'Being Black and Being Me': Inspiring young people speak out on racism, mental health and being black in Leeds
An inspiring group of children have launched a new film about what it's like to be a black young person growing up in Leeds.
Young volunteers from Youthwatch Leeds and Black Lives Matter Leeds feature in the five-minute film, Being Black and Being Me, talking about the highs and lows of being black
In the moving video, they discuss how it feels to experience racism and discrimination and the impact it has on their mental health.
The video also tackles how it feels to experience the misconceptions and assumptions that people hold about the black community in the city.
The project was led by YouthWatch Leeds and Black Lives Matter Leeds volunteer Tamirah Bass-Grant, 18, who was inspired by her own experiences as a young black woman growing up in Leeds.
The film follows on from the first Black Youth Engagement Summit in Leeds that took place in August this year.
In the virtual event, young people who are committed to tackling racial equality came together to engage in conversation, ask questions and discuss shared issues.
Young people expressed that young black voices have historically been left out of local strategies and they felt it was time to make their voices heard.
Tamirah said: "The video is about what it means to be black in the 21st century and in 2020 especially with all the tension surrounding race relations that has been building up for a long time.
"I want to raise people’s awareness of the issue of racism and how it manifests, and try to educate people on the struggles of being black, as racism is still prevalent today.”
YouthWatch and Black Lives Matter Leeds hope the film will encourage discussion on issues faced by black children and young people in the city, particularly around mental health.
They also want it to be used as a resource in schools to educate children and raise awareness about how it feels to be black in Leeds today.
Marvina Newton, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Leeds, said children and young people from black communities are less likely to engage with services that could intervene early to prevent mental health problems escalating.
She is calling on local authorities to develop culturally sensitive services that are appropriate for children and young people from black communities.
Marvina said: "Positive representation of identity and a sense of belonging matters to challenge the misrepresentation of black communities through history, media, education and society.
"Being treated differently or unfairly because of our race, skin colour or ethnicity can negatively affect our mental health.
"Racism can happen anywhere. It can happen at school, at work, or at home; it can happen online or in the real world; it can even happen within families and relationships.
"In the black community, there is a stigma surrounding mental health.
"Instead of seeking professional help for conditions such as depression and anxiety, many in the community resort to self-medication or isolation in an attempt to solve their problems on their own.
"We need to start having difficult conversations to give a voice and influence to black children and youth to challenge the inequalities they face to create an equitable society.”
YouthWatch Leeds is led by a group of volunteers, aged between 14-25, who listen to the views of children and young people on how services like doctors, dentists and social workers could be made better for them.
The charity's coordinator Harriet Wright said: "We know that racism and discrimination impact on people’s mental health and also that some black young people are less likely to talk openly about their mental health or access mental health services.
"We’re committed to our role of ensuring people’s voices are at the heart of shaping health and care services in Leeds.
"Through this, we want to help amplify the voices of the children and young people in the film who have spoken so openly and honestly about their experiences.
"We hope the film will encourage decision-makers to have more conversations about the issues and inequalities that the young people describe and take action to tackle them.”
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