In a speech that took place in Ealing Town Hall in 1987, a black professor named Manning Marable posed the question: “Are we prepared to live for the fight for social justice, the fight for the goal of full employment, to fight against every barrier that shackles the mind and fetters the spirit? If you are prepared to do so, Walter Rodney would tell us that you must be prepared to struggle.”
By referencing the Guyanese historian, academic and activist Walter Rodney, Marable declares that the active resistance and fight against systematic oppression, which almost always falls on the shoulders of marginalised people, is extremely fatiguing.
Whilst Marable’s speech references the black liberation movement, the crowd listening to him is indicative of the importance of community in any kind of freedom movement that stands to fight against the oppression of marginalised people. Freedom movements against injustice are not ones that can be fought alone. In order to achieve even a semblance of parity, we have to be able to lean on each other’s shoulders and share the burden of resistance.
“An international global pandemic at the beginning of a new decade is certainly unprecedented, but the careless disposal of black and brown bodies by our Tory government is not.”
We have all witnessed institutional racism manifest in the wake of the coronavirus, with data from the Office of National Statistics showing that black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. The same stats found that Pakistani and Bangladeshi men are 1.8 times more likely to die from the virus than white men, and women from the same ethnic communities are 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than white women.
An international global pandemic at the beginning of a new decade is certainly unprecedented, but the careless disposal of black and brown bodies by our Tory government is not. When news updates like these continuously roll-out on my feed, I cannot help but wonder how many more marginalised people will be displaced before we are met with some form of justice.
“Reduced access to friends means that I’m less able to vent about the daily struggles I feel existing as a South Asian Muslim woman in Britain, especially during Covid-19.”
Having the privilege to self-isolate and work from home has meant that I can turn off my feed when I start to feel overwhelmed. I can try to switch off and partially remove myself from the chaos that Boris Johnson’s cabinet continues to bring upon communities of people of colour (PoC). However, the solitary conditions of self-quarantining mean that I am increasingly watching and consuming content that I cannot always digest and dissect with fellow PoC.
Before the lockdown began my friends and I were in constant contact, ranting furiously about the latest episode of Tiger King or breaking down an episode of the NYT podcast Still Processing. Hearing each other’s thoughts and opinions about the latest news events and pop culture phenomena meant that our individual deductions felt less emotionally labour intensive – we shared a safe space where we could rant about anything and everything without the discerning judgement of the white gaze.
“Sharing the burden is deemed an effective way of maintaining strength and resistance in our communities.”
Reduced access to friends means that I’m less able to vent about the daily struggles I feel existing as a South Asian Muslim woman in Britain, especially during Covid-19. I’m less likely to feel heard and seen by them. Not only do they validate my feelings, but they acknowledge my experiences and assure me that I am not alone.
The organisation of community has historically been used to mobilise liberation and lessen the burden on individuals from different strands of society. For example, the recent Netflix documentary titled Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution traces the momentous journey of a group of activists in the 70s who were fighting for civil rights for disabled people in America. In the film, we see how members from various freedom movements including LGBTQ+ activists and the Black Panthers rally around for support and share each other’s platforms to further their cause.
Through their organisation of community, they are able to generate more visibility and increase the momentum for civil rights movements. Sharing the burden is deemed an effective way of maintaining strength and resistance in our communities.
More recently, we have seen groups of people galvanise support in protest of the judicial handling of the two white men who shot an unarmed 25-year-old black man, Ahmaud Arbery, whilst he was jogging in Georgia on 23 February this year.
Since footage first surfaced online of the shooting earlier this May, international outrage and solidarity both on and offline has led to both shooters being arrested and charged with Ahmaud’s murder. A virtual run took place on Friday 8 May to commemorate what would have been Ahmaud’s 26th birthday, with joggers using the hashtag #IRunWithMaud to signify their solidarity.
In their article ‘Sick Woman Theory’, which appeared in the Not Again issue of Mask magazine in January 2016, the writer Jonanna Hedva explains why community is especially important for marginalised folk. They note how the most anti-capitalist protest is to “take care of another and for yourself”. They go on to explain how the historically “feminized” and therefore “invisible” role of nursing must be honoured because it allows us to “enact and practice” community.
“Even though seeing your friends through a video camera feels less comforting than in-person interactions, the ritual of partially blurred screens, frozen headshots and navigating awkward online video social etiquette still makes me smile.”
The ability to be emotionally generous and steer compassion and care towards our peers is important, especially when our communities are at stake. By implementing community and resisting capitalism’s self-serving mantra of individualism, we’re able to uphold what Johanna refers to as “radical kinship”.
With the advent of the coronavirus, checking in with friends and family is increasingly important. I’ve been using various apps like Zoom and FaceTime to try and recreate the warmth and laughter that encompasses our pre-Covid meet-ups. Even though seeing your friends through a video camera feels less comforting than in-person interactions, the ritual of partially blurred screens, frozen headshots and navigating awkward online video social etiquette still makes me smile.
Now that I can’t see or talk to fellow PoC as much as I usually do, I am starting to appreciate the role that community plays in freedom movements, and how the dismantling of community can make the burden of struggling far greater. We must continue to nurture and protect our communities. I’m certainly looking forward to rekindling my PoC community after the lockdown ends, hopefully reflecting on Season 3 of Killing Eve and adding to our list of Insta-worthy food to chow down in London. Sana is a journalist and pop culture fiend. Her first love is literature because she believes it can be an artistic form where stories from the fringes of society can be brought to the fore. @Sananoorhaq
Illustration by Meg Wagler