We hear you
“It was hard watching a different reality on TV, people visiting seaside and parks whilst we only had ten minutes out. But do you know what the hardest thing was? Living in the unknown..what will happen? Why? How? I wish somebody had made an attempt to explain, just to talk to us..feeling powerless was killing” (Harisson, forum participant on 19th June)
This week we took our first step. We worked with our first group of participants, who want to create A Record of Our Own
With the help of a man who, until a couple of months ago, was in an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) and a colleague who works with a prison education provider, we had a discussion with a group of black men who had been released, from either a prison or an IRC, ranging from within three months to as recently as two days ago,
They shared their perspective, as black men and foreign nationals, about their experiences of the impact of Covid-19 while they were in state detention and since they’ve been released. They spoke. We listened.
They told us about provision of information, relationships with staff, impact on regimes, provision of PPE, keeping in touch with families including their children. These are just some of the things they told us about, while they were in state detention. They spoke. We listened.
They told us about issues they faced once released. They told us about housing, finances, employment, training, probation, legal advice, health care, home detention curfew and relationships with their children. They spoke. We listened.
In all honesty, the difficulties these black men told us about, within our prisons and IRC’s, the challenges they’re facing upon release aren’t new. However, through the lens of Covid-19 and the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement it’s all magnified. The impact is so much worse.
The most valuable thing was listening to and watching these men create their own Record. As much as we empathise, as much as we think we understand, unless we actively seek, equally value, listen to and record the experiences of those who have lived it and together act, to help make things better we won’t get it right. A Record of Our Own won’t be a quick process because we want to make sure we get it right.
Thank you to all of the men who spoke to us. We hear you.
Pam Belonwu, Campaign Coordinator, A Record of Our Own