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COMMENT: ‘US civil rights protest has lessons to teach us’

PUBLISHED: 12:34 14 October 2013 | UPDATED: 13:48 14 October 2013

Exposure's Carrie Supple with Mark Hutchinson, co-founder of the project.

Exposure's Carrie Supple with Mark Hutchinson, co-founder of the project.

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Carrie Supple from Muswell Hill youth charity Exposure on the need for “broad, sustained, non-violent movements for change”.

"After the 2011 riots that started in Tottenham, one of those convicted said: ‘We had the attention of the world and all we asked for was a pair of trainers.’"

Carrie Supple

The only time I saw my mum cry was when Martin Luther King was assassinated. The story of the US civil rights movement, with its incredible courage and moral certainty, has inspired me through years of working in education and on human rights projects. I am Jewish and white and, for me, the power of the movement transcends “race”, place or time. Its aim was justice, freedom, jobs and peace for all.

After visiting some of the centres in the USA dedicated to the civil rights movement last year, I came home to Muswell Hill determined to create opportunities in the UK for people to access that stirring history.

I knew Exposure, the award-winning youth organisation, with its experience of developing skills, creating opportunities and encouraging young people’s involvement, would be a great media partner. We have worked together in Tottenham, supporting community groups on the Stonebridge Road Estate and at Northumberland Park School. Ten years ago, we trained Gladesmore Community School’s first Value Life campaigners in their drive to stop gun and knife crime. It’s still going strong.

This part of north London is an ideal place for us to launch a civil rights project, building on the area’s history of diversity, tolerance and grassroots movements for social justice. We are applying for a Heritage Lottery Fund to work with local schools and Bruce Castle Museum, researching ways in which communities have confronted discrimination.

After the 2011 riots that started in Tottenham, one of those convicted said: “We had the attention of the world and all we asked for was a pair of trainers.”

It’s clear that we need broad, sustained, non-violent movements for change to counter hopelessness and the vast inequalities still experienced today. Martin Luther King and Bernie Grant spoke about the need for economic justice, linking racism, poverty, war and materialism. Now MP David Lammy calls for peaceful collective action against injustice and is a supporter of our project.

Working with educators, civil rights, youth and arts groups, historians and others and using intergenerational approaches, we are developing a travelling exhibition charting the US civil rights movement, its impact on the UK and how it continues to inspire campaigns against repression globally. Wherever the exhibition goes, it will highlight the local struggles for equality over centuries. We will explore how “people like us” won campaigns for justice and how you can too.

“Anyone with a heartbeat can relate to the message of I Have A Dream,” said Mark Hutchinson, teacher and co-founder of the project.

In this Black History month, designated to honour the contributions of those still advocating year-round significance, we need to find ways of being each other’s allies. From jail in 1963, Martin Luther King wrote: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

We are all volunteers at the moment, fundraising to make this project a reality. Join us.

n For more information contact, carrie@exposure.org.uk

0Haringey blogger: Carrie Supple

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