Response Track: ‘The Myth of Light-skin Privilege.’

By Janine Francois

Intro

Dear Kilby, (and all my light-skinned / mixed-race feminist and non-feminists women)

I write this feeling hurt but equally hopeful, that this can be reclaimed as a safe space for darker-skinned black women.

Verse 1:

Oppressed people can internalise white patriarchal supremacy.

Kilby, your piece reminded me of all the conversations I have had with black men and white women about black women’s issues, yet only for them to dismiss and silence me; this is how privilege works. So when I read your opening sentence, “It has occurred to me that there is a need to address this long standing animosity between those who identify as being black and those who identify as mixed race…” I thought, does this “animosity” have any connection to darker-skinned black women calling out lighter-skinned / mixed-raced women in how they are complicit in their oppression.  The type of complicity, where a group of girlfriends go out for the night to have a black or white man totally disrespect their friend and not saying anything or worse she disrespect her in front of them? Or even the kind of complicity where lighter-skinned / mixed-race children are treated better than their darker-skinned siblings by the adult members in their family.  The type of “animosity” where no one says anything and manifest as a patched up oozing wound in our community, with the potential destruction to black women’s self-esteem? Does skin bleaching come to anyone’s mind?

Anyway, I digress. I felt very angry when you did not offer any solutions to the issues you raised. I accept that colourism is neither your creation nor your fault. By choosing to ignore it or hoping it will magically disappear one day is you exerting your privilege, “…we are all aware that colourism is by no means a new phenomenon… does its extensive history not make our involvement in its perpetuation even more ridiculous?… then why is it that we indulge in petty disputes which in the end could only work to serve a patriarchal agenda?” It is possible that I missed this memo, so whilst I catch up, I would like to highlight the “pettiness” of darker-skinned black women serving longer sentences than their lighter-skinned counterparts.

Bridge:

There are some mixed-raced / lighter-skinned black women (and men) who can and do “pass” for white, in fact there is a whole herstory of this. I get it, it’s a survival tactic under white supremacy, they are playing the rules of the game that people-of-colour did not create. If being able to “pass” means access to better job opportunities, education, housing, respect and not getting shot by the police; I certainly can not and will not blame anyone for choosing to play that card.  It is a no brainer. But dark-skinned women will never get a chance to play that card.

Chorus:

During slavery (whilst I was not there) I would imagine that mixed-raced / light skinned people received little rejection from black community, and this legacy is present today. Black folks do not hospitalise each other for having a mixed-race grandchild. What often happen are black families accommodating this child (in particularly mixed-raced children) especially when it comes to hair care needs. As an aunty of a mixed-race baby niece and a teenage nephew, for the latter who had to teach him about his hair texture; and without fail every Sunday my brother brings his daughter so, my mum, sister or I can do her hair.  Black women in such family dynamics are expected by their black male relatives to perform such duties and this is how black patriarchy works (my mother has put an embargo on this, as we’ve all had enough). I have never heard of this happening to white female relatives.

Verse 2:

Kilby, you are a mixed-race woman and I am a brown-skinned black woman, our images are everywhere. It is easier for us to find positive images of women who look like us along with the many negative ones too; we are the acceptable face of blackness. I set you the challenge to name 10 dark-skinned Black British female personalities. I apologise for setting you up to fail. It is a dangerous game when what is constituted as ugly is not read in how white supremacy permeates our interpersonal contexts, “Some heterosexual black women may feel that some men stating a preference for mixed race women is a denigration of their beauty,” sometimes I truly wished I lived in a vacuum. The kind of place where a black man feels no-shame in telling me, “the lighter you go the easier it is to deal with,” (yes those words of poetry were spoken to me). Or when statistics tell us that as a collective black men are dating outside their race with particular interest in white women; and when Zoe Saldana has been cast as Nina Simone and she sees absolutely nothing wrong in that decision. Reality sinks in and I succumb to how these interpersonal and systematic experiences all meet at the crossroads, congregating under the signs that reads: “black women you be ugly, if you blacker you be uglier.”

