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The Tetley and engaging with Black Lives Matter - Jermaine Ranger

Whilst a lot of our thoughts are rightly focused towards this global pandemic, coronavirus, lockdown restrictions, etc, I just wanted to share my thoughts, observations and experiences relating to another important subject, which is Black Lives Matter.

What does Black Lives Matter actually mean? 

This whole movement and global discussion sparked to life a few months ago, when camera footage was recorded of the brutal murder of George Floyd by a member of the police department in the United States of America.  This was heart felt all over the world by many, and led to discussions around police brutality, racism, etc, but more importantly brought people together from all walks of life, backgrounds, races, colours and religions to stand together, with an aim to try to come up with solutions to a lot of the problems which Black people are facing all over the world.

As a result of this, a campaign was launched which was named Black Lives Matter, which in simple terms means; 'Black Lives matter just as much as anyone else's.'  This campaign was and still is aiming to tackle all the issues we talked about above, by ensuring black people have a voice, can create a structure whereby we can demand equality, and overall we can be classed as a human race not a separate race.

How have I supported this movement?

Whilst a lot of the communities that I have grown up around, other areas within the UK and the rest of the world, people of all races were coming together and marching or protesting following the death of George Floyd.  This was not the first time an incident of this nature had occurred, I have seen protests come and go without any major improvement in relation to equality for Black people.  Something inside of me wanted to do more than march or protest and having had discussions with friends and family members it was apparent they too felt the same and wanted to approach the issues from another angle.  After the discussion we came to the same conclusions; The main global tool which can be used to get a voice heard is 'Wealth'.  A great way of building wealth is to set up economic and financial structures within the black community.  So many other communities around the world have good economic structures in place, which gives them to power to make change.  The black community does not have this sort of composition, locally or globally.  After discussing this is great detail, my cousin Jaidee Saddler decided to set up a facebook group called Black Owned Economy, and her aim was to take the first steps towards building a network of black owned businesses from anywhere around world to support, interact and engage with one another.  When the group began to grow Jaidee then brought on board us as family members and close friends to help assist with the moderating of the group.  The most important aspect of Black Owned Economy is to build the members and businesses within the group to accumulate wealth for themselves and us as a community.

Black Owned Economy has been going for approximately 4 months and we have nearly 150,000 members from all over the world.  The Black Owned Economy group is now running on multiple platforms, including having its own website, where you can buy or sell any range of products and services from black owned businesses.  Black Owned Economy holds a number of shows during the week which allows businesses and professionals to showcase and offer their expertise to the group, which enables the enhancement of businesses and individuals within the group.  For example there is an online room where specific topics are discussed with an interactive forum between business person/s or professionals and group members.  There is also a live weekly promo show where 4 businesses get 15 minutes each, to answer questions and promote their business. With so much more planned for the future of Black Owned Economy, I think this is a great way for us to do our part in making a change.

What have The Tetley done to support this movement?

In my opinion, The Tetley has always been a very diverse place to work.  It employs members of staff of all ages, races and backgrounds. It offers a full range of functions from a contemporary art gallery, to a bar/kitchen, to event booking spaces, which means it always aims to target a very eclectic audience.

The Tetley has always been committed to supporting works and artists, both locally and from all over the world, especially in parts of Asia and Africa, who have featured in some of the more recent exhibitions.  We have also worked very closely with the Leeds West Indian Carnival in the past, and I know they were also part of an exhibition at The Tetley just before I started working here.

In my job as a Facilities Manager at The Tetley, when looking at procuring certain building maintenance and services contracts, because of my links with Black Owned Economy, I now include some of those businesses in the tender process.

On our internet homepage, we have a statement of support towards the Black Lives Matter movement, showing solidarity and support in relation to equal rights and opportunities.

Obviously, as with most organisations, there are always more things they can do to show even more support, and below are a few ideas I have had in which The Tetley may be able to achieve this:

  • Regular Reviews of Racism/Discrimination Policies – We do have these policies in place, but how often are they reviewed, discussed, updated, or amended?
  • Learning Development – We had a team/staff learning session last year about diversity/discrimination/etc, I think more of these types of things would be really beneficial to all members of staff, because we all come from such a varied background.
  • Support for staff members – Some members of staff may be directly/indirectly affected by some sort of racism or discrimination. Are we linked to the right support networks so our staff feel comfortable sharing this with someone at The Tetley?
  • Speaking Out – I mentioned about The Tetley putting a message of support to BLM on their website, but is there more that The Tetley can do as an organisation in support of human rights and anti-racism?
  • Support BLM charities – When I say support I don't necessarily mean funding. I mean working alongside local BLM charities in collaboration of some sort.

I think a lot of the ideas I have mentioned fall in line with The Tetley's vision and mission statement, so it wouldn't take too much more effort to incorporate some if not all of these ideas.  Overall The Tetley is somewhere where I am proud to work, and it will always strive for excellence, so I know it will do all that it can to support this movement.

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