After recent events in the United States, people all over the continent are banding together, including those here in London.
Sheina Hemstreet and Toni Taylor gathered with loved ones at Victoria Park on Thursday, for a “Circle of Solidarity,” where they hoped to raise awareness of love, acceptance and equality.
Sheina Hemstreet is a Caucasian woman, and says she was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, “[the movement] really made me question my own beliefs and my own thoughts, and the way that I have treated people my entire life.”
Though she doesn’t consider herself a racist individual, she admits she has had biases in the past. She decided to organize the Circle of Solidarity as an effort to start changing her way of thinking, “I’m willing to change. I’m willing to open up and to ask questions and talk to people, and hear their stories. And that’s what I wanted to do here today; see who was willing to also stand in that circle.”
She says it’s more than about sharing posts on Facebook, but about living your life in a way that promotes equality.
One thing she hopes to come of this event, and in the future, is the elimination of labels based on skin color and religion, “there should only be 2 labels. People that are good and people that are bad. It’s up to individuals to decide what is good and bad, but if we live strictly by those labels only, all the bad people would surface quite quickly. Instead we’re blinded by black people, Muslim people, white people.”
Since the Black Lives Matter movement has emerged, there has been some controversial responses, including the hashtag #alllivesmatter. Hemstreet says that all lives DO matter, but that’s exactly what the Black Lives Matter is all about.
Toni Taylor is a London resident and friend, who joined Hemstreet in the park. She adds that until black lives matter, all lives aren’t mattering, “we’re people too. We’re human too. When you’re pro-black, you’re not “anti” anything. We’re not anti-police, we’re not anti-white people. We just want to matter as well.”
The events in the US have had a mental impact on Taylor when it comes to raising her children, “I have a black son, who I’ve had to tell to watch your dealings when dealing with police. Although it’s not happening here, you don’t want no trouble, because you never know. And I don’t want to have to talk to my son about those things.”
Her personal goal of gathering in the park is to spread love and promote fairness and equality among black people, “we want a fair chance. We don’t want all of our black men to be looked at like they’re criminals and they’re thugs, because they’re not, and we know that.”
The two women hope to start a Facebook page to raise awareness, and hold a Circle of Solidarity in Victoria Park, on a monthly basis.