We wanted to send a message of solidarity in light of the protests demanding an end to state violence and systemic racism against black people in the US, the UK and around the world.
As NGAG, we want to say it loud and clear: Black Lives Matter.
Of course, systemic racism and police violence is not only a problem in the US, but also in the UK, including in our local area.
We often talk about the history of dissent in Newington Green. In Mary Wollstonecraft’s time, this was an area where people came to escape religious persecution and campaign for social reform. But Newington Green also has a darker recent history that we are often guilty of skipping over when we speak about how much we love where we live: The National Front had an office on King Henry’s Walk and more recently, racist graffiti appeared frequently on the Green in the weeks after the EU referendum. There is a real risk that we forget about the problems that still exist when we focus on Newington Green’s past.
We know that people belonging to ethnic minorities are more likely to contract, fall seriously ill, and die from coronavirus than white people. People belonging to ethnic minorities make up 32% of coronavirus related deaths in Islington, and 45% in Hackney.
This crisis has shown us who benefits and who loses out in our current system, and has laid bare the systemic racism in our country.
What is NGAG doing?
In recent months, NGAG has transformed in order to respond to the coronavirus crisis. We changed from a local group that focused on creating community events, such as Jazz on the Green, and improving the local area to a group that organises to support our community members to get through these challenging times, including through our Food Hub. We continue to be amazed by the community spirit that we have witnessed and been part of over the last few months.
This time has helped us better understand the needs of our community and the inequality that exists.
We want to take this moment in time seriously, and reflect on the work NGAG is doing. We’re aware that NGAG leadership and membership doesn’t represent and engage the whole Newington Green community and we need to do better. We also know that we need to reevaluate our mission so that it also takes into account racial inequalities that exist in our neighbourhood.
In the next few months we want to reflect on all this and more, and think about what we can do better going forward. We’re currently planning an online meeting for NGAG members, volunteers and community members where we will also be able to listen to and hear from all of you (more on this soon).
We welcome feedback. Please reply to this email if there is anything you want to share.
In the past months, we have encouraged our members and volunteers to support local businesses and have sent you updates when they have reopened. We also want to specifically encourage you to support and shop at black-owned businesses. Below are a few of the food businesses we know of, but please tell us if you know of any others and we will include them in the next email.
We also want to share a reading list on race issues in Britian (which some of you might find a helpful tool to learn more about racism in this country), as well as an anti-racist reading list for children. You can buy most of these at the black-owned New Beacon Books and our local independent Ink 84 Bookshop.