#BlackLivesMatter A Commitment to Continuing Education

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As the #blacklivesmatter movement has amplified following the death of George Floyd, I’ve learned that for those of us defining ourselves as “progressive allies” to the cause of anti-discrimination, there is still much work to be done continuing our education. 


As someone committed to understanding cultures, but also a white person involved in (and sometimes profiting from) African American artforms, it’s time for some self-reflection and continuing education. This post contains some of my initial thoughts:


This blog is about my love of understanding cultures, particularly those defined as “niche” to a “mainstream”, and to promote greater awareness in others. I believe this concept and goal will help lead to a better world- my education and life experiences have taught me that a lack of understanding can lead to fear, discrimination, and even violence. My starting point has been the cultures that I’m involved in (the “write what you know” adage) in an attempt to make a small contribution to this goal. These cultures are the Alt. and Goth scenes, and the swing dance scenes of Lindy Hop and Blues.


I grew up in predominantly white cultures. There were few people of colour at my Primary and Secondary schools, and at my University (Oxford), and the Alternative and Goth scenes are largely “white” (if many of their musical roots can be traced to distinctly non-white origins!). I only really began to learn about Black culture and histories specifically when I started dancing Lindy Hop, Jazz, and Blues in 2012. 


Lindy Hop, Jazz, and Blues are African American artforms. They do not come from my culture as a white, middle-class, English person. Outside of my day job, I profit from these artforms as I sometimes get paid to teach these dances to others. 


I am fortunate to have learned and continue to learn from teachers who actively made/make me aware of this history and encourage me to learn more so that I can do my best to participate in “cultural appreciation” rather than “cultural appropriation”. I have made some efforts through reading books on Blues and Swing music and dance histories, seeking out talks from Black artists, and watching documentaries and films on African American cultural history and Black histories within Europe and the UK. 


But this is not enough. I understand that this is not an “ending” and I’m not OK to rest up

It is also a policy of the Blues teaching team that I’m a part of in London to actively recognise this history in our classes. We often theme classes on particular African american Blues musicians, and teach classes focussed on dancers such as Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham. At the start of each beginner class we state that this music and dance originates in African American cultures and that Blues is significant as the first independent artform (outside the Church and gospel music) that African Americans had as “theirs” after centuries of slavery, in which creativity and expression were actively oppressed. I often quote Brother Yusef (a contemporary African American Blues musician): “Blues is about suffering and freedom”. 


But this is not enough. I understand that this is not an “ending” and I’m not OK to rest up. I’m making some effort in my little world, but the events of the past weeks have yet again demonstrated that there are deep problems in society, not just the US but the UK also. 


I realise that there is more I personally need and want to do to understand the experience of people of colour in predominantly white society (although I realise that I will never fully “understand”).  I want heightened empathy so I can be a better ally. 


I’m going to start with enhancing my education and awareness. On recommendation by several friends, I have started by listening to the audio book of “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. This is a book for those who identify as “pregressive” in their views towards race and encourages us to think through our racial position as white people, something we may not have thought about much before. I particularly like this quote from the blurb:


It is not enough to simply hold abstract progressive views and condemn the obvious racists on social media – change starts with us all at a practical, granular level, and it is time for all white people to take responsibility for relinquishing their own racial supremacy”


I have also been watching “Dear White People” on Netflix. This is about the African American students at a fictional Ivy League US University. The stories explore racial politics and follow how the different characters explore and express their racial and sexual identities. Even though it is a fictional story with lots of humour, I actually found it raised issues I’d not considered.


This is just a small start- I’ll be looking into the following resources below- take a look if you’re interested in learning more too:


Anti-racism training: here.


Link to many resources (books, TV, documentaries, podcast etc) from my friend, Dr Abigail Bose: here.


Make a donation to the Black Lives Matter movement: here



I likely haven’t got things “right” here, and feel a bit nervious about sticking my neck out, but I belive that saying nothing can be the same as doing nothing on issues like this.  I’ll update with progress and please get in touch if you have constructive suggestions. Thanks for reading, stay safe xxx



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