By Ian Gittins
One hundred people gathered on Plumstead Common on Saturday to Take the Knee by the Tree in support of racial equality and Black Lives Matter.
The event, organised by Greenwich Kids Against Racism, was a follow-up to a similar, inaugural event at the same venue three months earlier, which drew a large crowd in the wake of the police killing in America of George Floyd.
Bearing banners carrying slogans including the Martin Luther King aphorism “The time is always right to do what is right,” the multiracial crowd marched around the common chanting “When black lives matter, then all lives matter” and “Take the knee with me, by the tree in unity”.
Event co-organiser Massy Spencer then invited the marchers to take the knee by the common’s fallen-down tree in support and solidarity with all victims of racial oppression and inequality.
Abena Oppong-Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, addressed the crowd and spoke of the negative effects on the BAME population of stop-and-search and Covid-19, and stressed the need for improved education on racial inequality in schools.
Ms Oppong-Asare is one of the UK’s first two MPs of Ghanaian descent, and spoke of having overcome racial stereotyping in her career to achieve that status.
Advising the many young people there, she said: “Don’t let such stereotypes hold you back. If you have a dream, go for it.”
The MP then stayed and joined in with the marchers as they danced to local African dance troupe Kiduku Rhythms, whose members also taught them a few new dance steps.
Co-organiser Helen Valentine said: “We wanted to do an event, as children are returning to school, where we could reflect on what’s happened over the past few months and prepare ourselves for the journey before us, in this unprecedented time of uncertainty and change.
“Taking the knee is an act of respect and humility. We are honouring the lives that have been lost and the work that has been done by others in fighting for justice and equality for people of all races.
“It is also an act of power – to bring the community together and recognise that when we are united, we are stronger to face whatever lies ahead.”
Michael Barry, who marched with his wife Erika and their children Maliq, 15, and Aisha, 11, said: “The most amazing thing was seeing kids involved at a very early age, and parents of all colours coming together to make their children aware of inequality. It’s the only way we will progress.”
The organisers are planning future community action events.
Anybody wishing to learn more, or to offer help or support, should visit #greenwichkidsagainstracism on Instagram.
Pictures by James Lewis
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