Chorus:

I don’t appreciate being told by white men, black men, white women and now you, “once you unpick these issues there really isn’t much ‘privilege’ at all.” It is dismissive and avoids responsibility this is what privilege is.

Outro

Suggestions on challenging colourism;

  1. Dispelling stereotypes like, dark-skinned women hate themselves, are desperate or have an attitude problem.
  2. Listen, reflect, then some more listening and reflection, BUT do not interrupt when speaking (it is bad manners).
  3. Hold White and Black patriarchy for accountable for colourism and invisibility of darker-skinned black women especially in cultural production.  Kilby please hold these institutions accountable and not darker-skinned black women.
  4. Call it out, put whoever needs putting in their place, one time.
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The Myth of Light-skin Privilege

By Kelby Williams

0

It has occurred to me that there is a need to address this long standing animosity between those who identify as being black and those who identify as mixed race (for the sake of continuity and my personal preference let’s settle on this term). Now, we’re all aware that colourism is by no means a new phenomenon amongst any race but, if anything, does its extensive history not make our involvement in its perpetuation even more ridiculous? If we’re to assume – and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do so – that we share, as a collective, the goal of unapologetic, uncompromising female liberation, then why is it that we indulge in petty disputes which in the end could only work to serve a patriarchal agenda?

The prejudiced views held by some black women against mixed race women , and even other black women with lighter skin, are based largely on a perceived privilege enjoyed by said women. So if this is the foundation of the intolerance, let’s analyse the reality of these ‘privileges’ and to what extent our experiences actually differ. The first privilege enjoyed by us lighter folk; a free pass with some racists who say we’re not ‘one of them’. Now, let me point out that while some racists choose to accept us by focusing on a fraction of our heritage, most don’t make any differentiation. As has been stated by many in the past ‘we’re all niggers to them’ which is to say that these people inflict the same abuses on both mixed race and black people. This isn’t however to say that this so-called privilege doesn’t exist. I have experienced this and know that it does. However, what is it that is so fortunate about others feeling it is OK to be racist around us? Why should I feel privileged when someone says to me ‘I hate niggers’ and I’m supposed to be passive in my response or even agree because ‘it’s OK, I’m not one of them.’?

When people are racist around mixed race people, expecting them to accept it, it is a clear demonstration of a societal view that our racial identity is somehow illegitimate. It is an assumption made by these people that we have chosen a ‘side’ as it were – and naturally their superiority complex means that it would of course be ‘their’ side. So this acceptance from some racists is predicated on the assumption that we have rejected the influence of our black heritage on our identity, and those of us who choose not to are considered to be black and subject to their hatred. This leaves mixed race people rejected by both societal groups which make up their heritage. What is it about that, that we should feel so grateful for?

The second major source of friction between black and mixed race women – which I believe isn’t discussed for fear of appearing arrogant – is a perceived preference by some (particularly black) males, for mixed race females. Some heterosexual black women may feel that some men stating a preference for mixed race women is a denigration of their beauty. And with the vast underrepresentation of black women and the unending cultural appropriation from white media outlets it would appear that mixed race and otherwise lighter-skinned women have managed to go unhindered. However when we look at these particular racially orientated males who claim to ‘love’ mixed race women, we see how in fact that’s not the face value compliment you may think. I for one don’t enjoy being objectified and fetishised for something that is beyond my control. These men view the fact that a woman is mixed race above all other characteristics as a ‘trophy’, dehumanising and devaluing us, reducing us to the intersection of a Venn diagram.

These are just two of the issues I believe to be contributing factors to tension between lighter and darker skinned women, but as we’ve seen once you unpick these issues there really isn’t much ‘privilege’ at all.

