text OTEGHA UWAGBA
“Stay home, risk your life, go out protesting, risk your life. So the question is: which is more dangerous?” This is the dilemma put to me by activist Malkia Cyril, as they describe the impossible choice so many of us faced this summer, when the murder of George Floyd triggered a global reckoning that swept across borders, industries and – to an extent – racial lines. In the middle of a pandemic.
That tragic event, and the ripple effect that followed in its wake, brought renewed attention to the conversations and work that activists like Janaya Future Khan, Thandiwe Abdullah and Malkia Cyril have been doing. And, as is now par for the course when it comes to political movements, social media – the slogans, the graphics, the hashtags – played a starring role in the spread of information, and the marshalling of funds to the many causes that fall under the Black Lives Matter umbrella.
Convening in August over a four-way Zoom call for Khan’s guest-edit, we discuss the many different approaches that need to be brought to bear as we move forward, especially in the run-up to the US election in November. Abdullah, only 16 years old, is nervous about the potential for youth activists to get caught up in the Gen-Z activist ‘brand’. “We’ve been told we have to ‘sell’ the issues in order to gain publicity,” she says, but it’s clear Abdullah wants to challenge the pat media narratives and labels that have been assigned to younger activists. Khan, meanwhile, is unequivocal about what they think the anti-racism movement needs: less focus on white people, their needs and their contribution; and more focus on Black liberation, Black futures and Black allyship.
The generous conversation between the three – which is occasionally interrupted by Cyril’s cats clambering up their shoulder – encompasses the changes in how the movement’s aims have been received since Alicia Garza first coined the term ‘Black Lives Matter’ back in 2013. Abdullah notes how previously radical concepts, like defunding the police and abolitionism, have entered the mainstream and begun to be embraced by the masses.
And somehow, even through all of this and the enduring chaos of 2020, Khan has managed to find hope, borrowing from fellow activist Mariame Kaba’s philosophy that ‘hope is a discipline’ – words that can perhaps be instructive to us all at a time when many of us are searching for that very thing.
DAZED AUTUMN 2020
HOPE IS A DISCIPLINE