The Protest Series: Black Lives Matter [Audio Described and Transcript]

The Protest is a series of six pieces released during lockdown by black creators in our writing community as a response to the killing of George Floyd, and its impact on black Britons.

Content warning: the following films all contain themes of racism.

Hey Kid by Matilda Ibini [Audio Described]

Matilda is a bionic playwright and screenwriter. Content warning: Contains themes of racism.

You Just Don’t Get It – And It Hurts by Fehinti Balogun [Transcript]

Fehinti is an actor, theatre maker and an activist. Content warning: Contains use of racial slurs – The use of the N-word.

Below is a visual description of the piece, followed by the transcript:

Video description: The video is a screen-recording of text messages shared between two friends. The person we see typing is Femi, who is black. His messages appear on the right-hand side of the screen in a blue text bubble. The person responding to his texts is Chelsea, who is a white person. Her responses are on the left-hand side in a grey text bubble. We see no action on screen other than the exchanges between them, as Femi tries to communicate with her about topics such as racial inequality, white privilege, and why allies are so important. The conversation is littered with pauses as Femi might consider what to type next, or wait for Chelsea to respond, which appear as dots on the screen in a grey bubble as she types.

[The video begins]

Chelsea: Just seen the trailer for your new thing! exciting!!

Femi: hahah yeah, thank you. Was just about to send it to you.

Chelsea: I’m defo watching!

Femi: Chels I actually wanted to talk to you about something?

Chelsea: yeah sure, whats up?

Femi: Do you remember Hannah’s New Years Party in Hackney?

Chelsea: I do

Femi: I know it was ages ago but it came to mind the other night and its just bugging me a bit…
I think I might have been the only person of colour there
and I remember quite clearly feeling a bit weird even though I know Hannah and Lucy…
But the thing that got me is that a lot of people at that party, them included were singing the word Nigga

Chelsea: I’m pretty sure there were black people there, no?
what about Peter? I think he was there?

Femi: I don’t think that’s the important part.

Chelsea: yeah hahaha
Just about to say.
it’s a hard topic if I’m honest. I don’t know what I think about it really.

Femi: what do you mean?

Chelsea: I just mean it’s stupid to have that word in songs in the first place!
and I think its a bit weird. Like if I’m singing am I supposed to miss out a word because I’m white?

Femi: Yes
I don’t think its weird.
and I’ll try and explain why

[A long pause filled with writing dots and silence]

Chelsea:: …….
haha x

Femi: Sorry for the wait just compiling thoughts x

Chelsea: You can say whatever, I promise I won’t take it personally, or feel like its targeting me. We can just have an open conversation x

Femi: it is all about privilege. The privilege that your skin colour gives you in to the world we live in. there are long list of things and issues that you will never ever have to experience because of the colour of your skin. that is not to diminish your issues in any way. however being able to ignore that privilege is a part of your privilege.

A good example is corona virus. not only does the POC community have to deal with corona-virus with have to deal with it whilst black. which means breaking isolation to protest the everyday injustices in our society just so people might take a second out of their day to consider they exist.

This does not mean you are not allowed to got through hard shit it just means accepting you have privilege.

the freedom for a person of colour to use the word nigger (a word given by an oppressor to disempower and reaffirm their product is seen as other) in whatever way and form they choose without Caucasian person telling them how to use it whether it be good or bad is owed to them at the very least. And then with all that privilege to suggest that not being able about to say this one word is an attack on freedoms seems somewhat strange?

Chelsea: I don’t really get all of it, like do you not think going out to a protest in lockdown does more damage than it does good? aren’t people just going to blame the ‘POC community’ for the virus spreading?

Femi: that’s my point, that even in the face of that adversity and risk there was a need to be on the streets . There has never been a point in history where change happened WITHOUT huge risk OR because someone asked nicely. All that knowing that even the media coverage of it will be racist. It will blame the protests and not the V-day street parties or the beach getaways that exhibit mostly white faces, for spreading. How do you fight a racist structure within a racist structure?

Chelsea: Ok that point is clear. but on the other thing. To be honest I just don’t think I’m allowed to have an opinion, you know? I can’t say it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Femi: Chels of course your allowed to have an opinion and I think its important to think about these things. But what’s most important in these situations is to listen to the people most affected by them. As MY FRIEND I need you to be against it AND understand why. The use of that word in a mostly white environment without considering what it might mean to the few people of colour in the room is dangerous. Its subtle. It speaks of more than just a song its speaks or a lack of awareness of privilege. and its so easy not to do. Because it would NOT have happened were there a majority of black people in the room, and that’s because there would have been worries about the reaction, i.e considering of the historical connotations of that word in a room full of people affected by it.

Chelsea: ok, but this is sort of what I mean. I can’t disagree with your experiences

Femi: but do you?

Chelsea: I just think if we’re talking purely about music- then does that mean that those songs aren’t for white people? I don’t mean that as a throw away statement, but if that’s it, isn’t that basically segregation?

If I say you can’t say a word because of the colour of your skin that IS an attack on your freedoms. I get what white people can’t say everything hahaha

Chelsea: But if you take away anyone’s right to words you limit what they are allowed to say. That is literally removing freedom.
Just like me saying to a terrorist he can’t say he hates whatever group he hates is an attack on his freedom.

