Tower Hamlets, London: Girlz United

Nine girls’ hands are shown – white, black and brown skinned - coming together in a circle.
  Girlz United Journey to Justice
Nine girls’ hands are shown – white, black and brown skinned - coming together in a circle.

When

2016

Where

Tower Hamlets, London

Journey to Justice partner Girlz United had been working with a diverse group of teenage girls from London and Essex for several years, hosting social events, interfaith conversations and residential weekends.

The girls wanted to learn about local struggles against racism and to understand more about each other’s cultures and personal experiences of discrimination.

What we’ve done together this weekend is important not only through the practical activities. I also gained knowledge and it’s inspired me to become more of an active person and to start taking more interest in my own community and value every piece of it

Girlz United participant

Julie Begum, a local social justice activist, came to talk about her role in Women Unite Against Racism (WUAR) in the 1990s and about the murder of Altab Ali in 1978.

A group from Girlz United then attended a residential weekend in Danbury, Essex. There they learnt more about local history, discussed questions of identity and social justice and produced some searing poetry on the topics raised.

Automatically you lead? I think NOT!

I’m at the bottom, you’re at the top,
You automatically think I am something,
That you’re not!

RACISM is history and you are the future,
Yet you lack the ability to ensure justice for minorities,
Whether my hair is curly or straight, my skin is DARK
And yours ain’t!

I wear trainers and trackies and automatically,
You have no faith, you’re the ‘U’ in corrupt
The ‘R’ in racism,
You fail to speak out, to talk about the truth,
To avoid any misconceptions that may be political

You think it’s just the Youth.
How hopeful and ethical?

Blind to the world around you,
The money shades you,
And stops you to do good,
Like you should.

A rich boy chilling in parliament.
Knowing you’re a part of the decisions,
That don’t believe in our visions.

Just the money and rich surname.

NOW I’m at the top and you’re at the bottom,
Across the world and in society.
The tasks I complete, while you wear masks,
And fail to be real, to make a deal
Behind the scenes to never be just.
Please do, take action beyond your words,
So you can own the world as it turns around.

By Tobi Aina

My topic was racism – I was inspired by the many problems that exist within our communities, but are often not spoken of. I want my poem to make a difference

Tobi Aina

It’s Time, It’s Tough

Racism. Racism. Racism.
All in one line!
Do you know what it is?
Of course you do.
We all do.
But we choose to turn a blind eye to it, like the opticians isn’t available.
Why?
Because it doesn’t affect us, me or you? so we refuse to make an appointment
Why is it if it doesn’t affect you directly?
It’s okay to sit back and relax?
I never get that…

Racism is laziness,
It is the uneducated and stems from hatred
A lot comes under racism – prejudice, and xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.
It is only a matter of time before the stress causes the ticking bomb to erupt
seconds early and we’re all under one umbrella.
Well it’s time.
It’s time for People to stand up and do the right thing.
The democratic thing.
When people are being racist, they know it’s wrong,

Yet they still choose to practise a system that is fairly wrong.
So we are just as shameful to watch,
Choosing to ignore it puts you in the same shoes as the offender.

It’s time
To turn off the ticking bomb.
It’s time to understand humankind
Where difference is acknowledged,
Racism recognised
Religion is power not a problem
Now is the hour.
To empower time and tribulations we see
By standing together in solidarity.

By Nada Takkal

My poem was inspired by the murder of Altab Ali. It is to stand up to racism because it needs to stop. I want my poem to emphasise the importance of equality regardless of your skin colour or religion

Nada Takkal

Nobody Came

The scars are no fantasy.
An infliction of Pain, brought upon women
Does not allow unity, for that is trespassing supremacy.
The men who need to hold.
No unity! No rights!
GET THE MEN OUT OF OUR SIGHTS!

The brutal attacks leaving
The long legacy of scars that are no fantasy,
I repeat, no fantasy.
For they are left behind, bruised and battered to democracy

Why attack women?
Why sexually harass them?
Why choose the vulnerable?
Because they are weak you say!?
Because they are unworthy of your chivalry?

What will it take to be noticed?
My screams?
My tears.
My LIFE.
Death on my doorstep?
With no peace, there will be no justice
With no justice, there will be no peace.
And with the world like this
How can this be the calling of justice?

By Chorouk Takkal

I was inspired by Julie Begum’s campaign WUAR. I read about a Somali woman who was brutally attacked by a group of yobs. it was a powerful moment then that I’d write about what I believed. I believe in the righteousness of women; I believe in fairness and want to protect women’s rights

Chorouk Takkal

(In fond memory of Chorouk, who sadly passed away in 2019)

Scars

Scars are not always visible,
sometimes they’re invisible.
A scar of the body heals with time,
a scar of the mind takes much longer.
They say time heals all wounds – but that suggests the source
of your pain isn’t constant, it’s there day after day,
unrelenting, untiring, never leaving.
A scar of the mind can’t be seen,
but it can’t be ignored either.
A scar of the mind is personal,
it belongs to me.
Me, myself and I.
What makes my scars personal?
A scar of the mind can wake you in the dead of night, tossing turning screaming.
No one understand it; no one has been through the same as you.
A scar of the mind is a constant remind,
and it will stay with you forever.

By Summer Jai Robinson

My poem is based on the idea if someone gets hurt on the surface it will heal, but it can run so much deeper and for that reason they’ll never be the same, even after healing.

Summer Jai Robinson

To the Future

The scars are no fantasy
Cuts.
Bruise.
Words.
BANG!
Past. Present or future?
A repetitive History never goes a miss.

Day by day our unity fails.
Victim after victim.
The truth prevails it is not long before the lies are front page,
In our eyes.
BANG!
A 25 year old man lay dead.
Stabbed, blood spilled.
Wounds left to rot
Another family left with a void.
Who will comfort their pain now?

By Amber Streamer

‘I was inspired by the stories we were exposed to at the residential about history that repeated itself. I am not naïve to the issues around us. It bothers me that [they] are over looked and so I felt inspired to speak out in the hope I’ll be a part of the resolution.

Amber Streamer

Read the poems. What are they saying?
What was it in the stories of Altab Ali and WUAR that spoke to the young writers?

Writing and then sharing experience through poetry is a form of action and can be a very effective way of communicating experience and reaching people. The same is true with music, photography, visual arts and all forms of creative expression. Find examples that speak to you and the issues you care about, and share them.
Why not start by creating something yourself?

Girlz United brought together young women from different ethnic and faith backgrounds to share their cultures and histories and find points of connection. Can your group do something similar?


Women Unite Against Racism

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