo from Queen Mary Theatre Company which we received on 1 June 2020 because we think she makes important points. Particularly around how the university can support black students and create the anti-racist university which stands up for social justice. Everyone has a responsibility to make sure our university stands up for these values.
Abi would like to recognise the following people who have helped with the creation of the posters, protests and spoken word pieces:
- Peter Ndlovu – Gathering, MAIN organiser and director of the LONDON, BRISTOL and MANCHESTER protests on the 5th JUNE
- Alice Wilson – Poster designer, creator
- Efe Udwadiae – https://www.instagram.com/p/CAxNmCylx_H/?igshid=1rt6wnv4vglil , organiser and media coverage
I am writing to you as the Vice president of Queen Mary Theatre Society and as a black student within your university.
As I am sure you are aware of the countless protests, wide-spread media coverage, and news headlines around the subject of institutional, systematic, and general racism around the world, there has been a nationwide call for the end of injustice towards black people in all capacities. The murder – through means of suffocation – of George Floyd in the United States by the hands of the Minneapolis police was not only barbaric it was symbolic of how black people are stifled in every aspect of our lives due to continued active and passive racism. George Floyd’s name is now on the ever-growing list (that were caught on camera and so are aware of) of black people mercilessly killed for committing the crime of nothing more than simply being black in this month alone. We have called for Justice for Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man shot while he was jogging around his neighborhood, we have called for justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was shot up to six times by police officers who had broken into her home without knocking or announcing themselves under the claim that they were executing a search warrant for a suspected drug dealer, who not only had already been arrested but in fact, did not live at that address – Breonna lost her life and instead of charging the police officers for manslaughter, her boyfriend who was sleeping next to her fired back a single shot at what he thought were intruders, and so was charged and arrested despite the fact none of the police officers were harmed, as well as the fact he legally was allowed to put up arms of his registered gun in the state they were situated in. Black people are constantly being killed due to pre-consisting racist and prejudice bias without their murders being reprimanded further than (at most) a slap on the wrist and paid leave.
The UK is far from innocent and although shootings are less common, the mistreatment of black people from police officers to the general public is as prevalent as ever today, as it was before. Black people being harassed, beaten, and killed for their existence did not stop or even slow down in pace after the horrific murder of Stephen Lawrence, it has continued and, in some ways, even manifested in more covert ways. Rashad Charles, Mark Duggan, Darren Cumberbatch, Edson da Costa, Adrian McDonald, Sarah Reed, Mark Duggan and more recently Belly Mujinga – who was spat at on duty by a member of the public claiming to have COVID-19 and later fell ill and died herself from the contracted virus – are just a few of the documented black people within the United kingdom that have failed to be protected by the government and society in a whole, due to the colour of their skin. We as a people are tired, we are angry, we are devastated, and we are scared.
What kept me hopeful in this time, is seeing how much as a black community we have gathered together and how our Non-Black allies have stood with us. As the committee of Queen Mary theatre society, we have dedicated all of our social media accounts to #BlackLivesMatter initiatives and in using our platform to show our unwavering support as well as educating posts surrounding institutional, systematic, and general racism for our members. SED alumni such as Ndumiso Peter Ndlovu has taken the time to gather both past and current students of QMUL (like myself) to organise a peaceful protest in LONDON, BRISTOL and MANCHESTER both physically and through Zoom to honour George Floyd and Belly Mujinga, and demand for the further investigation, arrest, and charge of their killers. Efe Uwadiae is another alumnus of QMUL who has dedicated her platform to establishing the right discourse around the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
I was not only shocked, disheartened, and concerned to see how silent not only the Queen Mary student union has been about the racial injustice that not only affects the black members of their faculty but the black student body within QMUL. It seems as if we have no support from the university, which I find particularly interesting considering the statement made by Colin bailey and the SU surrounding the university being reprimanded for racism, to the point where students felt compelled to spray-paint their views on campus – they felt they weren’t being listened to, and it seems evidently we still aren’t being listened to. I am appalled at the lack of support given to students during this time, especially as QMUL claims to care profusely about our mental health and wellbeing. I am appalled at how despite being sent newsletters on various other subjects, none of them have been addressing the current global pandemic of racism. I have been waiting for QMSU and QMUL to use their platform to not only show solidarity instead of complacency, and still, I have yet to hear a single thing which has in turn led me to write this email.
If the university claims to be proud of how diverse their student body is, why is it that when we need you to use your platform to not only help us but protect and encourage us to stand for what is right the voice of Queen Mary University of London is nowhere to be found? The slight change of flag creates the idea that QMUL is happy to passively support their students along as they don’t have to make a physical, undeniable stance.
Until our voices, influence and platforms as those against racism are as active as the killing and constant injustice of black people within society, we will never see change.
In no way do I want to endorse the #alllivesmatter stance and advise the university to stay away from this rhetoric as not only does it demean and belittle the experience of black people globally it also stems as a retaliation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It is no secret that all lives matter, the point is there have been too many situations that reinforce the idea that black lives are discounted in the “All”.
To conclude, I expect from both QMSU, QMUL, and Colin Bailey to not only educate their students and faculty on the #BlackLivesMatter – why it is important and what it represents. To email all students and/or release a statement on the current climate that both comforts and reassures black students that the university is a safe space for them, and their voices are heard. To boost and encourage students to stand for what is right and carefully sculpt a message that re-lays sensitively the situation of George Floyd and Belly Mujinga in unity with the #saytheirnames movement.
I expect the university and the Student union to use their LARGE platform to show their solidarity with us as black students within the university. Here is the link to the protest led by your students and alumni as well as posts I feel could be reposted by the university and student union.
I hope to hear from you within the next few days before the protest on the 5th JUNE, with a retort, questions and further information on what can be done, what you plan to do and why the university has been silent thus far. As a university you have a duty of care, as QMTC a society within QMUL we are happy to keep the lines of communication open to ensure that duty is fulfilled.
Abi Adebayo, VP
Queen Mary Theatre Company
Links and resources
- QMUL Advice and Counselling – talk to someone if you need emotional support
- QMSU response and #BlackLivesMatter resources – useful links from student union
- Report + Support – anonymous tool to report incidents
- SED Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Statement
- SED Twitter and Instagram – posting links to resources and information