 

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Neoliberalism and the extinction of the feminist movement

 By Sonia Soans

Over the last few years India has seen a growth in the economy which has had an effect on our lifestyles. This newfound wealth is not equally distributed which is a matter of contention however this article will not look at that those conflicts. I am interested in way neoliberalism has been absorbed into the feminist movement and presented in the language of ‘choice’ ‘freedom’ and ‘empowerment’. Open the cover of any popular women’s magazine and it conflates lifestyle choices with feminism. Taking a bath with a new soap is presented as an act of revolution, buying clothes from a certain brand are reflective not only of personality but thought to make a profound social statement.

Choice has become a deciding factor in one’s decisions. This unhistorical, asocial idea of the individual presents itself as liberation, freeing people from past oppressions. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the way neoliberal language is used to talk about women’s issues. Contentious issues have been replaced with the notion of choice. Women’s choice is thought to be the deciding factor in their lives. They are presented as autonomous and in sole control of making decisions. While absolute autonomy would be ideal at the moment it does not exist and cannot exist. Indian women’s choices largely are dictated by their families, social, cultural and national norms. Some of these norms are oppressive some of them necessary in a civil society. The oppressive exist with the mundane but the mundane have subsumed the oppressive making them seem non-existent. For some women in India living a free life without answering to patriarchal power is a reality, sadly they are a minority.

FeminismChoice has the effect of producing neutrality, a false sense of it at least. Making normal anything that can be contentious into an issue of taste acquired in a free market economy. Modern neoliberal feminism does exactly that it tells women their decisions are a matter of choice with no ethical or political entanglements. Enhancing one’s body aesthetically is presented as a purely personal indulgent being both narcissistic and in denial of the male gaze at the same time. Narcissistic because it is inward looking, self obsessed. In denial of the male gaze because even though these modifications are presented as there is a sense of being seen as attractive, creating presentations of pure femininity to an ever present male gaze. Cosmetic surgery is now no longer taboo it is normalised as being an economic and personal choice. Yes women can have their bodies enhanced cosmetically but it is a pseudo argument of choice undermines the larger question of why do women have to look a certain way. Interestingly the cosmetic norm is dependent on elitist women, fair skin, slender bodies perfect in shape and size. High caste women, white women, women who have had adequate health care are the norms. Further investigations into these choices reveals they are connected to more than one kind of oppression, class caste, race and even disability.

The hyper aesthetic nature of this new feminism makes it seem less credible and elitist. For most women in India the grim reality of looking fairer with blemish free skin is not a choice but a form of oppression. Their bodies becoming a source of voyeuristic interest. This trend is reflected in films and the way Bollywood film stars have become brand ambassadors  of social causes. Promoting skin lightening cream alongside supporting education of the girl child, obvious contradictions.

What is presented as choice for the new economically privileged classes is not a choice for those who work to produce these ‘choices’ for them. Women who work in garment factories did not have a choice. These material acts of empowerment and choice come at a price and are only a mask to hide exploitation using the language of liberation. The issue is not so much that women have a choice in wearing make up or dressing in a certain way but that the power is still in the hands of the oppressors and women are now willing participants in this oppression. Some of these choices have been available to women for a long time, however now they are treated as personal expressions without consequences. Morality and debate have been treated as dirty words as if the personal was only personal. Even the feminist slogan of the personal as political has been usurped while the personal is indeed political every choice is not worthy of being politicised. The effect of these new freedoms instead of producing equality has polarised groups who see themselves as being usurped by an all neutralising economy. Women in cities and villages are presented as opposites with different interests.

In short one must be suspicious of any movement that speaks the language of those in power. Words such as ‘freedom’ and ‘empowerment’ mean nothing on their own but in conjunction with other things become powerful. Feminism is needed now as much as it was before. Women’s bodies are not playing fields of economic elitist powers.

 

Sonia Soans – is currently pursuing a PhD in Psychology in Manchester (UK). Her work focuses on the intersections of mental illness, gender, sexuality and culture and how they produce narratives which are tied to nationalism. Twitter id -@SoniaSoanspsy

 

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#SHUTDOWNYARLSWOOD

By Sam

Yarl’s Wood is a detention centre in Bedfordshire where women fleeing for their lives from oppressive governments and authorities around the world can be detained indefinitely despite committing no crime. Detainees have reported alleged psychological, physical and sexual abuse by Yarl’s Wood staff.

