Tackling Racial Injustice – A Message from Dr Ornette D Clennon, Head of MaCTRI

Apr 26, 2022 | After-School

Our Communities’ Perspective

Now you know about our work, do you really value it and if you do, how will you support it?

It was a great honour to have been asked to lead this important piece of research about the experience of African Diaspora youth and play providers across Greater Manchester. For me, the revelation was not their stories about their youth-led work that is centred around racial injustice, the revelation was not even in their stories about the frequent disconnect between themselves and funders that they perceive to exist because all these challenges have been well known for decades. No. The revelation was the existence of such a high-profile platform, where all of these familiar stories were being expertly told.

As I was listening to the interviews, I was genuinely moved by the fact that these individuals were telling their stories in a research space that was made possible by a funding organisation that really wanted to listen and do something about it. The way in which Young Manchester initially brought together many representatives from the African Diaspora community of youth and play practitioners was impressive and equally impressive was how they allowed themselves to be led by the African Diaspora voices there, in an attempt to really find material solutions to the challenges faced by these organisations serving their wider communities.

So, now we have a report where the funding challenges and wider obstacles faced by African Diaspora youth and play organisations have been laid bare. There cannot be any excuses within the funders’ network to claim ignorance of the vital community services that are being delivered by African Diaspora organisations. Services such as supplementary schools that evoke the initial roots of youth work as informal education settings where, in the case of African Diaspora providers, person-centered work is underpinned by a strong sense of the importance of cultural heritage and social justice. Other key services that support young people in school settings with the ever-increasing force of institutional racism they face, such as school-based stop and search – keeping vividly in mind the Child Q case. Yet more vital services that support youth mental health and wellbeing in intersectional ways that include LGBTQI groups and groups for young men. And finally, crucial services that support the building of youth entrepreneurial skills.

However, the challenges they all have in common is the recognition of their work as youth work. This was a key point for me because the concept of what youth work is, is contested for sure but what isn’t contested is the distinct lack of an African Diaspora perspective within this idea that would enable wider stakeholders to recognise more easily what could be called “critical youth work” that is being carried out by these organisations. Also remember, these African Diaspora organisations deliver their services to their local multicultural communities, so just by doing what they do, they are also “doing” community cohesion by building stronger communities.

So, knowledge of grassroots African Diaspora youth work inexorably leads us back to our titular question!

Join our panel discussion and Q&A to explore the findings of the Tackling Racial Injustice Report, co-hosted with the Funders Collaborative Hub.

The Tackling Racial Injustice Report is a co-produced community research project exploring the challenges funders face in reaching and supporting grassroots African diaspora-led groups, as described by the communities themselves.

The report explores practical solutions that funders, places, and the not-for-profit sector can implement to tackle racial injustice in our systems and processes.

Whilst originally commissioned to support the youth and play sector in Manchester, and the research co-produced with Manchester-based community groups; the recommendations and findings transcend both youth and play settings, and the Manchester geography to provide a potential roadmap to meaningfully funding grassroots African diaspora-led community groups across the UK.