The 1950s Montgomery bus boycott and the 1960s Bristol bus boycott were persuasive social protest campaigns that arose from deep-seated social ills: segregation and racist employment practices. They succeeded, and in doing so, laid the foundations for long-term political change that Black people can now take for granted.
Njilan Morris–Jarra works to tackle the causes of youth violence. I worked with her on a story for the Black women’s platform Black Ballad some time ago. She recently tweeted that if a bus boycott took place today, we might just ask for some Black and minority ethnic seats in the middle of the bus.
Her remarks get right to the heart of frustrations I have held privately since last year’s ‘racial reckoning’. It is so clear to me that our society, as it is, is entirely unacceptable. Not just for certain Black people – though this edition’s focus is on our community’s concerns, but for all sorts of people, who thanks to the lotteries of birth that decide sex, race, class, immigration status, disability, sexuality, neurodiversity and gender identity – struggle in all sorts of undignified ways that others would simply not accept.
Despite the urgency of injustice, our discourse on equality seems tempered by a strong desire not to rock the boat, particularly when it comes to working alongside Westminster. Those striving for equality – a principle of fairness that all major political parties claim to support – constantly risk being denigrated and maligned. It is deeply disappointing, and I must point out that this issue exists right across our political spectrum.
In selecting contributors for this edition, I tried to seek out changemakers. Firstly, because people who work to bring about positive change in their communities inspire me endlessly. Secondly, because I am aware that this publication is usually read by politicians, who in my view, should work alongside those who point out where our society falls short. Finally, and crucially, because I am frightened by the lack of political imagination right across our political landscape (that is my nice way of saying: no more race reports if you have not implemented the findings of the former ones).
Last year when I worked at The Voice, Britain’s Black national newspaper, for Black History Month, I selected the theme of Bold, Black British Futures. Changemakers spoke about a society that was fully accessible for all. They spoke of workplaces free from discrimination. The world they desired is certainly not the one that exists. However, I cannot see why any political party would oppose it.
Equality is not a zero-sum game. Freedom multiplies. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, I hope that you will dare yourself to imagine a fairer society than the one that exists - and strive earnestly towards it. Perhaps the ideas shared here will inspire you.
If they don’t – more will come. The House magazine has committed to continue adding contributors to this hub for the foreseeable.
Steps made in the direction of greater equality and freedom for everyone are steps in the right direction. Always, and without exception.
Black History Month itself is the product of people who imagined and did the unexpected.
–Izin Akhabau, October 2021