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  • Writer's pictureLivi Adu

What can I learn from the Anti-Racist Cumbria ?

What is Anti-Racist Cumbria?

Anti-Racist Cumbria (ARC) is a Charity that aims to make Cumbria the UK’s first actively anti-racist county; co-founded by Janett Walker. ARC is tackling racism through action, education, and supporting organisations and individuals working towards this goal. They also provide a platform for people to discuss racism issues and share their experiences, contributions and voices. Some of the activities that Anti-Racism Cumbria does are:

  • Impacting leadership: They work with businesses and leadership spaces to encourage them to become anti-racist and support them with practical solutions.

  • Transforming education: They support educational leaders and teachers to being anti-racist by providing them with training, resources and audits.

  • Raising awareness: They organise events, campaigns, publications and media coverage to raise awareness of racism and its impact in Cumbria.

  • Building community: They create opportunities for people from different backgrounds and communities to connect, collaborate and learn from each other.


What is Anti-Racist Cumbria doing?

Nationally, ARC’s leadership in the Northeast and its establishment of supportive hubs for Black-led organizations showcased a scalable model for broader societal impact. The visual "Getting Seen" campaign—sticker placements at landmarks like Hadrian's Wall—underscored the importance of visibility and dialogue in anti-racism efforts.


Rowan Carr's session on embodied allyship delved into the physiological aspects of racism, emphasizing the need for emotional regulation and active listening for genuine allyship.


One of the critical themes echoed from the previous year's summit was the need for genuine inclusion, moving away from tokenism towards claiming rightful spaces. Janett’s poignant call to 'take up space' shed light on the struggles of being marginalized and the urgency to prioritize anti-racism beyond fleeting trends.

Education emerged as a focal point, acknowledging the influence of societal values that embed racism even at the tender age of three. Efforts were discussed regarding anti-racist education led by 30 schools, illustrating the commitment to combat racial biases ingrained in curricula.




Anti-Racist Cumbria's Summit 2022

The Anti-Racist Cumbria Summit held in November 2022 was a pivotal event, drawing together a tapestry of voices, experiences, and initiatives aimed at fostering inclusivity and dismantling systemic racism. The summit, chaired by Niall McNulty, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, resonated with a profound commitment to cultivating anti-racist practices across various sectors within Cumbria.


Inclusive practice

Inclusive practices took centre stage, emphasizing the importance of nuanced actions such as waving instead of clapping, providing chaperones, and disseminating access statements beforehand. Having a chaperone was a really positive experience; it meant that there was always a point of call I could ask for help, they were essentially access assistants, so if you were struggling with doors, finding your seat, or grabbing food, they were their to check in with you throughout the day and make sure you were able to take part in everything.


Education:

The summit's sessions were enlightening. Kirsty’s insights on primary schools highlighted the effectiveness of consistent reminders from ARC, despite initial resistance, in combating white fragility and fostering anti-racist environments. However, it wasn’t just about discussions; actionable steps were outlined post-summit. Pran Patel advocated for cultural audits, whole-staff training, and consistent check-ins to address biases embedded in institutional practices.


Healthcare:

The healthcare sector, represented by the University of Cumbria's Institute of Health, illustrated their collaboration with ARC to decolonize their curriculum. Discussions on diversity led to introspection—what diversity truly means and how it should manifest.

At the grassroots level, initiatives like Animated Futures and the establishment of a new officer role showcased a commitment to driving change. Businesses pledged 50 power hours and 22 conversation days towards anti-racism efforts, signalling a broader community involvement.


Intersectionality:

The intersectionality segment, featuring Chimwemwe Chirwa and Dr. Phil Opkkj-Gykmah, provided invaluable insights into the complex layers of discrimination marginalised communities face. They stressed the pivotal role of allyship and the importance of acknowledging intersecting identities in anti-racism work.



Keynote speaker: Nova Reid

Nova Reid, the author of The Good Ally, brought an inspiring and insightful perspective to the Anti-Racist Cumbria Summit. Her book, a blend of practical advice and personal anecdotes, resonates with the experiences of People of Colour in Britain. During her keynote, Nova addressed the critical issues of performative allyship and the invisibility of whiteness, challenging attendees to reconsider their roles in perpetuating systemic racism.


Unveiling Performative Allyship

Nova Reid delved into the nuanced realm of allyship, dissecting the concept of performative allyship and its detrimental impact on anti-racism efforts. She explained that performative allyship, focusing on appearances and trends rather than genuine engagement, perpetuates a facade of support without meaningfully addressing racism.


Journey to 'The Good Ally'

Nova shared her unexpected journey to writing The Good Ally, revealing how her encounters with performative allyship inspired the transformation of her initial reluctance into a powerful message. The book emerged as a response to the exploitation of anti-racist activism by publishers for profit, highlighting the pitfalls of performative actions in the publishing industry, particularly inlight of the 'trend' sparked from the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020.


Unveiling Whiteness: A Deeper Look at White Supremacy

Reid shared her confrontation with the uncomfortable realities of whiteness and white supremacy, unravelling the invisible privileges and societal norms tied to being white. She challenged the status quo, urging attendees to recognise how white supremacy impacts societal systems, from healthcare disparities to job and pay inequalities.


Confronting Racism for Change

Addressing racism is a pivotal step towards dismantling systemic issues. Nova wanted us to realise the necessity of acknowledging discomfort and confronting the reality of paving the way for change. Her advocacy for anti-racist practices in healthcare aligns with the urgent need to prevent avoidable deaths due to systemic racism.

Nova has made it evident that genuine support and the acknowledgement of uncomfortable truths are vital for effective allyship so we can pursue a just and equitable future. Her work serves as a beacon of hope for a more inclusive society.

Please visit Arc's website to listen to her speech. It is well worth a listen.



Conclusion:

The Anti-Racist Cumbria Summit of 2022 wasn't merely an event; it was a catalyst for transformation, urging individuals and institutions to actively engage, introspect, and dismantle systemic racism at its core. The summit concluded with reflections on the need for collective responsibility, acknowledgement of historical injustices, and actionable steps toward genuine change. The resounding call was for continued collaboration, education, and introspection as Cumbria strives to embody anti-racism in its essence.


To find out more about the summit and watch the talks, please follow these links:




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