Shutdown Yarl’s Wood campaigners at the first demonstration held in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens on 21st June 2014, told Black Feminists Manchester why they came out to support the campaign.

Aderonke Apata of MiSol and WAST said she was here‘… to demonstrate against Yarl’s Wood, we want to get Yarl’s Wood shut down because it’s not fit for purpose. That’s why Safety for Sisters, WAST and MISOL have rallied around and put together this amazing demonstration, in support of women who have been to Yarl’s Wood before, who are in Yarl’s Wood now and who UKBA are thinking and planning to take into Yarl’s Wood – we want Yarl’s Wood shutdown.’

Aderonke Apata at the Shut Down Yarl's Wood Demo Manchester. Photo courtesy of Kat MiSol

Aderonke Apata at the Shut Down Yarl’s Wood Demo Manchester.
Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Aderonke has been a driving force in this campaign, you can read more about her experience as an asylum seeker, detainee of Yarl’s Wood and campaigner in her interview for Black Feminists Manchester.

Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Rossella of Manchester Feminist Network spoke in solidarity to the 200 strong crowd of supporters, she later told us she is protesting against Yarl’s Wood…’because as a woman and a feminist I find it unacceptable that women are suffering all sorts of violence and are not helped and supported.’

Vicky Marsh - Safety for Sisters North West Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Vicky Marsh – Safety for Sisters North West  Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

 

Vicky Marsh of Safety for Sisters Northwest told us she was here ‘…with WAST and MISOL in solidarity protesting about Yarl’s Wood. S4S was set up to try and get some proper services for women fleeing domestic abuse , that had immigration issues or were European and couldn’t get housing benefit and they had been denied access because of their status, so refuges were turning them away and they couldn’t get support.

We decided we need to be here to represent S4S because what’s happening is these very same women that are very vulnerable and open to further exploitation are now actually being locked up like criminals. But not only that, they are facing abuse and further sexual violence actually in the prison. We think that this is unacceptable as when they are free in Manchester and being refused services, it’s the extreme end, so it was important for S4S to have a presence here and recognize how brave it has been for the WAST women to come out and talk about Yarl’s Wood. We are right behind them. Those women who have talked about Yarl’s Wood when they are in the prison, some of them have been deported because of doing so, some have been sent to women’s prisons and some of them are here today with us.

It’s really important to help them have a voice because the next thing the government want to do is stop them getting civil legal aid so they can’t tackle the government about unlawful detention, about sexual abuse that’s going on and about the police not investigating it properly, which has been happening. We have a woman who is in WAST, who has successfully sued SERCO for the abuse, successfully sued the Home Office for wrongful detention and is also suing the police for not investigating the abuse she reported while she was in there. Now these voices are going to get silenced, so it’s important lots of women’s groups get together and fight to get Yarl’s Wood shutdown as soon as possible and all the other detention centres that are doing the same.’

Kat of MiSol stated she was ‘… not just here as an organiser but as someone who wholeheartedly supports the women who have been through Yarl’s Wood been through any detention centre, the women that are in there right now and any other people that are in a detention centre, because it really is a rotten system and Yarl’s Wood is the tip of the iceberg.

I think it’s worse because it’s violence against women and also children are in there. So I’m here out of complete disgust at what the government think is acceptable and how people keep telling us about it and I think it’s really good to have this kind of event to raise awareness, because if people really knew what happens in Yarl’s Wood, how people treat asylum seekers in general, as not part of the community but something less than, they should get angry and close Yarl’s Wood down.’

Throughout the demonstration, organisers from various activist groups joined on stage in solidarity and spoke about the need to end the unfair treatment of asylum seekers and to shut down Yarl’s Wood.  Aderonke told us, this was the first of many demonstrations to come, she urges people to support the campaign and keep raising awareness until Yarl’s Wood is finally shut down.

