Black Lives Matter

Andy Watson

Geese Theatre Company works at the intersection of two systems: the arts and the criminal justice system.

We know that at every stage of the criminal justice system, from stop and search through to sentence length, Black people are disproportionately over-represented: Statistics on race in the CJS 2018  

We also know that Black people are under-represented amongst employees of National Portfolio Organisations, and even more so when it comes to leadership roles such as Chief Executive or Artistic Director:  ACE Equality and Diversity Statistics.

As an organisation one of our core values is a belief in change. Primarily when we talk about this value, we are referring to the potential for individuals to make changes in their own lives. However, we also acknowledge that there needs to be fundamental change within the systems in which we deliver our work and that we must be part of that change. If we are not part of that change then we are part of the problem.

Our Black practitioners experience specific challenges when working within the Criminal Justice System. At a prison gate waiting to begin a project and two white practitioners are waved through whilst the Black practitioner is subjected to a thorough search and suspicious glances. Or when our team are waiting to leave a prison after a day’s work and our Black colleague is told by an officer to join a queue of other prisoners – a situation which was resolved only when a white colleague intervened. We see our own team impacted by it, and we see the client groups we work with impacted by it. 

We will not to be silent; we will not to be complicit; we will challenge intolerance, prejudice, and racism.

One of the key principles which underpins our work is that of being reflective. At this moment it is imperative that as individuals and as an organisation we spend time reflecting on our own prejudices and privileges and deepen our commitment to educating ourselves, equipping ourselves with knowledge and understanding of the historical systemic and institutional racism designed to create and perpetuate inequality, so we can be a greater part of the change we need to see within the systems we work in, and wider society. 

Some useful resources:

On racism in the UK Criminal Justice System:

  • For anyone who considers that this is an issue in the USA and that it doesn’t apply in the UK then we would recommend taking a look at the 2017 Report of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody and specifically chapter 5 which focuses on ethnicity. Amongst other key findings, the author of the report, Dame Elish Angiolini comments: “There is also evidence to suggest that dangerous restraint techniques and excessive force are disproportionately used on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.”

  • For more information about the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System we highly recommend reading The Lammy Review. Although published in September 2017 many of the issues highlighted are still very relevant today and most of the recommendations still need to be acted on.
     
  • A more recent blog post by Nina Champion, Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance, in which she argues that more needs to be done following the Lammy Review, to rebuild trust in the CJS. 
     
  • A 2015 edition of Criminal Justice Matters, titled #BlackLivesMatter, contains a series of articles exploring a range of issues around the disproportionality of Black and Muslim men in the UK Criminal Justice System.

Resources for education on the issues:

  • Do the work - a website that includes things to listen to, read and watch to help educate on racism
     
  • A GoogleDocs document with ideas of ways to help (petitions, reading and education material, places to donate, ways to protest etc)

 Where to donate: