One year on, how did Suffolk respond to murder of George Floyd?

The Black Lives Matter protest drew hundreds of people to Ipswich's Christchurch Park

The Black Lives Matter protest drew hundreds of people to Ipswich's Christchurch Park - Credit: Ian Burt Photography

Today marks the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of an American police officer — a moment which has inspired real change for racial inequality right here in Suffolk.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement gained international traction after a video of police arresting the 46-year-old in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 went viral.

A jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in April 2021, after he knelt on Mr Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds as the victim tried to say: "I can't breathe."

George Floyd's murder sparked international outrage

George Floyd's murder sparked international outrage and inspired many people to ask what they could do to make cultural change - Credit: PA

In the weeks and months that followed, BLM protests were held across the world - including one in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, which was organised by Sheila Barbosa and attended by hundreds of people.

She said: "A year on, I am excited about the potential changes since the death of George Floyd.

Sheila Barbosa organised the Black Lives Matter protest in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, on June 6, 2020

Sheila Barbosa organised the Black Lives Matter protest in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, on June 6, 2020 - Credit: Sheila Barbosa

"It was a phenomenal experience to initiate a BLM protest in Ipswich — even though things are still not moving fast enough, I will remain hopeful for the sake of my children."

The Ipswich Youth Council held an online forum in July 2020, calling for police to avoid stop and searches targeting young black people and racial profiling in Ipswich.

Hundreds joined the Black Lives Matter protest at Christchurch Park in Ipswich last year

Hundreds joined the Black Lives Matter protest at Christchurch Park in Ipswich last year - Credit: Ian Burt Photography

Phanuel Mutumburi of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality 

Phanuel Mutumburi of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality - Credit: ISCRE

Phanuel Mutumburi, business and operations director at the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), said George Floyd's tragic death started a "very important conversation".

"The most notable change has been the willingness to engage in discussions of societal inequality," he said. 

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"People are saying: 'This is not a society I want to be part of, what can I do to make it better?'

"That is a stark change from when these people were not impacted and didn't think it affected them.

"We've seen a groundswell of allyship from people who would not normally engage in those conversations or who did not know how to affect change but are asking now."

A Black Lives Matter protester at Christchurch Park in Ipswich, June 2020

A Black Lives Matter protester at Christchurch Park in Ipswich, June 2020 - Credit: Ian Burt Photography

ISCRE has been meeting with councils, NHS groups and schools in Suffolk across the last year.

It found many organisations want to make sure they are representing diversity, connecting with all communities and investing in long-term change from the top down.

Schools are examining how they can better connect with parents of BAME children, who are less likely to attend parent evenings. They also want to see diversity reflected in the teaching staff, as well as the pupils.

Mr Mutumburi added: "The one big fear in minority ethnic communities in Suffolk, is that the next thing will come along and people's priorities will shift before cultural change is embedded.

"They don't want the next topic to come up and things revert back to the way they were — the challenge is how we maintain momentum as things slow down."

The Black Lives Matter protests captured the attention of the world last summer

The Black Lives Matter protests captured the attention of the world last summer - Credit: Ian Burt Photography

A number of other projects have been launched since last spring, including the Suffolk Stop and Search Reference Group which takes place every two months between the police and black community.

It is for young people, parents and anyone who's interested to know what to expect from the police if they are stopped and searched. 

The Suffolk Black Community Forum is a Zoom event providing a safe and informal circle to share narratives from black writers around African Consciousness.

The Lipswich Project by Pierre Rollings, who had the idea after a family tragedy, uses music to break down barriers and raises awareness of mental health and suicide prevention with the slogan 'Don't speak about it, Be about it'.

Ipswich charity P.H.O.E.B.E has facilitated Strong Black Girls workshops to improve self-esteem and confidence of girls aged six to 19.

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