• Clodagh Meaney

Black and Irish: The Instagram highlighting experiences of growing up black in Ireland

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Co-Founder of the movement, Leon Diop, tells EMPWR why the page was set-up

By Clodagh Meaney

Unless you've been living a very sheltered life these past few days, you should be very aware of the discussion thats happening in Ireland surrounding racism and white privilege.

It all comes following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th.

The Black Lives Matter movement in the United States began to riot and protest in order to ensure justice for Floyd, but since then it has sparked a global conversation about racism and white supremacy.

Here in Ireland, demonstrations across the country were organised in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and those fighting for justice in the United States for George as well as other black victims of police brutality. It however, has also sparked an important conversation about being black in Ireland.

Leon Diop along with two friends Femi Bankole and Boni Odoemene set up an Instagram account called Black and Irish in order to platform the experience of black people across the country.

After seeing what's happening around the world, the friends decided they wanted to male a difference here in Ireland.

"We wanted to show Ireland that the black Irish community not only exists but face different issues on a daily basis," Leon told EMPWR.

"We knew that the most powerful thing that you can share with someone is your story, so we decided to build a platform where people could share their experiences of growing up black in Ireland regardless of whether they were born here or moved here at a young age."

"We want to ensure that the whole of Ireland is aware of not only the struggles, but also the successes of the black Irish community," he explained.

"The black Irish community is so diverse, stemming from all over the world and coming from all walks of life. We want to spark conversation, host debates and share stories to help build a greater awareness of our experiences."

"Most importantly", Leon said, "We want to build a community where people can celebrate one another’s journey. We want to celebrate diversity, promote equality and champion inclusion."

23-year old Eric Tsakap from Dublin shared his experience with the page telling his story of growing up black in a predominantly white area.

"Growing up in Ireland as a black Irish fella, living in a predominantly white area back in the day came with it’s difficulties as you can imagine and still does sometimes. However, I feel like I was lucky with the group of mates I’ve always had around me."

"Looking back, at every instance at which I received racial abuse, I had a white or Asian friend there to back me up," he said. "Especially during the days when I played football."

Eric also explained how his friends often told bullies off, standing in solidarity with him in what he calls a lonely "inescapable war."

Meath women Eboni also shared their story.

The 20-year-old who identifies as bisexual said that growing up mixed race in Ireland meant that they were always hyperaware of themselves.

"There was always this immense pressure to do well and to never say the wrong thing.

I noticed that I always had to work so much harder to be seen and even harder to be heard."

"[Growing up mixed race meant] that I had to be careful not to be the loudest voice in the room for fear of being obnoxious. I notice that anything I do or say will reflect not just on me but on my whole race."

Eboni's hopes for Ireland is that Direct Provision is abolished, and that Black people and other POC get the equality that they deserve.

21-year-old Dubliner Bukky Adebowale shared her experience of growing up in Dublin and being from Yoruba heritage.

"I was born in Dublin (up the Coombe) and raised in Kildare," she said.

"My family raised me as a Nigerian Christian so Jollof, seasoning and prayer have always been in my blood," she joked.

"Growing up in Ireland has been a myriad of things for me; on one hand: I’ve experienced an immersion of beautiful culture. And on another hand, it’s not been the easiest place to live in," she explained.

"I went to school in Ireland and for the most part I never really experienced any racism until I got to secondary school, where I got bullied quite a lot."

Bukky is currently the first incoming black female Vice President for Student Life at Maynooth University's student union.

"Some people don’t realise how much electing a black female has changed the dynamic already. This alone in itself (I’m hoping) will inspire young black people and women alike to run for political positions and make positive changes. "

Offaly man Mikey shared his experience of growing up mixed-race.

"Growing up in Ireland mixed-race means that your experience differs greatly between you and other mixed-race people."

"My experience varies from being called a N*gger once playing GAA to being called a P*ki on an almost weekly basis when I was playing football in Dublin."

"This is a mild experience compared to that of my brother, my father and my black and mixed-race friends. It’s not my place to talk about their experiences, I can only be thankful that mine wasn’t as bad," Mikey said.

The 24-year-old has just finished his degree in law and is currently studying for his exams to become a member of the Law Society of Ireland.

You can follow Black and Irish here to further support their work and submit your story.

© 2020 by EMPWR

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram