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This week a London police break a black girl’s tooth and the UK sees its first black woman history professor

04 Nov 2019

Photography by Idris Kriker

TW: Contains descriptions of violence and police brutality

Another election, another opportunity to tear down the Tory government that we absolutely cannot miss. We can’t let the UK’s worst BJ continue his destruction of the country. We implore you to #mobilisewithgaldem and keep up with our coverage on how to form a movement against the chaos. The UK’s iconic first black woman MP, Diane Abbott, has spoken out against online anonymity of trolls as a number of female MPs step down, citing the abuse they faced in public office as a reason. The shadow home secretary has endured a career of fierce vitriol and abuse (almost half of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs were directed at her in the run-up to the last election). She explained that she copes by “putting one foot in front of the other”, however with another election looming, abuse will no doubt be an element of the campaign.

Elsewhere there are others getting into the election spirit. Someone has rented an entire billboard in Deptford for the community to write their Boris Johnson musings on. One photo of Johnson has a letterbox drawn over it in reference to his previous Islamophobic remarks, while another says “I’m a piece of shit”. British politics is hell.

Here’s what else went down this week.

Black teen asks ‘are we America now?’ after police knock her tooth out for ‘smelling of weed’

A video is circulating of an 18-year-old’s horrific experience of being stopped and searched this week. Jay was meeting her girlfriend at London Bridge station when three undercover police officers stopped her, saying she smelled of cannabis, before allegedly trying to snatch her phone from her hand.

“I didn’t show any signs of violence or aggression and still three grown men slammed me to the ground. They didn’t care about the pain they caused me. I honestly have zero trust [in] the Metropolitan Police,” Jay Belnavis-McPherson explained to me. The Metropolitan Police have said the officers in the video are British Transport Police officers.

When she didn’t hand over the phone, she said she was attacked. “Two policemen slammed me onto the ground. I hit the ground face first, everything went white in my head and then I started to cry because I was in shock,” she said. “I just wanted my girlfriend to be there.”

Jay continued: “I hit my right corner of my forehead and chipped off half of my tooth, I spat out blood from my mouth and my chipped tooth but they just wiped it away.” It was only once she was on the floor in handcuffs that Jay says she was shown a police badge. She was then taken to a room to be searched, and when police called an ambulance for her, they allegedly told paramedics that Jay had fallen. 

While being brutalised, Jay kept asking herself “are we America now?” She has been left with a lot of pain on her face, feeling light-headed with double-vision, a swollen mouth and her front tooth have been forced up into her gum. “I cannot eat at all,” Jay explained.

“There are white boys and men with bags full of ket but the police would never know because instead of finding real criminals they’re here harassing the black kids and the black youth for smelling weed that probably weighs out at 0.01 grams,” Jay explained. Black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched in the UK and its use is up by almost a third on last year. Drug searches made up 60% of all stop and searches in 2017, with most being for simple cannabis possession. Black people were convicted of cannabis possession at 11.8 times the rate of white people. Despite the fact that white people are more likely to have drugs on them when they are stopped and searched. Jay’s girlfriend Mya Archer, 18, shared a video of the incident, and it sparked outrage from the public, with many asking why she was restrained to such an extent when she clearly posed no threat.

The British Transport Police are aware of the video according to their Twitter. They told gal-dem: “The woman, aged 18, attempted to run from the area and was restrained on the ground. She has since been reported for fare evasion, possession of a class B drug and obstructing a search.”

This case follows a recent story of a boy, 18, handcuffed for not tapping out due to a dead phone battery. Both echo the current uprisings in New York against violent transport policing.

UK’s first black female history professor to explore Bristol’s slavery links

Professor Olivette Otele will take up her new role from January 1, 2020, where she will work with students, staff, and local communities to understand Bristol’s historical involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. 

Professor Otele, originally from Cameroon, has a PhD from Paris’ Sorbonne University and has researched colonial history, trauma recovery, social cohesion and also historical amnesia (the collective forgetting of past events) for over two decades.

“I want to produce a rigorous and extensive piece of research that will be relevant to the University, to the city and that will be a landmark in the way Britain examines, acknowledges and teaches the history of enslavement,” she told Voice Online

Bristol became the leading slaving port between 1730 and 1745, while it is estimated that 85% of the University of Bristol’s original funding came from slavery. Deputy Vice Chancellor at the university, Professor Judith Squires, said they are proud to appoint Professor Otele to explore their past and “to debate how we should best respond to our past in order to shape our future as an inclusive University community”. 

A number of British universities were built on the shoulders of enslaved black people, so it’s vital to increase the social consciousness of this and see if other institutions follow suit.


• A black captain lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy for the first time for South Africa, and when Prince Harry ventured to the locker room, there was a noticeable difference in how he greeted the white and black players. It’s like the Key and Peele Obama sketch.

• London’s first Muslim LGBTQIA+ Pride event, run by the charity Imaan, has raised more than £10k to go ahead.

• A 21-year-old Indian woman has allegedly killed herself after consistent harassment from her husband over her “dark complexion”

• The first images have been released for Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s drama set in London’s West Indian community, starring Letitia Wright and John Boyega.

Loose Women’s Saira Khan has said she’d like to see a transgender woman on the ITV panel, whose hosts previously called trans women“men”during a debate. 

• The wonderful Michaela Coel has created and is starring in a new series on sexual consent and dating called January 22nd. It’s backed by HBO and BBC.

• There is a real reason to look forward to the next Valentine’s Day. Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield’s black romance drama, The Photograph, is being released! The trailer is out now. 

Britain’s first black police officer, John Kent, was honoured with a commemorative blue plaque at his home in Cumbria for his service from 1835 to 1837.

• The Premier League has launched an advisory group of eight BAME past and present players and managers to “ensure the views of BAME players and coaches are heard”.

• Apple has introduced new non-binary versions of almost every human emoji they offer, including non-binary couple pairings. 

• Thousands of New Yorkers took to the city’s subway platforms on 1 November to protest police brutality towards black and brown people.

• Donald Trump’s annual White House Halloween party was more horrific than you might have imagined and saw children instructed to “build the wall” using paper bricks. 

New Netflix documentary Little Miss Sumo follows the life of female Japanese sumo wrestler Hiyori Kon who is making a name for herself despite women not being allowed to compete professionally. 

Indigenous South African San and Khoi communities have won a share of the country’s rooibos tea profits in a landmark ruling. 

Moment of the week

A Muslim politics teacher slayed on Question Time this week, calling out Boris Johnson for describing women in burqas as letterboxes, and was met with a classic bumbling Tory response from MP Paul Scully.

This article is a part of gal-dem’s Race Review column, a weekly news roundup centring the issues faced by people of colour.