 

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The Death of Stuart Hall – Why Blackness is Best When it is Dead

By Sonia Soans

The recent death of Stuart Hall was promptly met with furious social media activity. It was a sad event. However it’s ironic how we mourn the death of well known black academic and forget racism is still alive and kicking in British society. We all know the statistics we know we still bear the brunt of white supremacy. Black men are likely to end up in jail we know this all too well.

Where is the racism you might ask Britain is an ‘equal opportunities’ nation, on paper- yes. The no dogs no blacks signs are gone, no one has ever called me rude names in public. Racism is still around. Week after week my British –Asian flatmate returns home from lectures about race and post colonialism taught by white men and women. Now there is nothing wrong with white men and women many of whom have worked hard to get to that position but where are the people of colour in academia? Why aren’t we the ones teaching people about our  issues around race and culture? The same university my flatmate goes to has lots of Asian students in the business school very few in the social sciences out of that number very few are ones in charge of teaching. So things are not bad we are not intentionally excluded or are they?

Things have changed since the days of Stuart Hall the ‘blacks not allowed’ signs have been taken down invisible signs exist in these places.  There are unwritten rules about race segregation, a city like Manchester is still divided into ghettos. The nicer areas tend to be all white and we have a politically correct word for it – gentrification. The word has come to be associated with white affluent classes. Walk outside and university students seem to divide themselves into convenient racially segregated groups. It seems to be an unwritten rule move in your racial, ethnic, national circle. Diversity bubbles burst soon and everyone seems to sink into automatic segregation.

The same thing happens in class the few undergraduate classes I have been to I have felt what it means to be brown. These were not the subtle comments but blatant ‘what is she saying? I can’t understand you.’ No one has ever complained of that before. I manage to make myself understood everywhere else except in university. I am lucky to work with people who are older than the average undergraduate I never seem to face that problem there.

Our absence in academia is obvious, we are spoken about with a sense of nostalgia as if we are abstract things not people. Often I feel like my opinion in these matters is not needed, when I correct people and present facts I am whitewashed or over thinking. There seems to be a discomfort when it comes to discussing issues that matter. The Delhi Gang Rape Case of 2012 made international headlines most of my friends expressed their grief after that died down there were calls not to talk about the perpetrators nationality or not to bring up the condition under which they committed the crime. While I can see why this is an issue what about the victim? This was about her why did it turn to an issue of race? I have been to events where when black men challenge stereotypes they are shouted down or worse still silence follows. It’s the silence which is the most disturbing, because it seems deliberate and yet it is polite.

The subtle racism that exists in society seems harder to fight because it benign and takes us up our concerns, but flips them around in a nasty way. Take for example films and television. We now see black people on screen but we all know the black guy dies first. He is expendable almost like we are. While we are represented on screen we are represented badly on the margins, making quick appearances. Stuart Hall seems to fit into the same category he is dead now and glorified, we can now make him big in death and forget what he stood for. While some of people who mourned did so for genuine reasons most of us did it in the heat of the moment.

Photograph of Stuart Hall, taken from John Akomfrah's film The Stuart Hall Project.

(Photo of Stuart Hall, taken from John Akomfrah’s film The Stuart Hall Project)

Stuart Hall is dead may he rest in peace. His work taught us a lot but the battle is not over our society needs to keep the debates alive, slip into complacency and our hard fought achievements might be lost. Now more than ever we need to address racism not in the language of a generation before us. Their oppressions were different from ours but they are oppression nonetheless.

Sonia Soans is a PhD scholar at MMU. An adopted Mancunian she is an Indian psychologist who has only just discovered her brand of feminism is coloured.  Her work focuses on how nationality and addiction intersect to produce discourses of women who transgress these boundaries. Twitter @SoniaSoanspsy

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Sentenced To Death For Being A Lesbian

Originally posted on New Missive:

I recently received an email from All Out with the story of Aderonke from Nigeria. Aderonke is a lesbian. She’s been sentenced to death for being a lesbian. She managed to flee to the UK, where her case is still being decided, but three members of her family have already been killed because of her sexuality. The law in Nigeria is harsh and ruthless, yet they are still considering deporting her. Although there will be no shortage of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK who are fleeing the punishment for their sexuality, this could become a landmark case.Should Britain deport Aderonke because of who she loves?

