This week marks the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. Another life taken by a racially motivated act of violence. Over the past year, we as a charity have been reflecting and making changes to ensure we are anti-racist in all we do, as individuals, organisationally, and as a member of the social work community. You’ll hear from social workers, fellows and staff as they share their reflections.
Keisha Davidson, Frontline fellow, Tanzania
The murder of George Floyd has been a critical moment in my lifetime.
It’s saddening that it takes watching a man being murdered for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, for us to open conversations about how the continued dehumanisation of Black people can lead to our emotional, psychological and/or physical death. My hope is that George Floyd, and the racial murders before and after him, provide a solid basis for why we all need to pause, reflect, stop and change our thoughts and practices that supress and oppress Black people.
I have been personally and professionally responsive to this triggering moment.
Personally, as a Black woman, I have allowed myself to grieve and feel the supressed pain of racism. I’m acknowledging and tending to the impact it has in myself and my community. The emotional processing of this can be a lot at times.
Over the past year, I have been being part of collective trauma therapeutic groups, racial healing groups, and generally emotionally showing up for myself. I have found listening and speaking in non-judgemental spaces a beautiful and powerful process to connect language to my feelings. This is different from previous years, where I have predominantly focused on the social justice side of race.
There was something about the picture of George Floyd with his daughter, that reminded me of the deep familiar grief that racism has inflicted on myself, my family, and my community. I have reminded myself of my own value, values, and honoured the beauty and strength in my own family’s and community’s struggles within this system.
In my opinion for social work to become anti-racist, there has to be an acknowledgement of the current racism in the system.
We need to look at how racism in social work operates, and how it can oppress and traumatise Black families. For me, this has to be placed in a context of the relationship between Black people and the UK state which includes a painful history.
Professionally, I have used my ears and mouth even more. I’ve ensured that Black people who are marginalised, and experiencing challenges with the social work and education systems, have their voices heard by front line workers and decision makers. However, effectively sharing these concerns has only been made possible because there is a greater appetite to listen.
I’ve been able to have strategic conversations, as well as deliver workshops with social workers, educators and senior management in social work, education and charities. I’ve done so by valuing my own position, and honouring the knowledge that comes from the lived experiences of the Black community; and helping this to get heard by the right people.
During this time, through the Frontline Fellowship, two coaches have supported me in my professional development.
My coach, Claudia, has helped to develop my confidence and clarity in sharing ideas. My coach, Mikayla, guided me through the process of setting up a trauma informed organisation. Here, our focus is to reconnect the diaspora with Africa and the Caribbean, with the aim to support well-being and the mutual nurturing of each other’s potential and growth. We’ve run a few projects in Tanzania, and Covid permitting, this year we will have our first racial well-being retreat co-led by people in rural Africa!
As we reflect on the murder of George Floyd, I reflect on losing my cousin, Jerome Vassell, to preventable violence.
I think it is imperative that as social workers, we do not buy into the narrative that ‘some cultures are just like this’. Let’s be curious, challenging, and aware of the race context in our work.
I want to pay recognition to my colleagues in the racial justice work, who have been consistently active over the years in this field; our hope is that this is not a moment that passes. I also want to acknowledge all of you, who have continued on this journey for yourselves and the families you work with. Despite it being difficult you know that there is a better way.