Tessy’s story, told to Emily Wiseman.
We had been coming to extra-curricular creative writing group during our lunchtime. We had been looking at how to fictionalise truth. And through doing that we found that we had lots of shared experiences in common. And in particular racism was something we experienced on a daily basis. We wrote it together as a group of three and then developed it further when three other members joined the group.
We took inspiration from the poem Islamophobia
when we wrote it. We liked the style of how they were speaking at the same time, it communicates a unity. They weren’t angry but they were powerful and passionate. They backed up their opinions with facts.
When people say they are Colour Blind then it comes from a well meaning place, but it does much more harm than good. I understand they are trying to be nice but it ignores the issue of racism. It makes other people feel more comfortable but it’s at our expense. You need to hear other people to truly “get them”. You need to hear their stories, their experiences, and their history, if you want to understand who they are.
People might feel uncomfortable with some of the words in this film, think they are offensive or too strong, but we are using them to help give them a sense of what it’s like to walk in our shoes. People feel awkward talking about race. They worry they might offend me by saying the word “black.” But the problem is that if we can’t talk about it, if we can’t even give these very basic differences words, then we can’t even begin to challenge the greater issues of racism.
The default is to keep quiet, to shut up and put up. It’s a survival technique that people from black and other non-white communities use to stay safe. We are saying ‘No’ to that – we are making a noise. We hope we can challenge stigma around talking about racism. And we hope our work can inspire people who hear it to think they can also stand up for themselves, take some action. Or step in and help someone else take action.
I try and stand up for other people when I can. There are some spaces where I feel safe and I will call things out when they are wrong. Then there are others where I don’t, if it isn’t safe. It’s a balance. Sometimes you have to accept that not reacting is the best reaction. And that’s a strength too, I believe.
I’ve loved performing Colour Blind. I remember performing it at the Northern Academies conference at the Sage. And this woman had her head tilted and this very focused expression and I thought, “Ah you are listening to me, you are really listening to me.”And I just thought in my head, “Thank you, thank you for listening to me.”
Now, as a group, we are going in different directions in our lives and maybe our time for the stage performance is finished, so we made the film to keep the message moving. It’s a celebration of diversity. It’s a celebration of having our voices heard. We are strong young women moving things forward and this film is a celebration of us.