Theresa May’s already said that some people have been forced to submit video of themselves having sex or answer humiliating questions during hours of interrogation. And, many people who provide evidence to the Home Office that they will be jailed or killed for who they love have been deported back into…

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Aderonke Apata: On Movement for Justice, Immigration, Asylum, Refuge and LGBT

By Sam

Aderonke Apata, a lesbian asylum seeker fleeing death threats and or imprisonment under anti gay laws in Nigeria is currently under threat of deportation from the UK back to Nigeria. She set up Movement for Justice campaigning group in Manchester and speaks to Black Feminists Manchester about her personal case and calls for change of the current immigration, refugee and asylum system.

Aderonke article photo z

 Interviewer: ‘Why did you set up Movement for Justice in Manchester?’

Aderonke: ‘I set up Movement for Justice (MfJ)  in Manchester because there is so many injustices going on in the asylum seeking and immigration system that I think people should be aware of, and so that immigrants and asylum seekers here can have support from MfJ who has been solely London based, I thought it was something worthwhile as I have been and still being supported by them. MfJ do a lot of campaigning for immigrants and asylum seekers, LGBT groups and they have been at the forefront for quite a number of years now and have always been successful in their fights.

I was detained in Yarl’s Wood that was when I first came into contact with MfJ. I first started working with them in 2012; I formed a MFJ Group in Yarl’s Wood which is still waxing strong there; that led to so much publicity about the ‘rotten culture’ of Yarl’s Wood management being exposed. All the injustices and unfair treatments of detained immigrants and asylum seekers fleeing all sorts of abuse women routinely face around the world such as rape, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual abuse, forced marriage, anti-gay persecution, trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, ‘honour’ killing etc being exposed to the public following the peaceful demonstration that I led inside the centre and MfJ were able to help with that publicity.

So I thought setting up an MfJ where I live will allow me to give more support to people like me in the asylum system and who really need their voices to be heard and need so much support from people and challenging all this bureaucracy and hypocrisy of policies around immigration and asylum seeking. These are the reasons why I set it up in Manchester.

Right now nearly every organisation and groups supporting asylum seekers and immigrants are joining in to campaign to shut down detention centres, which makes me glad as MFJ has been able to expose the psychological, mental, emotional effects detention is having on asylum detainees and the illegality of detention centres.’

I: ‘How does MfJ campaign and how can people support?’

A: ‘We have several ways we campaign in MfJ, because as a movement it involves everybody. Not a particular sector of the community or society whatever you are British, non British, asylum seeker or not.

We advocate on people’s behalf if given the authority, with their solicitors, different support agencies that could assist in their asylum claims. Support people at their appeal hearings in court etc.

We go out, we do demonstrations in Home Office buildings, we go to reporting centres to campaign, we have leaflets all over the place, we have public hearings, people come and give testimonies about what they have witnessed as their treatment of the asylum seeking process – awareness raising.

If anyone was under imminent threat of deportation, we contact the airline not to collude with the UKBA, ask people to do so, go to airport to speak to other passengers on the flight and raise awareness of the person’s plight for their support in influencing the pilot not to fly the person etc.

Also we have campaigns like online petitions where people’s stories are being told to the whole world. We believe that anybody that is bold enough to publish what they are going through, I’m not saying that the other people that cannot publish their petition or cases are not telling the truth, don’t get me wrong, because there are some people who are not bold enough, they don’t have that courage to go public about what is happening to them , for some people who are bold enough and can go public, MfJ does support such people to launch petitions online, call for support of their situation, then we take the signatures forward to the Home Office. The ones that aren’t bold enough to launch online petitions are equally supported in whatever way they are comfortable with.

