Since the Black Lives Matter Movement gained momentum earlier this year, a group of local young people are seeking to make a difference. Diversity Reform Initiative are fighting against inequality, disadvantage and racism in society through the combined efforts of volunteers, academics and organisations. We caught up with one of the founders, Aldridge Phiri, to tell us a bit more about it.
Tell us about the Diversity Reform Initiative.
DRI was formed not only to bring attention to the deep routed systematic inequalities but to make an attempt at fixing them. We want to work collaboratively with different organisations and institutions as part of a bottom up approach.
How did it start?
The people who started it were myself, Aldridge Phiri and Montelle Williams and we were later joined by Kadijah, Abilio and Mac, who all have a background in being heavily involved in social action projects. We sat for hours and spoke about a trend on social media where students were exposing the racism they had faced in schools. I was particularly shocked and disappointed that this was still going on, and how it was identical to my experiences in school, even though it has been years since I left school.
What is it you do?
We network with different groups across the country and hold meetings and presentations (on zoom of course), in order to gather information on what they’re working on in an effort to enhance our own work. We are in the process of obtaining fundamental secondary research from scholars from universities in England and Wales to produce a report on our findings. We will publish it as a stand-alone project to showcase the prevalence of racism that still exists within our schools and wider society.
DRI seems to be focussing heavily on education- why is that?
Education is a very difficult and confusing time for a young black boy or girl; it is constant micro aggressions and gas-lighting, where you believe that your race was definitely in a factor in getting that detention or being put into that lower set, but are scared to bring it up, as you will be accused of using the race card. I personally never knew the impact my time in school had on me until I saw that trend on social media where young kids now were exposing the racism in their schools. Reading it felt as if I was being subjected to it again and that I had been ignoring how I have become a professional in excusing racist behaviour in an attempt to fit in. I have worked in several schools and it is honestly disheartening seeing the way young black and Asian minority students are treated, the subtlety, and hidden ways in which they are marginalised, labelled and disenfranchised are heart-breaking. So yeah (coming off the tangent) schools are where it starts, they are the foundations and we need to be educating from the start; racial awareness, educating children on black history, on the impact of the British Empire instead of applauding it, in order to raise a generation intolerant of racism. Everyone makes their own choices, but that only goes so far, we have to stop ignoring what is right in front of us and it is the socialisation of kids that is key. We can’t influence peoples’ family lives, but the education you get is the most important tool you can have in developing a generation that is built around diversity.
Where do you see the organisation going? What are your short and longer term goals for the organisation?
Our current project is a report that is going to be co-authored by a plethora of talent from universities all across the country, it is a long term project but we will work tirelessly to get the data that we need. We are also involved in teacher training, we work with a teacher who is delivering anti-racism training to different organisations, schools and work places. Our hope is to go national with our key aims which are on our website; we want to limit the amount of young BAME students who are disenfranchised within the job market and education sector, and we want to increase representation as well as taking other action, whether it be small or big.
How can people get involved and support the initiative?
People can get involved by following our social media pages and sharing our content. Moreover, they can get in contact with us directly if they are interested in creating content for our group and if people want to join the organisation they should use the contact details on our website and we can go from there.
Huge thank you to Aldridge and everyone at the Diversity Reform Initiative for speaking to us. For more information or to get involved, you can check out their website here: www.driuk.org.