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Championing equality and asking questions through art

Young artists, film-makers and equality champions from Acton came together to create a hard-hitting piece of art discussing racism – and it was exhibited in a London gallery.

The group all attend the Bollo Brook Youth Centre and had the opportunity to take part in the David Raymond Conroy exhibition at Seventeen Gallery in east London. It was supported by The Equality Trust.

It followed on from an event at the youth centre recently that gave the young people there the chance to meet Professor Philip Alston, who is the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. They told him about their experiences of discrimination and poverty. You can read our article on that meeting.

The exhibition in January was titled Who We Are, Who We Aren’t. It had a centrepiece of a giant head made up of news clippings and photos plus annotated portraits, film and recorded audio pieces of discussions.

Sonny Inglis, 18, one of the participants, summarised the content that was incorporated into the exhibition: “The interviews tell of young black men feeling they have the responsibility to prove themselves as ‘safe’ when entering white-dominated space, of young Somali women feeling fetishised by the Western gaze, of mixed-race young people like myself feeling excluded by both white and black people alike, and of white young people feeling shut out from conversations about race whilst also suffering racist abuse themselves.

“These tales of modern day racism will not find easy answers in good intentions or policy changes alone. It is only by asking ourselves difficult questions about our own conditioning and the role of race in ours’ and others’ experiences, like we have in the project, that we can really start to understand the role of race and racism in our society.”

Josh O’Shea is a 20-year-old artist. He said: “I feel this exhibition was a small step in the right direction. It shed light on a range of different perspectives and opinions about race. We know there is still a lot of work to do, but it’s great to have started the conversation.”

Desiree Worrell-Lear, 18, is a film-maker. She said: “I was really happy that so many people came to the exhibition and that they took the time to listen to the views expressed. Hopefully, we can show it elsewhere and keep the conversation going.”

Dr Wanda Wyporska, executive director of The Equality Trust, said: “I’m really proud of our young equality campaigners and their courage in raising such difficult issues around race and inequality. In the space of a few months, they have created an important piece of activist art, spoken to the UN’s special rapporteur and submitted their views on poverty to the Department for Work and Pensions. They are making their voices heard and those in power would do well to listen to them.”

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