Gloucestershire race equality group aims for ‘fundamental change’

Khady Gueye, BLM organiser (left) pictured with Eleni Eldridge-Tull
Image caption The Local Equality Commission is led by Khady Gueye (left) and Eleni Eldridge-Tull (right)

A race equality group has been set up to tackle racism in rural areas of Gloucestershire.

Khady Gueye co-organised a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in Lydney in June and is a co-founder of the new Local Equality Commission.

Since the protest, three local councillors have resigned, including Di Martin who faced a barrage of abuse for attending the rally.

“I would love to see a higher level of compassion and empathy,” Ms Gueye said.

The commission was launched on Tuesday and is led by Ms Gueye and Eleni Eldridge-Tull.

“It’s so important in these areas where we are not exposed to culture or diversity as in London or Bristol or bigger cities, I think it’s so important that actually we provide an understanding of different cultures,” Ms Gueye said.

“People in the Forest of Dean rally around for all sorts of issues, but there is a fear of talking about racism, and fear of talking about equality.

“A lot of people don’t accept that racism is a problem or that it doesn’t exist.”

She wants all age groups to understand the message in order to enact “fundamental change”.

Image caption The rally on 20 June and adhered to social distancing guidelines despite some local concern

The BLM protest in support of George Floyd was cancelled in early June by organisers who “felt pressured and bullied” by a council letter telling them “all lives matter”.

However, the rally later went ahead at Bathurst Park in Lydney after a U-turn by the council.

Since the rally, Ms Gueye and fellow organiser Ms Eldridge-Tull said they had been racially abused and threatened on social media.

Gloucestershire Police confirmed it was investigating.

Image copyright Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell
Image caption Filmmaker Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell lived for several years in Bourton-on-the-Water

Local filmmaker Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell, 26, runs media strategy company NKG and has been helping to set up the commission.

“The more you scratch the surface, the more you see this horrific divide between the moneyed people who come in from London and live in big stone houses and the sprawling estates that are under-funded, with poor transport links, no mental health facilities,” she said.

She said she believed rural communities need “a sense of unity and camaraderie between white working class and black and ethnic minority working groups”.

“Economic justice is a real hallmark of the BLM movement and it’s also what rural communities and white working class communities really need,” Ms Ajulu-Bushell said.

‘Incredibly inclusive’

The newly-created commission is currently in talks with the Campaign for Rural England for youth workshops and has been asked by the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail to work with an artist to create a black rights inspired artwork.

Lydney’s town clerk and campaigners also hope to work together to draw up an equality policy for the council.

Ms Gueye said: “We wanted to be incredibly inclusive and obviously we understand there are some relationships in the local area that may be slightly damaged and we seeking to try to repair those relationships to an extent.”

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