Here at The Racial Network we’re taking a look back at our journey and celebrating our 7th anniversary as a charity. As we reflect on the connections and networks we have created along the way during this article, members of our RJN team also join us to express what the charity means to them all individually.
2016 was the year in which our charity was registered, becoming one of the few Northern based anti-racist charity’s to exist, we had to face many responsibilities along the way. With our mission set to challenge the injustices of race, racialism and racism we became determined to question superficial equality and the languages of diversity.
With a dynamic team of trustees and skills, the early years of RJN became a time for us to define who we were and what we wanted to achieve. Our decision to be inspired and shaped in Black radical tradition and liberation allowed us to set our foundation to racial justice and addressing colonial legacies.
Whilst our values and missions continue to focus on repair, learning and resistance in Black and Brown communities this years anniversary we would like to take the time to acknowledge our network, our RJN team, fellow organisations, our communities and everyone who continues to support us.
A Note From Our Director
“In the last 7 years as a charity, we have transitioned and evolved through different forms and stages experiencing highs, lows and hard grafting. There have been many individuals, activities, lessons that have left scars, memories and ancestral wisdom that will continue to shape RJN for future generations.
We have had a great impact and done big things regionally, nationally and internationally.
Witnessing and being part of this metamorphosis whilst maintaining our DNA, radical nature and core purpose is testament not only to our resilience(thank you to those who believed in us) but also our vitality to our communities, of centering race and colonial analysis whilst maintaining intersectional and international underpinnings.
-Dr Penny Wangari-Jones
Our Projects & Team
After setting our values and missions, in 2019 we defined our projects and aligned them with our objectives, revisiting strategy and evaluating what worked well for our charity. Throughout the years, the emergence of our Unlearning Racism Collective, Stop the Scan, and most recently The Race and Climate Justice collective as well as the re emergence of The Black and Brown Collective Conversations allowed us to expand our team and communities.
Unlearning Racism Collective
The URC is our collective centered for white-identifying people living in the North. After the circulation and media attention around police brutality and the Black community in 2020, the collective responded with their solidarity to the subsequent uprisings of Black activists around the world and as a result, URC courses and workshops for white people to work through discomfort around concepts of everyday and structural racism was created with grassroots mentors who have years of knowledge and wisdom including Esther-Stanford Xoesi
“RJN is love. There’s a radical acceptance of each other. Rooted in trust and a belief that we are all committed to the journey of racial justice. RJN has a unique ability to bring people along on that journey. RJN places the leadership of Black and Brown folk at the centre, particularly with an international lens and pushes that forward at every opportunity.“
-Grace (URC Coordinator)
Stop the Scan Campaign
In 2019, the Home Office funded a national roll out of mobile fingerprint scanners linked to immigration databases, which turned the UK police into a border force. As the Windrush scandal shows, this move led to mass detentions and deportations.
Since the launch of the campaign, the STS team and wider community have made countless progressive changes in assuring the public’s perception and knowledge of the UK’s legal system and police force is interlinked with colonial racial biases and institutionalised racism.
In 2021, the group launched their first report in conjunction with sibling organising group Yorkshire Resists . The report discussed the use of mobile biometrics in West Yorkshire (Oct 18-Mar 19). The campaign group continue to inform the UK on police scanning and have since created 3 more reports.
“I recently read a book of poetry called ‘I Was Not Born a Sad Poet‘ by Lorraine Masiya Mponela – who I met at RJN’s Annual Gather Up event. Without giving too much away (everyone should read the book, it’s excellent), in one poem Lorraine writes that now is the time to walk together, indifference is not an option. To me, working with RJN means resisting indifference (my own and others) and trying to walk alongside. It means navigating the space between action , reflection, listening, and sharing – or working out how to hold them together. It means trusting in others, in other worlds and earning trust.”
-Carys (Stop The Scan Campaign Officer)
Black & Brown Collective Conversations
Ensuring race analysis and safer spaces are created within the charity is something we have encouraged throughout our 7 years. Acknowledging the layers we’ve organised monthly talks, panels, forums to highlight intersections and continue public sensitisation and conscientisation this includes our panel talk in Moss Side, Manchester with African-American law professor and activist Kathleen Cleaver in 2018.
