Vital work which aims to tackle and end racism in Cumbria

11th March 2021

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement shook the world. All lives matter equally and here in our county, Anti-Racist Cumbria is doing vital work which aims to tackle and end racism in Cumbria.

The volunteer-led community group was formed in 2020 to raise awareness and education of issues concerning Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities via interaction with schools and the wider community.

Janett Walker, Chair of Anti Racist Cumbria Credit: ITV News
Janett Walker, Chair of Anti Racist Cumbria Credit: ITV News

Anti-Racist Cumbria kicked off its first campaign, assisted by £500 from the Kipling Fund for Young People, on 22nd October 2020. Over 130 people including school leaders, MPs and Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner attended the online Race and Education in Cumbria Event.

Event speakers included moving videos from current black and brown pupils of Cumbrian schools, conversations with past pupils of Cumbrian schools and keynotes from Lavinya Stennett CEO of The Black Curriculum and Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper of Greenwich University.

At the end of the event, more than 60 schools pledged to become anti-racist by appointing a staff member to act as an anti-racist ambassador and carry out an anti-racist audit by end of the spring term.

Anti-Racist Cumbria’s Chair, Janett Walker, said: “In addition to the ambassador work, 20 young people discussed what it’s like growing up black and brown and going to school in Cumbria.

“Their discussions were recorded and shown at the event via an animated video keeping those involved anonymous. This has led to a project called Animated Futures which will see the young people create, direct and produce a short-animated film about their lives here in Cumbria.

“These young people experience racial trauma. One teenage boy has struggled in particular, and we have been able to use some funds to help him and his mum obtain counselling by a black counsellor specialising in racial trauma. He is now actively taking part in the Animated Futures project and really engaging with his peers, something he has not been able to do until now. He understands he now has support and others to share his lived experiences with helping him to grow, become stronger and more confident.

“Everything starts with education”, said Janett, “it has the power to transform lives, but you can go through the whole of the GCSE course and not have any reference to a black author in English or even understand the contribution the African, Caribbean or Asian diaspora have given to history.

“It is no longer enough to say, ‘I’m not racist’. We need to recognise racism in all its forms,” she added.