Chelsea: Babe this is such a good debate, I’m really learning from you! Again I’m not saying white people should be able to do and say whatever they want. I just never really thought about it like this, you know?
Chelsea: (me showing my privilege)

Chelsea: I do agree with you though. I’m just not sure if I’m 100%. Like when my sister went to her ex’s birthday party a few years ago. There were only 2 or 3 white people there. I think it would have been more awkward-ish for them to miss out a word in that situation.
(this is great btw)

Femi: ‘me saying to a terrorist he can’t say he hates whatever group he hates is an attack on his freedom.’ – this is a lazy statement. Simplifying the issue to two binary’s (its this or this) is dangerous because it looks for a way of justify the use of the N word without consequence. Looking at it coldly without factoring in empathy or history.

To explore its logical imperative without seeing its moral one as necessity for a peaceful and fair society. It makes no sense to want to say the word? Why? What joy, what power does that give a person that says it?

The fact is when you’re born with the privilege to do, say and think what you want, you assume everyone else does. Which is not true. You with that privilege will say well if you take this away from me then that is unfair, without considering the fact there are millions of people who don’t have the privilege to say whatever they want like, like you do? where are their freedoms? To say and do what they want without being fired, blacklisted, or killed? The feeling of attack on your freedom; The feeling of offence Is full of privilege and is in itself offensive.

This is doesn’t mean that this music cannot be enjoyed by everyone. But it is goes way deeper. There are those that will say that word and enjoy black culture and yet NOT stand up to racism, will NOT acknowledge the struggles or the risk and discomfort it gives to people of colour by saying that word. It is again a drawback to colonial thinking – taking what you want and not thinking about those involved, those that worked to bring you joy.

Also in reply to sister and her ex I disagree with you. They are allowed to feel the discomfort of not knowing what to say. Instead of assuming they can say everything. This is how a lot black people feel all the time, majority white spaces.

And although i love a debate, debating whether its ok to say the N word at party even theoretically is fundamentally exhausting and the fact is isn’t for you is part of your privilege AGAIN.

I have to do this all the time. In this extreme .All the time .I’ve got some great books that explain it in better detail if you want to read them?

Chelsea: I obviously can’t completely understand because I’m not black, I can’t say ‘I do’ or ‘don’t agree’ with you, you hold the power because it’s your experience. but I don’t think I’m ignorant, especially compared to people we know. I just don’t thinking limiting one group helps out any other.

Chelsea: yeah what books?

Femi: I don’t think your ignorant at all. I just don’t think anyone had asked you these questions. I get what you’re saying but I’m not sure you get what I’m saying because it’s not just about MY experience it’s about YOURS. Acknowledging that and stepping back absolutely pulls up other groups. Check these books out: ‘why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’ and ‘natives’ by akala

Using the N word is non-negotiable and I hope these explain it better than I can.

I understand that my messages might seem emotional and that’s not necessarily good for debate. But please understand that after the murder of a black man in America I and a lot of other people around the world are drawn to look and the aggressions and micro aggressions we experience every day. And having white people nonchalantly use the N word is one of them and having to take on the responsibility of explain its NOT ok (and its not just this conversation) is another. And that’s not to place blame. It’s just what society has set up. I wish we lived in a world where it was obvious that sayin’ the N word is deeply offensive. But we don’t and that is part systemic racism.

It’s just a fact. Saying the N word at that party is and was (knowingly or not) racist. And it was just so easy not to.

But give the books a read and let me know what you think.

Chelsea: wanna go for a walk this week, and talk
I’ll bring the dog?
and I will put these books on my list for sure. A little busy with the move and stevie at the moment
but when I get the mobey
the money

Femi: let me get them for you
send me your address
no worries

Chelsea: you can’t!

Femi: seriously

Chelsea: its gonna take me months though?

Femi: no pressure at all I promise I just think this is so important
even if you can only manage little bits. Just wanna get it to you so if you’re in the place for it, you have it.
no time pressure or anything

Chelsea: well if want to x
On one condition
we have to do something FUN this week!!!!! No thinking or talking political

[A long pause filled with writing dots and silence]

Femi: not sure If I’m free this week maybe next?

Chelsea: sure! but You need to look after yourself! I feel this very chaotic energy from you

[Femi pauses as though not sure how to respond. The video ends.]

Your Work by Anoushka Lucas [Audio Described]

Anoushka is a singer, songwriter, actress and composer. Content warning: Contains use of racial slurs and references to racial violence.

The Fire This Time by Kalungi Ssebandeke (ft Anoushka Lucas) [Audio Described]

Kalungi is an actor, writer and musician. Content warning: Contains themes of racism and references to racist violence.

Do You Hear Us Now? by Benedict Lombe [Audio Described]

Benedict is a British Congolese writer and theatre-maker. Content warning: Contains mentions of racist violence.

Black by Roy Williams [Audio Described]

Performed by Aaron Pierre. Edited by Gino Ricardo Green. Roy is an award-winning playwright. Content warning: Contains themes of racism.

Audio Description by Di Langford and Koko Brown for VocalEyes

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