In the summer of 2017, the word KIN began rolling off the tongues of a few Black British activists. In these conversations, ideas bounced around as we contemplated the many directions this new project, network, community could go in. A year and a half later, there has been boundless joy, hard conversations and fantastic events with brilliant people and even better food.
The vision was simple: a home for black activists. Not a physical home of course, as diaspora, our home will perhaps always be nomadic but a space to feel joyful, to feel understood, to feel connected, to feel powerful, to feel that as a family we have all that it takes to confront the issues of our time.
And whilst the work is never over, that bit, we did do. After what felt like a lifetime of strategy meetings and funding applications, KIN was born. We had a public face in the form of a website and social media platforms and not long after was in our first strategy meeting with 10+ incredibly awe-inspiring activists, campaigners and organisers. All of whom were there to envision what role we could play in providing a rejuvenating, informative and useful space for black people that are organising to radically change things for the better.
Fast-forward a few months and KIN ran a hugely successful launch event in East London bringing together people of colour from all manners of activist spaces, holding dialogue between generations, with artists celebrating our queerness, our blackness, our womanhood, our vulnerable masculinity and holding with beauty and grace the intense richness and diversity of the black experience.
This paved the way perfectly into our three day convening a month later at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. We hosted forty black activists from across the UK allowing a space for us to sing, shout and marinate on all the ways we as Black peoples in Britain can and do resist and build around the oppressive institutions that we survive. And eat. Lord did we eat.
Mid-way through the convening we once again opened our space out to the broader PoC community hosting a social which showcased the immense talent of the poets and musicians that were in attendance at the convening. Since then we’ve continued in the vein of collaboration, building a partnership with the George Padmore Institute. Like the Black Cultural Archives, GPI hold some truly important archives which document the history of resistance of Black people in the UK.
Through this partnership we’ve hosted further conversations between legendary activist Stella Dadzie and contemporary black feminists working in a UK context and hosted Dee Woods and Rehena Prior to explore what educating black children, can and should look like in Britain today.
As founders, it has been a huge eighteen months for us, none of which would have been possible without the nourishing support from our voluntary organisers and paid staff and of course every individual that attended the convening and came through to support each event we’ve hosted since day one.
2019 looks set to be another big year for us as we as founders take a breather and aim to pull in more paid capacity to allow KIN to grow beyond us. Next summer we’ll be holding another convening, this time bringing activists from far beyond the UK for an international convening. We’ll be getting out of London much more, further building a national network that supports Black British activists and this coming January we’ll be launching a report in partnership with Runnymede Trust, the race equality think-tank.
Moving into 2019 with gratitude and hope that we are able to continue in the work that we’ve been blessed to be able to do so far, we can only celebrate and give thanks to all of our kinfolk that made it possible and invite you all to continue in the journey as we go on.
Zahra, Ayeisha and Kennedy
The KIN Launch | Black British Activism: Where Are We At?
Words by Tito Mogaji-Williams
On the 5th July, the Kinfolk Network had its first official launch, an event that incorporated discussions, music, food, and good humour. KIN, which is a bold new project aiming to unify Black British activists, organisers and campaigners across the United Kingdom was launched on the 5th July in the Archspace venue in East London. The event was only accessible to people of colour to provide a safe and comfortable environment to discuss race issues freely.
Our event was a place for learning and teaching, listening and speaking, and most importantly, vibesing and snacking. Alongside, a carefully selected cuisine of Afro-Caribbean delights, an array of impressive speakers including anti-police brutality icon Marcia Rigg, the prolific writer and researcher Adam Elliot-Cooper, genderqueer academic, Grime MC/ Rapper and Poet Melz, activist Amal Bider as well as, the smiling melaninated faces of our team; Kennedy Walker, Ayeisha Thomas-Smith and Zahra Dalilah.
Hearing the story of Marcia Rigg, whose brother died in police custody and her efforts to get justice where there is apparently none, led her to state, “there is no justice, there is just us,”. Her cynicism about policing in the United Kingdom was matched by Adam Elliot Cooper, who highlighted the housing crisis as an essentially “racist” phenomenon and noted how council estates remain overwhelmingly necessary for minority households but are disregarded and marginalised to the point where catastrophes like Grenfell become an inevitability.
Amal Bider, an activist and campaigner gave a local perspective. She spoke on her local Kensington community organising after the Grenfell Tower disaster, which became necessary due to the local councils’ failure to respond immediately. She noted how the anarchy caused by local and national government’s failed response was instrumental in coalescing different faith and community groups to organise and manage people’s welfare.
KIN seeks to cultivate spaces, which amplify a broad range of political expression.
At the event, the award-winning poet and author Dorothea Smartt gave a stunning performance – stating that for the Windrush generation, they were “a generation dreaming of a world to change.”
Beautiful poems by Brother Portrait were captivating and touched on the precious themes of origins, of travels and journeys and of race and resistance. A hilarious 90s themed drag performance from Zayn Phallic and the musical waviness of Mica Cola from ResisDanceLdn brought a party-like, jovial atmosphere to the whole night. The night was rounded off with the spiritually uplifting vibes of the Nawi Collective, a black woman’s vocal group, who invited a willing (sometimes unwilling) audience to dance and sing along to apartheid-era resistance songs. Our aim for the night was simply to take a step towards building a community but by the end, it felt like a family reunion.