THE BLOG

Do Black Lives Matter in the UK?

23/07/2015 12:19 BST | Updated 23/07/2016 10:59 BST

"Where were you at 10am on 22 July, the day that Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes died?" I asked a friend, Martin, who lives in Stockwell. He said, I remember, that at about the same time the following day, tv reporters were talking to people outside the station saying that the police in Brazil kill on average six people a day. Stockwell isn't Rio.

I think of the time, early in the morning on 3 May when my cousin Sheku Bayoh died - what was I doing then? But as we have not been informed of the definitive time, this has been made difficult. Stockwell isn't Kircaldy either but there are similarities to the deaths of these two innocent men that are uncomfortable.

Sheku Bayoh in May of this year in Scotland and Jean Charles de Menezes 10 years ago in London, both died at the hands of the police (Reminder: Just 2 cases in the UK in which at least 3,000 police officers are being investigated for alleged assault; most of whom have not been suspended). Too many excuses; no genuine apology. Race? One described as an IC2 male, the other as an IC3 male means that it was always highly likely that race played a factor in these brutality cases.

Not even the pathologist was told how Sheku died, which is why his 'cause of death' is inconclusive. What were Sheku Bayoh's last words, when they restrained him with CS Spray, Pepper spray and batons, to the extent that he lost consciousness yet still, he arrived at the hospital - in chains and unconscious. We still want to know. And we thought slavery was over in Britain? Did he tell the police "I can't breath when they restrained him?" We still haven't been given clear reasons for his arrest.

Sheku Bayoh's local MP, Roger Mullin has called on the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Sir Stephen House for answers. There are too many questions - not enough answers - in fact, no CLEAR, TRANSPARENT answers to date.

The home secretary, Theresa May today announced an independent review of police custody deaths in England and Wales. We also need this to happen in Scotland because how can a nation breathe if these injustices continue to happen?

This is why I've started a petition on Change.org calling for accountability, clarity, answers...how hard is it to tell the truth?

Sometimes my thoughts return to the day of the funeral, 7 June, where prayers were said for Sheku at the mosque - and the call was for everyone gathered to stay strong and faithful to family. It was so moving.

Ten years on, we will still remember Sheku, so will his two sons who will by then be 10 and 13 and will be asking questions about their Dad; so will the community of Kircaldy, every time they see them - calling the police to task. Of course a community needs to heal after such incidents but healing and forgetting are not 'two sides of the same coin'. With healing comes remembering, learning lessons, moving forward, and knowing that the road to do all three may be a long one, but that is OK.

Stockwell can heal, but there are many, like Max, Althea, Martin and Mary (who made the mosaic for Jean Charles that hangs outside the station), who won't forget. It must be hard to, when an inquest into his death returned an 'open verdict'. And they don't want to forget simply because he was part of the family.

Sheku Bayoh has strong family in the UK and Sierra Leone who won't allow forgetting.

I was reminded of this in one of the comments on the Sheku Bayoh petition page from Isatu, a close relative, after I talked of the support of the local community: Kadi, WE as a family are in this together. Justice will prevail no matter how long this takes. Kircaldy, I hope heals, but I know from the love that we saw on the day of his funeral, they won't forget.

Kadija Sesay is a literary activist; publisher of SABLE LitMag and a PhD student at Brighton Uni. For more information, or to sign Kadija's petition, click here