Clara Amfo gave a powerful and heart-wrenching speech about “insidious” racism and how the last week’s news cycle has affected her mental health during her Radio 1 show on Tuesday morning.
Speaking candidly live on air, Clara said she had been so affected by the death of George Floyd that she had been forced to miss work a day earlier, stating that her mental health was in “a really, really bad way”.
“As you would have noted, I wasn’t in work yesterday and I want to talk to you directly about why that was,” she began.
“Now, before I get into it, I just want to say that I am fully aware that we are in the middle of this devastating pandemic, and I am fully aware that I am not a medical professional or a frontline worker. I am just a woman who does a radio show, but my job is very public-facing, so I want to talk to you.
“If you have small children or would rather not hear what I’m about to say, because I am going to discuss race and violence, please check out something else on the Sounds app for the next few minutes. If not, then I really welcome you to stay with me.”
She continued: “As you know, at Radio 1, we talk a lot about mental health. And mine was in a really, really bad way yesterday. In fact, it has been for the past few days in particular, in relation to the death of George Floyd. George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who died whilst being held under arrest.
“Now, I didn’t have the mental strength to face you guys yesterday, to ask ‘hi, how was your weekend?’ like I usually do with my happy intention, because I know that my weekend was terrible.”
Pausing to gather herself, Clara said: “I was sat on my sofa crying, angry, confused, and also knowing stuck at the news… stuck at the news of yet another brutalised Black body.
“Knowing how the world enjoys Blackness, and seeing what happened to George, we, Black people, get the feeling that people want our culture, but they do not want us. In other words, you want my talent, but you don’t want me.
“There is a false idea that racism – and in this case anti-Blackness – is just name-calling and physical violence, when it is more insidious than that.
“One of my favourite thinkers is a woman called Amanda Seales, and she says this and I feel it deeply, when she says ‘you cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues’. And I say that with my chest.”
Clara went on to urge her listeners to listen to Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show that night, where she would be celebrating “Black artists that have enriched the music landscape”. She also gave a shout-out to 1Xtra presenters Seani B and Ace – “my friends, my brothers, my colleagues” – who she said “will be speaking about their experiences as Black men in this country” during their usual show that day.
“I want to say to our Black listeners, I hope you feel seen and heard today,” Clara concluded. “And to those of you that already let me know that you are doing the work, to be committed to doing better, I see you, so let’s do this. Let’s all be anti-racist.”
The presenter ended her speech by playing Alright by Kendrick Lamar, which became associated with the Black Lives Matter movement after its release, and opens with the poignant line: “All my life I had to fight.”
Almost immediately, Clara won a wave of praise on social media, including from many of her BBC Radio colleagues: