Article by writer and former Fight for Peace Youth Council member, Devina Serebour.
October marks Black History Month in the UK and there’s no better time to celebrate the achievements, culture, and diversity of Black people around us. It’s also necessary to take time to reflect and discuss ways to challenge racism, inequality, and injustice.
With such a diverse group of young people at Fight for Peace, it’s important that all members feel welcomed, represented and listened to – something Fight for Peace strives to embody everyday through its Embracing value.
Jenny Oklikah, CEO of Fight for Peace says, “I think it’s important for young people to come into our space and see at all levels people that they can relate to and people that can relate to them. For them to be understood and not feel judged.”
“Race is a big part of that, especially in an area such as Newham which is highly diverse.”
Fight for Peace helps young people fulfil their potential and a way of doing so is being able to provide them with a range of opportunities, combining boxing and martial arts, education and personal development.
Before lockdown, a cohort of young people were taken into the Black Cultural Archives where they explored identity, history and ancestry, an experience they may not have had elsewhere.
Jenny highlighted the importance of representation for Black people in general, as well as at Fight for Peace.
“It’s about influence, power structure, and representation at all levels in society and within organisations. That means in terms of leadership, and decision making around how we put programmes together, deliver services, and make strategic and financial decisions.”
“[It’s] important to have as much representation as we can. The recognition and importance of equity means that we have to move towards a society whereby Black people are in positions and represented according to our skill sets, talents and abilities across all areas.”
“This is absolutely vital and it’s not going to happen by accident, it’s going to happen by conscious effort to identify and overcome barriers.”
Last year saw the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd’s murder and the discussion of race and institutional racism was unavoidable. Since then, there has been an emphasis on education, diversity and inclusion across all sectors.
“Learning from Black Lives Matter, reflecting on our organisation and ways of working is part of our strategic direction. It’s not about diversity being a side thing,” Jenny says.
It is worth noting the importance of intersectionality because the experiences of different groups within the Black community can affect them in education, employment and getting support.
“Looking at issues of gender and race is a big part of our personal development programmes. In Lutadoras and Man Talk we talk about the broader and important issues around developing a strong identity and how to respond to some of the societal challenges they might face in terms of gender,” Jenny highlighted.
“I don’t want to give the impression that Fight for Peace is there at the moment, it’s a journey and we are still learning and it’s important to have those difficult conversations.”
“I want to enable young people and colleagues to have a platform to challenge the ways we respond to issues around racism as an organisation. I’ve welcomed those conversations in the past and that’s my style moving forward.”
There is still a lot of learning and unlearning needed in wider society to ensure racism is dismantled at every level. As we become more interconnected than ever, and the recognition of Black culture, heritage, and people becomes more predominant in the resources available to us, we have the opportunity to make a vital change. This has to be intentional, with organisations like Fight for Peace actively making changes which shape our systems.