25 May 2021

Be the change

One year on from the death of George Floyd, Olivia Amartey - Chair of Elim’s Racial Justice Taskforce - shares her reflections.

It seems like only yesterday that I watched a killing in slow motion. The killing of George Floyd for me initiated unbelief, closely followed by shock, then deep simmering anger.

Like many, I attended a protest march in Birmingham city centre. The first time that I've ever taken part in such avert action. A year on and like many, I'm asking what's changed?

Growing up in Handsworth in the 1970s, I've seen what anger can become when one community feels victimised and second rate, for no other reason than the colour of their skin.

I remember the riots in Lozells in the 1980s.

I remember being the first generation of children of immigrants and being told by my teacher that I could not pursue the dream of becoming a doctor.

I wasn't sure why this was the case. I was smart, but I later discovered the truth of what the teachers really meant. She meant I was black and my race adversely impacted my life chances, my choices, and my future.

John Barnes said recently that he'd seen them kick racism out, show racism in the red card and he's seen all of these movements come and go over his lifetime as a footballer. And he wonders whether the Black Lives Matter thing, that's what he said, it's just another iteration of it.

His point being, you can have these movements, but if these movements don't lead to anything, what's the point?

This is an important question to ask.

We thank God that justice has been done with the conviction of Chauvin for George Floyd's death. But a year after the soul searching, the round tables and the protracted conversations, (and they've ceased now), what else? What next? What do we do now when racism seems more topical an issue than ever?

I believe this is where the hard work begins. In addition, I firmly believe that the church and the dedicated committed Jesus followers are the very people that will make a difference.

The Bible comprehensively depicts the issues of racism and tribalism. It shows us a clear vision of what God wants and what can be achieved and people called by his name, not just pray, but become the conduit for answered prayer. Not just through their words, but also through their actions; through their intentional commitment to pursue justice.

Over the year, I've seen the birth of racial justice initiatives by church leaders of all colours and traditions, united in their commitment to effect meaningful change. They've exchanged complacency for unity. Amen.

This gives me hope. It gives us all hope. This is surely what it means to see God's kingdom come. And I want to be part of that change.

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