We hold rallies, meetings, talks, we raise awareness, there are several ways people can support us, one is to attend weekly meetings in Manchester, which is usually on Tuesdays at 1.30pm at St. James’ Church in Higher Broughton, Salford.

You can share your own experiences, we encourage people to come to rallies, sign petitions, donate because MfJ does not take money from the government because it is a political organisation that stands up to the government, so we rely on what people can give us or what we can raise ourselves.

If people want to donate they can see how to donate on the MfJ website. Come to our meetings and spread the news, talk about it in your churches, in your mosques, in the school, your universities, be aware of what is wrong and what we want to right. Infact that is the most important way to support a movement really, being part of a movement and being able to fight a good cause.’

I: ‘You’re currently part of the asylum seeking system; tell us more about your personal journey.’

A: ‘ It’s a very very long journey, it’s not been an easy journey, it started about 10 years ago, but lately it’s been quite inundated with refusals, if you have seen my own online petition, where I have to cry out to the world about what I am going through; which I do not have to, because being a lesbian is not what I ever wanted to talk about with anyone … in fact even if you’re not a lesbian I don’t think sexuality is what we should publicise, as I think it’s a private thing to anybody. But for me to go the length of doing an online petition that everybody in the whole world is able to read and talking about what is private in my life. That tells you how desperate point I am at being faced with deportation and for whoever to take the decision to NOT believe what and who I say I am, being a lesbian, other people have the right to their privacy, heterosexual people, they don’t have to prove they are heterosexuals.

It’s nerve wracking to have to prove you are a lesbian or gay person to the UK government. When it comes to claiming asylum based on your sexuality it is a very ,very big war, because they won’t believe you to start with, that’s not just particular to anyone claiming homosexuality, the unbelief culture is across the board for anybody claiming asylum, anybody who is an immigrant, they just don’t believe us, so then when claiming homosexuality it’s another big problem because there is no way you can prove your sexuality to anybody who is not your partner or has the prior knowledge of your sexuality but it’s made so nerve wracking, that now have you video record what you do with your partner, in privacy, and send it to the Home Office as evidence for your sexuality.

It makes me so sad we have to go to this length, it’s like you’re producing pornography, that is the way it looks to me because you have to make love to your partner and you have to record it and send it to whoever is going to make a decision on your case, it is that serious.

So I have been through so much, even though it’s not been very easy for me to come out at the beginning, because where I was born I was never out and nobody was out or out now, I’ve been in the closet for maybe over 20 yrs of my life that I could remember, could not talk about my sexuality to anybody. The only girlfriend I had knew and just one other close friend of ours so I could not talk about it, even when I came to the UK I could not come out and say I’m a gay person, it took me a very long time to have the confidence to come out and even talk about it and claim asylum based on my sexuality and that to me is quite harrowing and horrific what I have to go through, not only that I’ve been locked up in prison locked up in detention centre, just because I am claiming asylum.

When I was back home (Nigeria) I was locked up because I was a lesbian, I was arrested by the police and had to pay a bribe so I didn’t go to court for that but in the UK I have been detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for nearly a year just because I am claiming asylum in this country.

I have worked illegally because I had no recourse to public funds, no house or support in any form from the government and I have to eat. I can’t peddle drugs, claim benefits that I am not entitled to and do all sorts so I went to work, I was sent to prison for working. I was paying tax and NI when I was working, I wasn’t evading tax.

My experience of the asylum system is so mixed, it’s giving me this thought that coming to seek asylum in this country is like you have signed yourself off to go to jail, which is what I don’t think it should be, because so many policies are set up for people to fail and nothing more than that.

I was with my partner for 20yrs in Nigeria before I flee to the UK in 2004, but I was informed in 2012 that my partner in Nigeria was killed brutally by vigilantes who found out she was a lesbian and she was going out with me and they killed her.

I’ve had several death threat letters from them, and some other individuals calling me all sorts of names, being sodomised, ready to set me ablaze if I come to Nigeria, so it’s heartbreaking and terrifying if I have to return to Nigeria, it’s not an option for me anyway, because I am out in the UK, even in the UK I’ve had homophobic attacks from Nigerian women in Yarl’s Wood for a period of almost a year were physically and verbally always attacking me, calling me names.

