The murder of George Floyd by a U.S. police officer in May this year catalysed an international response. This sparked widespread Black Lives Matter campaigning across the globe. Six months on, local communities in Manchester are continuing the fight against racism. They are continuously working to keep the movement alive.
Every Wednesday evening in Hulme at 6pm, members of Manchester’s Stand up to Racism group gather. They ‘take the kneel’ for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. This is the duration of time that George Floyd’s neck was knelt on when he was killed. Campaigners kneel in a socially distanced line on the roadside, holding up posters dedicated to their cause. This is so that passers-by in their cars and on foot are reminded of the movement.
As well as taking the kneel, each week individuals are given the opportunity to discuss their own knowledge and experiences in regards to racism and inequality. Issues ranging from the EndSARS movement in Nigeria, to the impact of the Rishi Sunak’s recent spending review on BAME communities, and the working class have all been spoken about. Both engaging and informative, attendees benefit from these discussions. They are able to come away each week having learned something new about the consequences of racial inequality, and inequality in general, in the UK and elsewhere.
Holly, a student who attends the kneel regularly, illustrates just how educational these gatherings are: “You learn more than you would expect. One week we were told about the criminalization of drill music in the UK. These are instances of racism most people don’t know are happening. Even though these movements are going on, racism is still an issue. That’s why it’s important to keep going.”
Yannick, resident of Hulme, also emphasised that going to the kneel isn’t just about supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“It’s about society and the problems we all face. We’ve spoken about the NHS, homelessness and the lack of action from Boris Johnson in relation to racism, and comments that he’s made in the past”.
Yannick noted “as much as Black Lives Matter is the main focus, it’s all about creating a better society and hoping that us being better people will rub off on others”.
Whilst symbolic of a struggle that is sadly ongoing, the atmosphere at the kneel in Hulme is one of strength, hope and perseverance. Despite Manchester’s unreliable weather forecast, and regardless of the dark evenings winter has brought, residents of Hulme unconditionally take to the street each week to ensure the continued spread of awareness. After the Black Lives Matter movement gathered considerable momentum, it is vital that the campaign against racism does not slow down. Especially alongside the reduced coverage, this topic receives in the mainstream media. Local events such as gathering to take the kneel demonstrate that there is still progress to be made. More importantly, is that there are still people fighting to make this progress.
Since it began in May, Hulme’s kneel has seen an increasing number of people join as the weeks go by. It is assuring to see adults bring their children along, and encourage them to join in the chanting. It is encouraging to see so many people engaging in complex discussions covering an array of highly relevant topics.
The Black Lives Matter movement may have become less prevalent on our phone and TV screens in recent months. But the prevalence of racism is, unfortunately, still ingrained in our society. It is this which makes continuing to take part in discussions and campaigning for justice so crucial.
This week marks 6 months exactly since people began taking the kneel in Hulme. These campaigners also show no sign of getting comfortable any time soon. They will continue to kneel down by Hulme Park on the side of Stretford Road every Wednesday at 6pm.
For anyone in Manchester wondering how they can continue to stand up to racism, this weekly meeting is a simple but significant way of doing so. It takes up just one hour of your week, and everybody is welcome!