SWF Research Officer Ermal Kirby reflects on how a tragedy might inspire transformative change.
“I can’t breathe.” It’s those words more than any others that haunt me. They are words that express something that would have been, at some point, the experience of most people of BAME background; and sometimes the struggle to breathe means that the words cannot even be uttered.
The shocking image a person being callously, deliberately, deprived of life-giving air until they die, is one that has galvanised into action people of different ages, on different continents, of different complexions and cultures – all saying in one voice, “This is wrong.”
But what will change as a result? Haven’t we been here before?
The pictures and words are etched in our memories: communities expressing their grief and horror, anger and pain; and everyone agreeing that this is wrong, only to see the atrocities return in more virulent form within a year, or two years, or ten.
At SWF, as in many other places, there is a growing recognition that what is required is systemic change – a radical transformation that affects not only persons in community, but the systems and structures and values that form those communities. This requires openness and imagination, a willingness to take risks and to discover, or bring to birth with others, new ways of being and new relationships. One example of this new approach is to be found in the dynamic approach of Theory U (developed by the Presencing Institute), but there are other ways in which to engage with the work of transformation. The important thing is that we recognise the need for change and we do not rest until that desire bears fruit in ourselves and in our communities.
At SWF we say “Our agenda is transformation.” We welcome working with others to that end.