'SKIN SHOULD NOT BE A DEATH SENTENCE' was scrawled across a large piece of cardboard elevated above heads amidst a crowd outside the US Embassy in London on Tuesday 12 July.
Upon approaching the arena of people, a black man holding a megaphone in the centre of the masses was reciting an encounter in prison where a police officer had told him it was "banana time".
People of all different creeds and colours stood listening intently to the individuals who proceeded to the platform to share their painful encounters of racial inequality and injustice. From electric blue eyebrows to purple dreads - the diverse crowd stood in unity, firmly holding placards that read: 'Jail racist cops' and 'racist police officers off our streets'.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest had been organised in response to the shooting of black American Alton Sterling by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, exactly a week prior to today's protest. Alton was shot at point-blank range. As shocking as it was, this form of police brutality was not the first of its kind.
In Minnesota, just a day before Alton Sterling's unjust fatality, a black American called Philando Castile was also shot at point-blank range. He had been pulled over by the police for a broken tail light, and killed as he followed an officer's command to take out his driver's license.
In 2015, young black men killed by US police hit its highest rate.This figure was five times higher than the white equivalent . Again in the US, around 13% of all black people who have been fatally shot by police since January 2015 were unarmed, compared with 7% of all white people. Needless to say, these faceless figures reflect the cold fact that black people are being disproportionately killed by the police.
But this issue of systematic racism is not just in America. Figures released in 2015 revealed that black people are up to 17.5 times more likely than any other ethnic group to be stopped and searched by the police in certain areas of the UK such as Dorset, while an inquiry into the 1981 Brixton riots concluded the protests had been sparked by disproportionate stop and search tactics.
On sunday 10 July, twenty-five years after the riots, for six solid hours Brixton's streets were occupied by those still fighting to convince the system that black lives matter. Today's BLM protest was stage two.
A young mixed-race girl entered the ring to poetically convey her anguish at being criticised for 'not being one or the other': "I am not black. I am not white. And I am not mixed-race. I am human!", she exclaimed to cheers of consensus.
As we stood beneath the US Embassy listening to the tales of victims of racial discrimination, two rainbow flags draped down either side of the entrance of the building blew gently in the breeze. Another individual took to the platform to assert that, "you cannot speak out against Islamophobia, without speaking out against homophobia and you cannot speak out against homophobia, without speaking about racism".
Within a climate of post-Brexit xenophobia and in light of the homophobic Orlando shootings, the promulgation of intersectionality has become increasingly imperative. Society's biggest and most important challenge is to achieve equality through combatting all categories of discrimination simultaneously. For discrimination is categorically one ugly obstacle comprised of its many entwined forms. If we are to build a civilisation that is fair and equal, we must create communities that thrive on the basis that we help each other to succeed and flourish regardless of race, gender, faith, class or sexuality.
A final speech highlighted the need to stop purchasing goods from racist brands; to boycott any outlet that contributes to the oppression of black people. Subsequently, the MC with the megaphone declared that we march to Oxford Street to call upon shops guilty of abetting inequality. The protest commenced and before we knew it, there were hundreds of people marching down the middle of Oxford Street, stopping buses, taxis, rickshaws and shoppers. And then there were thousands. The protest shut down every road it strode through.
"Hands up. Don't shoot!"
"No justice. No peace. No racist police!"
"What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? NOW!"
In the thousands we marched and chanted down Regent Street, to Piccadilly Circus, across Leicester Square, through Trafalgar Square and all the way down Whitehall until we reached Number 10.
Characters from all corners of the city emerged to wave their support and encourage the protestors. Black, asian and white bus drivers honked their horns in solidarity despite being quite literally stopped in their tracks. Tourists waved and engaged in our chants. While pushing through Leicester Square a bearded homeless man slumped on the floor with his acoustic guitar suddenly started strumming the instrument frantically while singing "fuck the system!".
As we reached Downing Street a dozen police officers were already lined up against the gates with their arms firmly crossed. It was David Cameron's last night as Prime Minister and he was yet to speak up for racial justice and equality in light of the racist killings in America. So we did it for him, and for all of the other Parliamentary representatives who had failed to come forward to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.
More impassioned speeches commenced and then silence ensued. Unexpectedly, moments later a lone voice in the crowd began singing, "all I want to say is they don't really care about us". Others joined in and soon after the entire crowd outside Number 10 Downing Street was singing the chorus of Michael Jackson's 'They Don't Care About Us'.
And then we marched to Parliament, a true vanguard making waves across the capital's concrete jungle. Daylight retired and the protest embraced a calm halt along Westminster Bridge. The remaining BLM protestors fell down on to their knees and raised their hands to collectively repeat:
That evening, the BLM protest had proliferated and in its steps it had communicated a powerful message of solidarity to those victims of injustice, that systemic, institutional racism will not be tolerated by society.
While we are all human and it is unequivocally true that all lives matter, for as long as black lives are lost disproportionately to white, we must continue to take to the streets to ensure that black lives matter equally.
As humans, we must raise our hands and accept that we all have a responsibility to look out for one another, regardless of skin colour, sexuality, faith or gender. For it is only when we fundamentally refuse to tolerate discrimination in its every form, can we wave goodbye to racism and embrace the fair and equal society humanity needs in order for it to truly prosper. Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.Suggest a correction