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'There are people here who aren't white and often they're forgotten': BLM activist says Northern Ireland has a long way to go

Activist on BLM demos and why NI has a long way to go

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Angel Arutura

Angel Arutura

Angel Arutura at a BLM protest

Angel Arutura at a BLM protest

Angel Arutura

RACISM is a bigger problem in Northern Ireland than most people like to admit, a local Black Lives Matter supporter has claimed.

Student activist Angel Arutura says recent BLM protests have highlighted why it's time to discuss more than orange and green issues in the province.

Angel (20), from Belfast, was a prominent member of the BLM protest which took place at the city's Custom House Square in June.

The Queen's geography student, who recently co-founded a podcast about the experiences of black people living in Northern Ireland, told Sunday Life: "The BLM movement and protests absolutely helped to bring about a shift and kick-start momentum for people like myself to feel more comfortable discussing certain issues.

"Unfortunately the BLM movement was sort of treated as a bit of a trend and is no longer in the public eye which is why I think it will be really important to get these conversations out to a wider audience through our podcast The Blackout Show.

"I think racism in Northern Ireland is more of a problem than people would like to admit, completely, whenever the protests started I noticed a lot of ignorance.

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Angel Arutura at a BLM protest

Angel Arutura at a BLM protest

Angel Arutura at a BLM protest

"When I went on my Facebook I could see the majority of responses were negative, people saying racism didn't exist or wasn't an issue in this country.

"I think for too long people inside and outside this country have thought about it simply in terms of Protestant and Catholic, I think there has been too much of a focus simply on those issues over the years especially when you consider in recent times racially motivated attacks have outnumbered sectarian attacks.

"I think it's important we start to address these other serious issues at hand rather than sweeping them under the rug which is what I feel is happening a wee bit because people aren't used to talking about them.

"I think the majority of people would rather not talk about these things at all instead of raising them as issues.

"I'm hopeful that eventually we'll be in a place where this will be a topic of conversation that will be brought into schools, universities and workplaces so we can get structures and frameworks in place to help people of colour with issues they face."

Ms Arutura has recently launched a podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, called The Blackout Show, with Blast106 radio DJ Precious John and presenter Maria Brian which they hope to turn into a radio show in the near future.

She added: "It was Precious who got in contact with me to get me involved, he's a DJ with his own show on Blast106 and we had wanted to get a show on there but with things as they are at the moment, we decided to fire ahead with a podcast first.

"We're already a couple of episodes in and we're hoping to get a radio show up and running soon, that's our priority because I think more people listen to radio, it's really exciting.

"The podcast seems to be taking off nicely, we want to try and educate people about racism and our experiences living in this country.

"I have lived here my whole life so it's not like I have had a big culture shock coming from elsewhere and comparing it to life here. "

They have plans to bring in guests and talk about the cultural shift they are seeing here.

"When people talk about Northern Ireland they don't talk about it as a diverse place and the truth is that it is. We want people to realise that there are people here who aren't white and are sometimes forgotten about, " she said.

"We want to create more of a conversation around this topic because there hasn't been a conversation around racial justice and prejudices and discrimination (against non-white people) so we want to talk about that.

"Also to explore a wee bit of our African heritage and culture and destigmatise it because again that isn't something which is really talked about.

"I think this is important because these are things people haven't had the opportunity to talk about before now, it's quite sad it's taken this long to get to a point where we do feel comfortable talking about these issues.

"In the past few months I have felt more comfortable discussing them where previously I had always avoided certain topics. I'm quite happy we've reached a place now where people are more comfortable to discuss certain issues."

Sunday Life