Last weekend for the first time I went to an event at Impact Hub Birmingham. The event was in conversation with Angie Thomas (the author of ‘The Hate U Give a.k.a THUG) and Black Lives Matter UK (BLMUK). Before that, there was a screening of the refreshing and thought-provoking small film entitled ’50 shades of melanin’ followed by a Q&A with the film director Naomi Grant and Siana Bangura. The Impact Hub is a beautiful place tucked away in the centre of Birmingham, which hosts programs and events. It is a creative safe-space to work and connect amongst other innovative individuals.

Upon Arrival at the event I have to admit it was awkward for me, I went alone and I did not know anyone so obviously I’m just standing. However, it was like a small community everyone knew each other and it was something I haven’t really seen before in Birmingham and I just started having conversation and it was natural, nothing forced you know, I felt welcomed.

The documentary ’50 Shades of Melanin’ was showed followed by a Q&A led by Aliyah Hasinah with Naomi and Siana, the documentary focuses on colourism within the UK. It was a great piece and you should check it out. Not going to lie though there was some viewpoints within it that I side-eyed but I think that was important about the documentary that it was real and shown a glimpse of the different perspectives in the UK.

The Q&A also gave the audience and opportunity to ask questions to both women about the themes of the documentary and the process itself. It was concluded with a gripping poem by Siana about identity and being comfortable with who you are specifically blackness, is it possible for a poem to go off? It was so good!

After that, there was a compelling spoken word performance by Damani Dennisur and a discussion between Angie Thomas and BLMUK as her book was inspired by the black lives matter movement (which by the way is excellent, the book that is). The conversation spoke about the similarities and differences of BLM in the UK and in the US as well as the discussion of who is accountable and what actually needs to happen with the system, while covering topics of colonialism and white privilege.

“Empathy is More Powerful than Sympathy”

Then a soulful performance by Janel Antoneisha and an interview with Angie Thomas led by Rakeem Omar. She spoke about growing up in Mississippi and college – having to assimilate in a white space in a creative writing class. Inspired by a conversation with her professor, who told her that “those stories need to be told” referring to stories of the black youth. Angie Thomas wanted to write something to show the beauty in the neighbourhood like hers, this is shown through one of the motifs in the book Hip-Hop (which she prides herself in having an unofficial degree) in particular Tupac. She loved the fact he was more than a rapper, he had empathy. Angie also felt it was important to pay homage to the younger generation and the beauty of being black. She also hinted at movie in development too, which is exciting too as the book has a range of different characters. An extract from the blurb of the book to get an idea of what it is about: “…Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.” The interview was ended with asking what Angie wants the readers to take away from the book and she states: Empathy. Empathy is more powerful than sympathy. It is easy to say black lives matter but do you really mean it?


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