'The last year has been a turning point' - Gloucestershire activist on life in rural England

18-06-21 Black and white photo of equality activist Khady Gueye at a BLM protest in June 2020
Credit: Jessica Sterry Photography

This week marked a year since one protest in a small Gloucestershire town made headlines around the world.

The Black Lives Matter protest in Lydney faced opposition from the town council, an intervention from the local MP and online abuse.

As part of our Black Voices In Conversation series, ITV News West Country has spoken to those across the region who continue to lead the movement to see what impact the past 12 months have had.

ITV West Country journalist Alpha Ceesay spoke to one of the demonstration's organisers, who says it's helped create a foundation for tackling racism in rural areas.

Black Voices In Conversation: Watch Khady Gueye's full interview with ITV

Khady has spent her entire life in the Forest of Dean.

"It's an incredible and beautiful place to grow up as a young person," she said.

"But as I progressed through primary and secondary school, it became very evident that there are issues around racism.

"I suppose it is only in hindsight now that I reflected on my years through education and realised how prominent racism was as part of my life as a young person."

Khady did enjoy her time at school but said racism was present throughout her time there. Credit: Khady Gueye

Khady's reflection on her own experiences was heightened during last year's Black Lives Matter Movement.

In June 2020, 300 hundred people gathered at the protest she helped organise. It would prove to be another eye-opening moment for the 25-year-old.

She told ITV News: "It was the first time that I had really acknowledged how entrenched racism is in the area that I live in.

"It's the area I call home, it's the area I've grown up in, I was born here, and it was the first time I really felt kind of ostracised from the community I considered to be my home."

There was some support for the event, which has continued.

But the challenge lies in increasing that support further in an area where less than two per cent of the population is from an ethnic background.

The key to overcoming that for Khady is education.

She runs the Local Equality Commission. A community group focused on racial, social and economic quality. As part of her work, she has been going into schools to talk to kids about racism.

Khady's work as part of the Local Equality Commission has included educating children. And helping to donate food to those who need it. Credit: Khady Gueye

"It's about providing people with that understanding, opening up those conversations and opening up those difficult conversations, she said."

"Talking to younger children is fundamentally the place to start. We are not born racist we are taught racism so actually starting with that generation is key."

The hope is that these conversations will lead to people of colour from rural feeling like they do belong.

"In rural spaces, it's not widely accepted that actually you can be black and be from a rural space. That's something, a narrative I have grown up with all my life. And I think actually it's really important to know that we can.

And that this is our home and that this is where we live. And it's the place we love and that we have ownership of that."

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