• Clodagh Meaney

Unsilencing Black Voices: UL academics launch documentary showcasing Black voices in Ireland

The multimedia project features a documentary and a website full of testimonies and resources for the Black community.

University of Limerick academics have launched an online multimedia campaign to document experiences of racism among the Irish Black community.

PhD student Sandrine Ndahiro, from Rwanda, and fifth-year architecture student Cathy

Osikoya, from Nigeria, are co-founders of the upcoming Unsilencing Black Voices documentary, and accompanying website which details personal stories and accounts by members of the Black community in Ireland.

The multimedia project is the culmination of more than six weeks’ work, in which the two

academics asked individuals to recount one instance of racism that they experienced that stuck out the most.

A total of twenty personal testimonies were collected from communities in Limerick, Cork, Galway and Carlow.

Ms Ndahiro, who grew up in Carlow and is studying contemporary African literature at UL. She said the project was borne out of the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and "awakened the need to amplify black voices in Ireland".

“In Ireland, the conversation about racism erupted as something that had gone overlooked for so long was now centre stage. The Black and Irish community across Ireland was now bravely speaking out about their encounters of racism."

“Speaking out about our racist experiences which continues to leave irreversible wounds

acted as a healing process. We found that the more we talked about experiences which we buried deep inside made us feel more empowered,” Ms Ndahiro said.

Ms Osikoya, Galway resident studying architecture, said the duality of being black and Irish “had once been undermined but now we decided to celebrate it and tackle it headfirst”.

“During these painful conversations, we also found that recalling our memories made our

non- Black friends feel uncomfortable as they were not aware of the variety of different racist experiences that we had encountered. This sparked the idea to create a platform where Black people would discuss their racist experiences,” she said.

One interviewee, for the project a female native from Mayo who now resides in Limerick passionately expresses the frustration of everyday racism. She points out how, "We as Black people are tired, tired of being complimented on how well we speak English. Even though a lot of us have been here all our lives."

The various testimonies are split into separate categories, including primary, secondary, third level, professional, and daily life.

"The categories were created to show how some Black individuals experience racism from as early as primary school, and this continues it never stops as it seeps its way from generation to generation."

"There is an ignorance that racism happens in isolated moments, but our documentary would debunk this ignorance," Sandrine explained.

Cathy recalls how her first memory of racism was in secondary school, "My experience with racism happened when I was in secondary school. There were kids that would come up to me and call me a dirty monkey. You should go wash. You smell."

While Sandrine’s racist incident that sticks out the most is one, she experienced in her final year of college. "I lived in an all-girls house where it was just a series of micro-aggressive racism. When I had a friend over who happened to be black, the girls made sure they took out all of the electronics all around the house just in case my friend robbed them."

The project leads said that Black voices are muffled out and brushed aside as less important, and that this new platform would ensure that their experiences get centre stage.

"We hope that by watching our documentary you stop and actively listen to the pain in the black individuals who are sharing their stories. Our aim is after this documentary you would visit our website and look at the various resources that we have created to actively become an antiracist."

"Our website will act as an educational platform where a variety of platforms on racist resources etc will be highlighted," she added.

Ms Osikoya added: "We hope to continuously dismantle the issue of racism within Irish

society. Just because you do not see it does not mean that the issue isn’t there. If you are still in denial just listen to our experiences."

The project will be available at www.unsilencingblackvoices.com from Friday, August 7th.

© 2020 by EMPWR

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