2018 has been an eventful year for the Racial Justice Network and its been great to see the network go from strength to strength. We have been delighted to expand our board of trustees this year. Bringing a wealth of experience and expertise, Desiree Reynolds, Farzana Khan and Sipilien Birani have helped to consolidate and grow the work that we do at RJN.
We are also very pleased to have worked with many new members, friends and allied groups this year. We fondly remember hosting former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver with the Northern Police Monitoring Project in Manchester, and another former Black Panther, Bob Brown in Leeds.We have been drawing attention to the dangers of the Hostile Environment for a long time now, and are pleased to see the issues finally gaining attention in anti-racist and leftist circles, and even (fleetingly) in mainstream discourse. A gathering in solidarity with hunger strikes at Yarl’s Wood have led to the establishment of ‘Yorkshire Resists’, a loose network of allied groups to resist the hostile environment, and we were pleased to support our friends and members in Glasgow to establish ‘Glasgow Resists’. The launch was well attended and we will continue to support them and their work. We will also continue with our pastoral work supporting our members and friends with projects in Bradford, Glasgow, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, and wherever else necessary.
As an organisation and as individuals we have delivered an incredible number of talks this year. Across the UK and internationally, we have spoken at universities, festivals, academic and professional conferences, and community events. We have also increased the number of blogs on our website, published a number of interventions in mainstream and leftist media, and released several statements on important issues affecting our communities.
The successes of the RJN meetup group for ‘white allies’ has been particularly encouraging and we look forward to further developments of this project in 2019. We’ve also had valued opportunities to host film screenings and discussions in collaboration with Leeds Black Film Club and other groups, and, given the positive reactions from our members and local communities, we have plans for more of this in 2019.
We have taken particular inspiration from the successes of Sisters United this year, a group that includes a number of RJN members and friends. They’ve been campaigning tirelessly against the mismanagement of housing for people seeking asylum in Halifax (which we named as a concern in our 2017 round up), Sisters United have been successful in bringing greater attention to this issue and in developing Halifax G4S charter with support from local, regional and national organisations as well as the local authority.
One of our aims for 2018 was to begin to develop international connections with groups involved in anti-racist struggle. We have made advances with regard to this aim, with our director Peninah Wangari-Jones attending Dialogue II women in movement in Brazil, and connecting with a number of groups and individuals, including Criola, Virada Feminista, and Bokantaj who came to visit RJN in the UK. We will continue to seek out international connections in 2019, and particularly hope to visit the African continent to build solidarities, and strengthen our anti-racist struggle.
Looking forward to 2019, building on the work of 2018, we will be hosting a ‘collective conversation’ series throughout the year. Through this series – funded with the support of Scurrah Wainwright Charity – we hope to bring together a wide range of people from our communities to discuss big issues, including race and mental health, race and disability, and a number of topical issues.
Amidst all of our successes, we were saddened to lose an important activist when our friend Jackie was forced to leave for Botswana. Whilst we continue connecting with Jackie on an international scale, this was also a stark reminder of how harsh and real British migration policies can be for our communities. Alongside our other activities, we have had to campaign and fund-raise against the threat of deportations facing several of our members, a constant reminder of how important our work is.
We have been disappointed this year to have had unsuccessful applications for larger sources of funding, as this would really have enabled us to increase the scale and impact of our work. However, we recognise that remaining committed to our radical anti-racist principles limits our access to funding. We are grateful to those supporters who continue to donate through our Paypal. Anybody else willing and able to donate to support our work can do so by following this link.
The Racial Justice Network