University of Limerick PhD student Sandrine Ndahiro and fifth year architecture student Cathy Osikoya, are co-founders of the upcoming 'Unsilencing Black Voices' documentary and its website, detailing personal stories and accounts by members of the black community in Ireland.
The multimedia project is the culmination of more than six weeks work, in which the two academics asked individuals to recount one instance of racism that they experienced that stuck out the most.
After the six weeks a total of twenty personal testimonies were collected. The testimonies were gathered from various counties across Ireland including Limerick, Carlow and Galway.
Ms Ndahiro, who grew up in Carlow and is studying Contemporary African Literature at UL, said the project was borne out of the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and “awakened the need to amplify black voices in Ireland”.
“In Ireland, the conversation about racism erupted as something that had gone overlooked for so long was now centre stage. The black and Irish community across Ireland was now bravely speaking out about their encounters of racism
Speaking out about our racist experiences which continues to leave irreversible wounds acted as a healing process. We found that the more we talked about experiences which we buried deep inside made us feel more empowered,” she said.
Ms Osikoya, who is from Galway and is studying Architecture, highlights the duality of being black and Irish “having once been undermined but now we decided to celebrate it and tackle it headfirst”.
“During these painful conversations we also found that recalling our memories made our non- Black friends feel uncomfortable as they were not aware of the variety of different racist experiences that we had encountered. This sparked the idea to create a platform where Black people would discuss their racist experiences.” she said.
They received 20 testimonies from black individuals to recount one instance of racism they experienced that has stood out the most to them. The ages of the individuals ranged from early 20's to late 40's. The various testimonies are split into separate categories, including primary, secondary, third level, professional, and daily life.
“The categories were created to show how some Black individuals experience racism from as early as primary school, and this continues it never stops as it seeps its way from generation to generation. There is an ignorance that racism happens in isolated moments, but our documentary would debunk this ignorance,” Ms Ndahiro said.
The project leads said that black voices are muffled out and brushed aside as less important, and that this new platform would ensure that their experiences get centre stage.
“We hope that by watching our documentary you stop and actively listen to the pain in the black individuals who are sharing their stories.
Our aim is after this documentary you would visit our website and look at the various resources that we have created to actively become an antiracist."Ms Osikoya concluded.
The documentary will be live on their website 'unsilencingblackvoices.com' on Friday August 7.