June 2020 was the hardest month for the Black community. We witnessed one of our brothers being murdered. Televised for the whole world to see. George Floyd's death fueled a fire in us for change. For years, the Black community across the Western world has been fighting for equality and respect in the countries we call home. Many of us participated in protests, lobbied our local MPs, provided our expertise in the communities we worked in and posted information on Instagram, hoping it would inspire those who can make a difference. Now, two years after George Floyd's murder, I am still working with community groups to fight for change. Like many of my colleagues who continued to work after the movement lost momentum, Instagram followers and publicity was the last thing on our minds. We have one common goal and that is to create a better future for the next generation. However, with that being said, many people used George Floyd's death as a ladder into the influencing scene.
From brand deals to magazine covers, the Black Lives Matter movement helped some leaders increase their Instagram followers, allowing them to receive publicity from some of the biggest magazines in the UK. But two years after the movement there is no black square in sight, not even from the people who are supposed to be leaders of our community. It seems that, just like the businesses they were calling out on Twitter, many of these leaders jumped on the bandwagon and profited from the hype, pain and outrage of the moment.
A couple of weeks ago it was reported that the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA have been accused of misappropriating the funds they were given for the movement; paying their family members and themselves a salary while community groups on the frontline are still left unfunded and unsupported. Many young change-makers like myself have still not received the recognition and support we deserve to help us carry our projects forward. This selfishness displayed by the very leaders that started the Black Lives Matter movement affects all of us as activists and change-makers, it causes the community we serve to not trust us to be able to create the change needed for a better future for our children. People became invested in these figures, rooting for them and even donating more than £1 million to the movement in the UK. I myself don't get paid for community work and the project I run is unfunded. If the £1 million raised by our prominent leaders was distributed well, then maybe my young people would have benefited from a project that is well equipped to support their every need.
I'm not writing this out of my own selfish needs, but as a product of conversations that I have had with other community leaders who also would have benefited from the funds if they were distributed fairly. For me, the movement is not a tool I should use to build my career, but a way to continue to fight the fight so my children can live a better life than mine.
I stand on the frontline, meet up and converse with MPs, write to key decision makers in the Arts and Culture sector because I still have fire in me. No matter how many Instagram or Twitter followers I have, I know that I can make a difference in the local communities that I serve.
Now imagine what the leaders who benefited from the movement can do, with their thousands of followers. The change they could make on a national level if they weren't so selfish and only trying to build themselves as influencers. Our prominent leaders that we once looked up to and supported have left us on the frontline high and dry.
Written by Chrissie Okorie