Along with so many people at the moment, I have been reflecting on the Black Lives Matter protests and wondering where my voice fits in all of this. I’m reminded of the words of my Great Granny Ann Beatrice Culverwell (born in 1890, and who died when I was 2). She was a lifelong scholar of Irish and very much involved with the Irish cause, was a close friend of Douglas Hyde, a member of the Gaelic League and played an active part in the early days of Conradh na Gaeilge. In 1975 she wrote an opinion piece in the Irish Times “One Protestant’s claim to Irish identity” in which she wrote:
“But the most serious inhibition working against my complete integration is this: my people never suffered persecution. Consciously or unconsciously the centuries of persecution are embedded in the collective memory of all Roman Catholic Irishmen – persecution by my people. For this I stand humiliated before them.”.
It is with her words in mind, that I feel the need not to speak and to allow others to shape the conversation about racism in Ireland, while at the same time hoping that voices from this minority will be amplified, heard and respected for the work they do in other spheres, be that business, science, the arts, sport, media, politics or academia.
I was lucky enough to attend a wonderful sold-out event last year Beyond Representation, organised by 3 fantastic women:
Ola Majekodumni (broadcaster on Raidío na Life), who created the wonderful video seen below
Jess Majekodumni (designer)
Zainab Boladale (presenter on RTÉ Nationwide)
They gathered some absolutely amazing speakers and created a really engaging fun afternoon with talks, questions, laughter and performances.
Deboroah Somorin, who spoke engagingly about her charity Empower the Family whose mission is to support young disadvantaged people (18-23) in Ireland, with the determination and ability, to successfully complete university.
Evelyn Nomayo of Phase Innovate, a not for profit organisation that provides technology entrepreneurship education for under-represented communities in tech through hands-on training and structured mentoring.
China Soribe and Liswa McDonald, a bubbly duo who founded Umoja, an Afro-centric fashion brand that promotes African culture through a diverse range of products. They bring together African designers from multiple countries including Nigeria, South Africa, and Ireland. They are powerful advocates for African design.
My great grandmother staked her claim as an Irishwoman through and through. As a white Irish woman I also stand humiliated by the treatment of black people throughout history but also today, throughout the world, and here in Ireland.