We stand in solidarity with all who are striving to ensure that the urgent call from the Black Lives Matter movement to address racism is met with clear action from us all.

Whilst expressions of solidarity are important and silence is not an option, it is actions that are needed to effect change. Calling out racism is hugely important but it is the undertaking of anti-racist work which is critical for change to happen.

CHIVA is fundamentally committed to rights and equality and this ethos is at the heart of all of our work. In light of the death of George Floyd and the community mobilisation that followed, our first response was to provide support to the young people we work with. We acknowledge the impact that this movement may have on their emotional wellbeing: in particular emotional pain from seeing footage of George Floyd’s death and further accounts and experiences of violence and brutality.

We provided virtual support spaces for young people to share their feelings, with support from staff and providing connections with their peers. This was particularly important during a time where the usual sources of social support were not available for many young people. From these spaces, personal stories of racism began to be told. For some it was sharing how difficult it can be to be one of very few black people living in a particular area; how people around them may have a very limited understanding of racism and different ethnicities. Young people endure comments about hair and appearance etc., or are asked to ‘explain racism’ to their friends when people question whether racism is ‘still a problem here’. It can be emotionally exhausting for young black people to feel responsible for correcting misinformation and pulling up people who make racist comments. Others described being targeted for police searches and feeling they have to be twice as good as their white peers to achieve their aspirations because of the structural barriers of racism.

The idea of offering a Black Lives Matter virtual protest space came about through these conversations with young people, and wanting to offer an alternative opportunity to the street protests many young people had chosen not to join because of health concerns around COVID-19. Three young adults lead the virtual event. Music was played and young people shared their own poems and artwork with impromptu sharing of thoughts, feelings and experiences. A two minute silence was held for reflection and a viewing of photographs from Black Lives Matter protests, taken by one of the participants.

Our hope for this meeting was that young people would have the opportunity to come together and be heard in a space held for them. This generated some clear calls to action to address ongoing racism.

Calls to action

1. Racism in schools must be addressed

Schools play a hugely important role in young people’s lives. Racism can manifest in schools in implicit and explicit forms, from poor cultural competence and unconscious bias among staff to racist abuse experienced by students. Schools need to effectively address racism and black students need to feel understood, represented and supported. There need to be clear and effective channels for students to raise concerns about racism. Most importantly, schools need to be institutional leaders in anti-racist action.

2. Schools must diversify and expand the teaching of Black History

A full representation of historical events, including contributions and perspectives from black people, needs to be included in the curriculum. Historical information involving black people must not be experienced as an ‘add-on’ but integral to the teaching of a broad range of historical events. It is hugely important for all students that the roles of key black historical figures in the development of societies around the world, including the UK, are fully acknowledged in the curriculum.

3. We need to talk about racism

Conversations about racism and its impacts do not end after protests. Everyone needs to recognise the part they need to play in the solutions. Whenever racism occurs it needs to be called out and it should not be left for black people to address. It needs to be seen everywhere and acknowledged by everyone that racism is not tolerated.

CHIVA’s commitments

  • We recognise that systemic racism is an important part of young people’s experience. We will provide emotional support around, and facilitate spaces to discuss and explore, the issues.
  • We listen to and learn from young people’s experiences of racism.
  • Key to anti-racist work is self-reflection. We strive to understand more about structural inequalities and systemic racism and how we can do more to address this. We will continue the conversations about racism with young people, our staff team and wider governance structures. 
  • We will promote anti-racist practice across the children’s HIV sector.
  • We will facilitate connections with external campaigning groups and support leadership opportunities so that young people can make their calls to action heard effectively.