George Floyd’s Death And The Lives It Changed: 'It weighed heavy on my heart'

Credit: Instagram/Angel Arutura

A year on from the murder of George Floyd, ITV News has been touching base with those who came into prominence for their actions and activism following his killing, as part of our series George Floyd’s Death And The Lives It Changed.

20-year-old Angel Arutura didn't plan to take to the podium at last summer's Black Lives Matter protest in Belfast.

A mixed-race woman of Zimbabwean heritage, she went along to show support in her home city and listen to the pre-planned roster of speakers. However, inspired by the rousing speeches and fervour of the crowd, Angel felt compelled to share her own experience of being black in Northern Ireland.

Since then, Ms Arutura's profile has rocketed. On Instagram, her 34,000 followers view her digestible, aesthetically-pleasing slides on "tough" subjects like unconscious bias and teaching children about racism. She also launched a podcast to showcase the region's black residents.

Ms Arutura spoke to ITV News about how her day-to-day has been impacted, a year on from Mr Floyd's murder.

It’s coming up to a year since George Floyd was tragically killed. What were your initial feelings on hearing about/seeing that footage?

Growing up in this space I have experienced racism my whole life - overt forms of racism, covert forms of racism - and my dad who is black, he's experienced a lot of violent forms of racism. It's always been something that wasn't shocking to me.

Whenever I saw the footage and I saw people online, seeing people with their outrage, it was kind of frustrating because it isn't the first time something like this has happened. But it definitely weighed very heavy on my heart. And I think that was what it was like for a lot of people.

You came into prominence so suddenly following Mr Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests. What has the past year been like as a result?

My growth on social media was quite rapid, which was a lot to take in for the first few months. A lot of people were just coming to me saying, "I can't wait to hear you speak about this". I thought you had to keep going and keep pushing. Rest was not something that entered my brain for a couple of months.

I can say it really destroyed my mental health. That's why I like to place a lot of importance on rest and recovery and giving yourself a break when you need it.

Angel says her sister, who is 11, suffers more racism than she did at the same age

Does your activism mostly take place on social media?

I would say mostly social media. I also have workshops and trainings, but I wouldn't really call that my activism. That's the action. I don't think it should ever be classified as something that's radical.

I think in terms of Zoom meetings, there's been a lot of discussions going on behind the scenes, e.g. for my university about decolonising the curriculum. Also, my dad is heavily involved in talking about racial equality in Ireland. I think every single day in our house, there's a Zoom meeting going on!

What impact, if any, has Mr Floyd’s death and the BLM protests had in Britain?

I think the major impact is that it opened up a conversation on the racism that is happening here in the UK. Whether that was a positive impact or a negative impact. I'm not too sure! But we had the race report which was denying that institutional racism existed. That was a major setback.

Sometimes it feels like we're just having conversation after conversation and nothing is actually happening...but again, this isn't a race. I think we all knew this wasn't going to be something that would be fixed in a year.

What compels you to continue speaking out about racism and racial inequalities?

My younger sister. She's 11 and I really want her to grow up in a better society. People think maybe things have changed, but actually she experiences more racism than my eldest sister and I did when we were her age. It's going to take a lot, but she inspires me to keep moving forward.

Whenever I see her going through the exact same things that I went through 10 years ago, I always think to myself, we need to change. How can we make this change?

Listen to our Black Voices in Conversation podcast: