Dianne Regisford talks about being the only black woman organising a Black Lives Matter protest in Abingdon.

AS I witnessed and spoke publicly in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) uprisings igniting across the world, I knew, we, the black community in Abingdon, had to do something visible.

I called a few people at the beginning of June to share what was by now a deeply compelling clarion call in solidarity with the global movement, protest and place racial justice on the public agenda in Abingdon.

A day later a group of people, mostly white allies from local chapters of activist movements, one person of colour of Asian origin, and I, the only black woman, gathered to discuss our response to the BLM uprisings.

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I was clear about two things – something had to be done and, the necessity for black leadership in this public action.

All who gathered agreed.

Some had already gone ahead and formed a temporary BLM Abingdon chapter, hoping that people of colour would step forward to lead the charge.

A week later, following daily meetings, a sign making gathering and solidarity support from BLM Oxford, the first, protest event for racial justice took place in Abingdon at the Abbey Meadows on June 14.

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Whack Whack Productions

The BLM Abingdon peaceful protest made history.

For the first time ever, a sisterhood of black community leaders stood vanguard, visible and vehement as we spoke about their experiences of racial injustice in Abingdon and local surrounds.

Over 300 people attended the event, perhaps 15 were black.

We read a statement and made two demands – to speak publicly about the fact that racism exists in Abingdon and that racial justice needs to be firmly placed on the local government agenda to address the underlying issues of racial injustice in the town and the Vale of White Horse.

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Some local councillors and the Mayor of Abingdon Charlie Birks spoke in support of the BLM Abingdon event and pledged support going forward.

What was clear to me was that visibility was a vital issue for race relations in the county.

The handful of black people at the event evidenced what we know as the real and lived experience of fear of racism, prejudice and discrimination.

Fear prevented many from exercising their freedom of expression, a fundamental human right. In the background, the community work continues behind the scenes, invisible, inaudible and under resourced.

This in itself is a justice issue.

Oxford Mail:

Since that day much work has been going on behind the scenes to create a formal process for engagement with the local authorities.

We have formed a community collective called Black Community Leaders for Justice (BCLJ) to address the issue of visibility, voice and participation in local governance for social justice in the county.

Our vision is to build legacy through a community based, black-led social justice institution.

This is an initiative aimed to create sustainable pathways to redress the inequities of lack of visibility, voice, participation and representation of the black communities on the periphery in Oxfordshire.

We are creating safe dwelling space for the black community.

We walk in the footsteps of many who have created similar community based projects and centres in the past.

Our formation as the BCLJ is the first step to consolidating a strategic pathway to establishing a race agenda in Abingdon.

Some ask; how can we help to make a change?

I advocate for listening to your inner voice and critically engaging with your own experience of belonging.

In doing so we can move beyond the hype of BLM slogans by making visible your own voice and actions to redress racial injustice in your locality.