Purple, Green, White & Black - Suffragette Legacy

 

On Friday 6th of July, Voice4Change England went to Hastings St Mary In the Castle to celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People's Act that gave the right to vote to women in the UK. We organised an all-female panel to look at the legacy of the suffragette movement and more specifically the legacy of women of colour in this movement.

Our panel included Red Godfrey-Sagoo, a British Asian woman leading third sector strategies and operations for diverse critical needs, Aniesha Obuobie, a Civil Liberties Paralegal and a volunteer and Young Women’s Advisory Panel member for women’s rights charity FORWARD, and Lucy Greer, an actor (RSC, Eastenders, Call The Midwife, Casualty) published writer, poet, and playwright. The Chairing taken up by Dionne Walker, a BAFTA and BIFA nominated filmmaker. Unfortunately, South Eastern railway problems meant Margaret Greer, National Race Equality Officer with the trade union UNISON, was unable to come.

 

The panel was very thought-provoking, and the audience was really engaging. The speakers covered a vast range of topics, from representation in politics and the workplace to the role of education.

After the introduction of the speakers by Dionne Walker, the panel discussed the erasure of women of colour not only in the suffragette movement but also in today’s society.

The first question that was introduced to the panel was how to have more women involved in politics. Red Godfrey-Sagoo said that a way to have more women involved in politics was to engage with young women about politics much earlier and insisted on the role of education. It was mentioned by Aniesha that the young generation was quite active on social media. She saw social media as a means to participate in politics and to reach more young people and especially young women. Moreover, as they both noted, this young generation is quite good at multi-tasking: they can watch Love Island and at the same time be involved in politics. Watching reality TV does not make people less likely to be activists, and we all need a break from politics every now and then.

The audience was very interested and active. A member of the audience mentioned that she was always seen as being "the first Black woman" in her job. This comment started a discussion about how it feels to be "the first" in one's everyday life. As Aniesha said, when you are the only Black person in an environment, everything you do is analysed and categorised as being something that "Black people do". It is important to remind people that you are not just "the first Black person", you are a person that cannot be reduced only to your race.

Following that exchange, a discussion about "putting people in boxes" started. As a young man wondered if it was necessary to categorise people, some answers were that as long as people are not equal, people are going to look for ways of overcoming discrimination and through getting together to ‘Self Organise’ to advance and recognise the progress that they want to see happening. However, in an ideal world where we are all equal, boxes would not be an issue.

To conclude the panel on a positive note, each of the speakers said that they were hopeful for the future and the next generation. This conclusion was welcome, as the panel covered mainly the struggles that women of colour are facing.

 

#TalkDemocracy #Vote100

 

Maïna Coroller-Larifla