The re-emergence of our Black and Brown conversational spaces in 2022 allowed us to collaborate and hold conversations inter- generationally, holding space to create Black joy with Leeds Black Feminist Society in November 22 helped us to continue to explore the importance of building alliances and intersectional approaches that create strength, sustain our activism, and allows us to work together towards bringing about systemic change is something we continue to strive for as the years go on.
“My involvement with RJN began in 2017 as just a volunteer, showing up to support campaigns that the organisation held in different spaces to then applying for a role when the opportunity presented itself in 2021. It’s now been almost 2 years since joining the team and I find fulfillment in my opinions being heard, time being respected and values appreciated as RJN continuously works towards equality for minoritised communities.”
-Mbuuaraa (Admin Assistant)
The Race & Climate Justice Collective
One of our key aims since the launch of the charity has been to emphasise the need for international framing and to ensure that colonial legacies, climate debt, and the various struggles/ solutions already in existence from the Global South were considered.
After the launch of your 12 recommendations in November 2019 at The Leeds Climate Change Citizen’s Jury, we found that no international framing was included.
We insisted to learn, skill-share, strategise and decolonise and in January 2020 we traveled to Kenya. Not long after our trip, we held the next in our series of Collective Conversations on Race and Climate Justice and with the enthusiasm and dedication shown by participants we officially birthed The 13th Recommendation Framework.
Both 2022 and 2023 have seen a rise and popularity in the collective, with many volunteers and participants joining us to discuss and be made aware of our interconnected struggles with our siblings in the Global South. Members of the collective join on the last Tuesday of the month to explore internationalism and how the current climate emergency effects both people in the South as well as the Global majority. Previous guest speakers including artist and activist Ndungi Githuku who alongside Kenyan based community organiser and moboliser Irene Asuwa spoke to the collective to explore what colonialism and coloniality meant and looked like from an international lens.
Knowledge is power. But empowered people means a movement to bring the changes we need. I believe RJN has given me the keys to the understanding of how to dismantle the systems which are perpetuating the harm. I am grateful that RJN allows me to be my full self.
-Melany (Project Worker)
Supporting, strategising and moving ideas and challenges to action. This has been in the form of disempowered communities starting new community groups, making links with authorities and connecting to other groups facing similar issues. Other forms include individual aspirations of challenging, highlighting or speaking to injustices.
Working closely and supporting local sibling organisations like Free 2B-Me allows us to learn from communities who are from the most minortitised groups. It is essential for us to listen and acknowledge our privileges as a charity and network.
“I am grateful to be part of a Black-led grassroots organisation. Community building and organising is something that is encouraged at The Racial Justice Network, I have learned a lot from the many individuals who make the charity what it is today. I’m constantly reassured and empowered to make the right changes in society.“
A Special Thank You
We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has joined us along the journey so far, whether you have been part of the wider team, a volunteer, our sibling organisations, attending any of our events, we acknowledge you all and without community there would be no RJN.
“The last two years have seen a steady increase in our resources, focus on the governance and infrastructure of the organisation. There have been changes in the board of trustees as well as the staff team which will become visible in the next few months. We look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries.” (Dr Penny W-J)
Our aims since 2016 have been to focused on repair, learning, resistance and restoring, despite the many rejections from funding applications and set backs we’ve faced as a Black-led charity, we still remain determined to refine and lay our commitments and concepts in fighting for equality and justice within our communities both locally and internationally. As we get closer to our 10th year milestone we will continue to stay radical and learn from our ancestors, de-centre whiteness and address coloniality, listen and engage with margainalised communites and build radical alternatives which have been built on radical love.
Our movements are not over and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for us all as we fight to change legacies and reach for racial justice. Tuko Pamoja!
With love and light,
-The Racial Justice Network x
If you would like to send us a message on what The Racial Justice Network means to you, please email [email protected] or alternatively contact us via social media.