Speak up and speak out ! [Feature Friday with Alessandra Ozuzu]

Hey guys! So today it’s a feature Friday, and I’m sharing the words of wisdom from my good friend Alessandra. Recently she’s been sharing to me the importance of speaking up, and speaking out, and why having conversations pertaining race, is really important in our workplaces, schools and colleges. We educate through speaking, and in this post she’s gonna share HOW, and why it’s important, to speak out.

I hope you enjoy the read

– TK

Hi Tadi’s readers, I’m Alessandra, nice to meet you!

I think it’s important to get the pleasantries out the way before I start spewing endless English words at you. So, how are you? I hope you’re staying safe and sane in this dystopian, alternate world that we’ve entered and that you’re looking after yourself. 2020 is a difficult time to navigate, so please don’t feel guilty if you need some time to just re-group and re-centre, because I know I’ve definitely had to do that more often than I’m used to.

Okay, so now that that is out of the way, let’s get into why I’m really here. As you know, the last few weeks have been pivotal for the Black Lives Matter movement, with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery being the catalysts for the biggest civil rights uprising since the actual civil rights movement. I’ve seen people donate, share, protest and sign petitions to make change, amplifying Black voices in our continuing fight for equality.

The increase in allyship from non-black people of colour and white people has also surprisingly taken me aback, with so many being willing to educate themselves and their communities in the importance of the movement. Let me be honest, I’ve still had to block, unfollow and unfriend few people but that has definitely been overshadowed by the number of allies that I have found. The work doesn’t stop there though. Tadi will tell you that I’ve adopted a new phrase lately, that we shouldn’t applaud a fish for swimming. So, although the number of allies has been inspiring, I don’t want to give too much praise and inflate too many egos. We still have a lot of work to do, and this is only just the beginning.

Having said all of that, I’m still going to do a whole 180, and applaud my careers advisor (hypocrite, I know…) for recognising her privilege and lack of foresight in understanding the bias and disadvantages of black marketing students when entering the graduate job market. Or any job market for that matter. The marketing and advertising industries are known to be disproportionately white and male, and I can tell you that for free as I’ve experienced it first hand while on placement at a pretty big company. I think her realising this fact (and obviously the senseless deaths of 3 innocent black people) drove her to speak to me after an online networking event for which I was a guest for. The conversation went a little bit like this: she asked me how I was doing in light of everything going on state-side, which as sad as it is, is a pretty normal question, all things considered.

Brace yourself because the following question had me clutching at my non-existent pearls. Very straightforwardly, she asked me how she could change the way that she interacts with black students in order to optimise their experience with her careers service and better understand the biases that we experience so that we can be better equipped when facing recruitment pushes. We talked about how previous racist incidents at our university really shook her, for lack of better phrasing. This was definitely her privilege speaking, but also she couldn’t understand the disparities in opportunity and injustice based simply on skin colour.

The conversation that ensued was really awe-inspiring, with me offering advice and starting points for her to educate herself on how she can do and be better. We used the conversation as a way to unpick some of her own unconscious biases and start the process of unlearning prejudices. Now, I’m not saying that our conversation made her into the white version of MLK Jr. but it definitely opened her eyes, removing her veil of racial colour-blindness and opened my eyes to the importance of having allies that true care about the cause. She is now working on making this part of her roadmap for the next year and making sure that Black students and their voices are heard.

Like I said previously, let’s not applaud a fish for swimming. This should have dawned on her, and many others, years ago but the fact that she approached me and sought more information first was so refreshing. It felt nice to be finally seen and that a person with more power than myself wants to make it their mission to make our voices heard and enact change.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t moving mountains and we haven’t dismantled institutional anti-blackness yet, but this conversation alone was a grassroots activity that has moved us in the right direction. For this reason, I encourage you to have open discussions with your white friends, colleagues, teachers etc. about race, race relations and your personal experiences of racism. Conversations can be uncomfortable, especially with those who have completely disregarded race as a socio-political factor of Black people’s suffering and injustice. You need to remember that it’s not your job to educate them and you shouldn’t put yourself in harm’s way just to bend a racist into seeing your point of view.

Have discussions with allies who want to do better, who want to listen, unpack their own biases and understand that the #blacklivesmatter movement is important now more than ever. Don’t worry about being overly articulate and using political jargon to get your point across, your experiences are more than enough. I’m a massive believer in being the change that you want to see in the spaces that you occupy, and I’ve already taken this into my education, my workplace and my close circles, so let’s see how far you can take it.

A huge thanks to Alessandra for sharing her experience, and please get in touch, if you too want to share a win, a positive or just something you feel work speaking about. This is our shared experience! ♥️.

God bless you.

Stay safe,

~ Peace, joy & love

TK x

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