Black Lives Matter

Digital Journalism
Members of the local community came together at the weekend in a show of solidarity for #Blacklivesmatter. Through a demonstration of socially distanced speech, music and reflection, the rally raised crucial awareness for the power of peaceful protest.

Over 150 people came together at the Eynsford Cricket Ground on Sunday to support the Eynsford and Farningham BLM Protest. The rally involved a collection of speech, music and peaceful reflection from a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, with one collective aim: To draw attention to the issue of systematic racism.

Socially distanced cones were set out every 2m, while leaflets were handed out on entry – explaining the protocol of the rally, the BLM movement, and how people can show their support.  Kent police, who were in full support of the event, were also on hand to oversee proceedings. And while a number of local people appeared to have previously opposed the idea on social media, the police had no actual incidences of disruption to contend with.

During a weekend when the majority of the national media has focused on the mass gatherings and protests in our cities, event organiser and local community member Isa Cooper, 22, stressed the importance of bringing the protests to smaller rural communities such as Eynsford:

“In a predominately white community, racism is left to fester unchallenged, and so is silence. Silence is loud, silence is deafening.” During the rally she took the stand and encouraged “white folk to be proactive and educate themselves on the issues of systemic racism – to take personal responsibility for the change we wish to seek.”

The rally had been organised by a group of 8 young people from the local area, who have become committed to raising awareness towards issues of social inequality. Isa went on to explain how gaining initial support or publicity for the rally had been difficult for them, and at times, apposed. When asked if she had approached any local MP’s or councillors for support, she said:

“The sharing of the event had been denied or ignored from lots of local online platforms.  Local Labour and LibDem groups shared our event but no Conservative MP’s or Local councillors replied to our invites or questions about how they will be responding to BLM.”

Throughout the event a line of speakers took up the mic to share their own thoughts, concerns and messages of hope. Genevieve, a local from Hextable, praised the event and its organisers:

“I’d like to say as a Black South African woman this event brought a tear to my eye. The amount of white enlightened people present gave me hope as I have felt exhausted these last few months especially. I wasn’t even allowed to post this event on my local group-Hextable Village life and the local church wasn’t much help either. The message that came across strongly for me was-those with privilege need to educate themselves and others, and not just rely on the oppressed to do it.”

Dillon, a local black man and father took the stand to speak about his experiences of living in a local community such as Eynsford.

“A lady spoke to my wife yesterday who said she didn’t know why an event like this had to happen in the village because there aren’t any black people here anyway…that’s interesting…I have lived here for over 20 years… Make no mistake, racism is in Eynsford and Farningham, it is everywhere…. Children are not born racist, they pick things up from homes, we need to break that cycle, teach ourselves, teach our children… Racism needs a cure, and we are that cure.”

Florence, age 7, who lives in West Kingsdown, silenced the crowd as she stepped up onto the box and delivered a heart-felt poem she had written while holding up a picture of her older brother – a mixed race teen who was recently the victim of county lines fuelled knife-crime:

‘My skin is brown and my hair is curly

Black lives matter

I’m scared for my future and I almost lost my brother

Black lives matter

In a gang gotta fit in, stabbed in the street

Black lives matter

Why is no one listening? change is needed

Black lives matter

Listen to our shout when we say, ‘I can’t breathe!’

Black lives matter

Nikki, a mother to two mixed race children took the mic in an emotional plea for the future of all children. She explained that from her son growing up in a predominately white neighbourhood, how he couldn’t find a sense of identity or place to fit in. “If you want to make a change, if you see a group of black or mixed-race boys in the street and you think instantly, they’re in a gang, they’re carrying knives, they’re selling drugs… talk to them, open up a dialogue, include them, please stop ignoring them. Because mothers like me are having to think that every picture I get of my son will be the one of him at his funeral where he’s dead’.

James, 26, a musician from Eynsford took up the mic to share a thought provoking perspective from Friedrich Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984), the German theologian and Lutheran pastor who is best known for his opposition to the Nazi regime during the late 1930s, and for his widely quoted poem, ‘First they came’:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’ James added, “I think we could add another line for the UK in the 21st Century: ‘then they came for black people, and I did not speak out, because I was not black’.” 

Along with the speeches and readings a volunteer brass band delivered a rendition of ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billie Holiday – a song recorded in 1939 to protest against Institutionalised racism and the lynching of black Americans. A period of 2 minutes silence was also observed by all, in memory of of those who have lost their lives as a result of racial prejudice. The silence was only broken as the band began the first notes of ‘Amazing Grace,’ which leant an atmosphere of reflection, and contemplation, throughout a crowd who came together at a respectful distance, and showed how a peaceful protest still has the power to be heard amongst “all the noise of aggression.”

After the event, Emma, a local art teacher from Eynsford said, “Now that is how you protest peacefully!! Well done to all who organised this event. Over the last week I thought I could never be proud of where I live again. Everyone who went and spoke today has helped restore my faith in humanity – even if we do still have a long way to go.”

Donations at the event raised nearly £200 for the ‘Show racism the red card’ charity (SRtRC), which is the UK’s largest anti-racism educational charity. It was established in January 1996, thanks in part to a donation by then Premiership goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop.

If you want to support the local anti-racism movement, or find out more, the organisers have created a Facebook Group called ‘Eynsford and Farningham for Social Justice,’ which Isa describes as a platform “to carry on the energy of the protest and create a space to discuss/educate/protest about issues important for a fairer and more just society.”

You can find the event info at:

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