The five people behind Bristol’s All Black Lives movement only met in person two days before a protest that made headlines around the world.
In the weeks since that historic march, which saw the toppling of Colston’s statue and an estimated 10,000 individuals turn out to take a stand against racism and inequality, the group have been catapulted together for a cause that has become pretty much a full-time job.
They are united by a determination to instigate change and dismantle systemic racism – and this is just the beginning.
The next demonstration will take place in Eastville Park on Sunday, July 12 from 1pm – 6pm and will feature a diverse group of speakers, including some spoken word performance, and representation from black-led businesses, charities and organisations in the city.
“We want to have all sides of Bristol represented, including activists who have been there before us,” explains Yvonne Maina.
“I think we have much more support from all sides now. It’s more unified than anything I have seen before.”
Yvonne, along with Clayton Wildwoode, Liza Bilal, Tiffany Lyare and Sam Little, joined forces after initially spearheading two separate protests in Bristol.
Speaking to Bristol24/7 via Zoom two days before the demonstration in Eastville Park, they say that they did not foresee the phenomenal response the movement would have in the city. With the eyes of the world falling on Bristol, they were thrust into the spotlight and have been interviewed by international media.
The group, most of whom are students, admit the work and attention do take their toll. “But that’s so small compared to racism – if we look at the bigger picture, it’s a tiny fragment of what people feel,” says Clayton.
Looking back at the events of the peaceful protest on June 7, and the toppling of the statue that has sparked conversations across the globe, Liza says: “The response, for the most part, has been really amazing. People got really involved in the last protest and we hope they will with this one as well. There are a lot of fruitful conversations coming out of it as well.
“What happens from here will weed out who is a performative ally and who is a real ally. I feel like we are seeing a lot of performative allyship but to create real change takes consistency and hard work. I think a lot of people are not willing to put in the hard work to be anti-racist.
“We can only hope this time is different.”
As the Bristol contingent of the national All Black Lives UK organisation, the group intend to keep on protesting until demands are met. There are plans for major cities across the country to take it in turns to protest each Sunday.
The campaigners say one of their key aims is to see full acknowledgement of Bristol’s past and links to the transatlantic slave trade, as well as “a full and raw discussion about the city’s involvement in slavery and Britain’s colonial past”.
“We need to get it into schools and museums as a great place to start in terms of investing in the future,” continues Liza.
“It’s so important to continue to keep going because if larger government had their way, this conversation would be over. Systemic racism benefits white institutions in this country – including the government, including the education system and the health system – so unless we keep applying the pressure, they will continuously refuse to acknowledge the struggles that black people and people of colour.”
Clayton adds: “It’s a movement not a moment. We are not going to stop; we are going to keep marching and posting on social media and talking about it and signing petitions and we need everyone to keep doing that.
“We need everyone to use that platform so that what we are doing is not for nothing.”
Sunday’s march is due to take place from 1pm – 6pm in Eastville Park. Find out more information via www.facebook.com/allblacklivesbris.