Even in Manchester I was physically  attacked by a woman I didn’t even know, I presume she was Nigerian, who said ‘ I don’t know if you are a man or a woman but I know what you are, you are one of them that suck women’s pussy’ which I reported to the police. If I was in Nigeria I would not be able to report to the police because it would mean going to the government and report myself for homosexuality! So who would I have gone to call to come to my rescue?’

I: ‘It’s essential we address the political and historical root causes relating to immigration, refuge and asylum systems, hearing about your experience of seeking asylum and reasons for setting up MfJ, how can we best examine the underpinnings of the systems to build further momentum to make positive change?

A: ‘ We need to be aware of the fact that, changes to the asylum system in the UK predate the colonial era, looking at the fact that the door was opened for people to come to this country, for instance from India, Nigeria where I come from, Africa, even Jamaica for them to be used as workers to develop this country.

At that point in time there was no restriction saying you cannot live in this country, but I think now, we’ve been made to develop this country, which I am proud of and want to be a part of this country, but looking at what is happening to me and looking inwards I’m beginning to think ok though it’s a case of we’ve been used and we’ve been dumped and because we don’t need you again, you don’t need to be here again, but above all there is a political aspect to it, wanting to use the immigrants and asylum seekers as scapegoats for any political party to score goals, so they are seen as a party that is in control of bringing down immigration numbers, but that’s not the real thing.

Why do we have all this political scoring to start with? Because I can’t see any need for it, I’ve listened to the news; I’ve read in the newspapers there are so many people talking about the fact that there is no evidence to show that asylum seekers and immigrants add any strain to this country in terms of NHS or benefits.

There is so much documented evidence showing that we do not strain this country , we come into the UK we want to be a part of it and want to build a UK that is prosperous and accommodating, we want to make it a good community to live because we are fleeing our country. It’s not because we just want to come here and start claiming benefits.

We have good skills we are educated and we can contribute positively to this country, and they know this, but because of political reasons they have to make us scapegoats in the name of wanting to control the immigration numbers, which I think is very sad.

Looking at the fact that most people, when you trace your roots, most people were immigrants to this country, why is it becoming so difficult for them to embrace immigrants or asylum seekers now? So it makes me think, one, it’s political, secondly it is racism, and when I talk about sexuality claims I want to say it is homophobic what they are doing to anybody of my sexual orientation.

Look at people who are fleeing to this country because they are victims of human trafficking. A lady was detained in Yarl’s Wood said to me she went to claim asylum because she was raped, she was a victim of torture in an area in the Congo or something where there is war, and she said the immigration officer said to her’ no you were not raped I’m sure those soldiers were having fun sleeping with you’ and I was like goodness me how can an officer representing this country say that to somebody who was fleeing torture and telling you they were a subject of rape, gang raping, and then you say ‘ no I’m sure you enjoyed it and those guys were having fun’. How does that translate to any human feelings?

There is so much embedded in this system that you cannot unstrand. The minute you start to unstrand one you are entangled into another one, it’s so complicated, there is so much racism and homophobia in it, and this is why even when their own agents are being abusive to immigrants and asylum seekers, it doesn’t mean anything to them, that’s what they want anyway, to frustrate you and send you back to whoever is torturing you, I don’t think that is fair and proper.

Looking at the petition I would say the support has been very high and I would encourage people to keep supporting and keep signing for us to gather the signatures and take it to the Home Office in support of my asylum claim.’

You can sign Aderonke’s petition here

Movement for Justice meetings are held at:

St James Rectory, Great Cheetham St,Salford M7 4UH http://www.achurchnearyou.com/higher-broughton-st-james/

Movement for Justice contact details:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/movementforjustice/

Email: mfjmanchester@gmail.com

Web: http://www.movementforjustice.org/

Tel: 07448 483914

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