It’s mad to think that only one year ago we were eight acquaintances sat on Zoom together trying to figure out what we at POC IOM (People of Colour Isle of Man) essentially stood for and what we wanted to achieve.
We all came into the group from pretty different professional backgrounds and were living very different lives all over the place, however, during the time between the death of George Floyd and the Isle of Man’s biggest protest in history, we found understanding and connection in the fact that we had all grown up and gone through the Manx education system – each of us having experienced a plethora of racist incidents in a place that prides itself on being welcoming.
Up until that point we had found it very difficult to talk about these incidents, even with those closest to us, but as a group we found comfort, strength, support and empowerment. Whilst many of us didn’t know each other that well initially, our shared story of growing up as someone non-white or alongside non-white friends on the Isle of Man brought us together and helped us feel less like mere acquaintances and more like a family. What started as a Twitter feed then quickly expanded to an Instagram page and not long after that, it became wildly apparent that we wanted to be as present offline as online. The only question was how to develop, and into what.
One of the catalysts for us to move from purely being simply online to establishing ourselves as a more “on the ground” educational group was triggered by an incident at a local media outlet. This was very much a turning point in our approach to how we raise awareness on matters to do with race and how to tackle them as we realised that one of the key ingredients to tackling racism effectively was education, education and more education.
Once we decided to make the move to become more than just a social media page we sat down to discuss what our ultimate vision was for the group. We then analysed our individual skill sets and what we felt comfortable doing and actually found that thanks to our diverse backgrounds as a lawyer, scientific researcher, public figure, businessman, writer, photographer and teacher, our diverse backgrounds very much worked in our favour! A wealth of cultures and a diversity of life experiences, linked by a commonality of educational background, were the winning formula.
Throughout this year we have ticked off so many things that seemed like pipe dreams only a few months ago, such as:
- Holding community nights – Thank you whothefispeggy
- Delivering educational workshops in schools on island and off – Shout out to NSC Athletics club and Time4Teaiom, as well as the teachers across the island that continue to participate
- Delivering workshops for Rare Liverpool
- Tackling mental health issues of POC
- Working at events with Non-profits such as the One World Centre
- Having a working relationship with the police, government and department of Education
- Having the space to raise awareness on some historically prejudiced policies
- Getting racism discussed in government and throughout the wider community
- Hosting book clubs online and offline – Thank you Waterstones!
- Sharing our favourite sounds through our Spotify account
- Contributing to CultureVannin oral history
- Going into the workplace, such as KPMG for Africa Day
- Being more present in all Isle of Man media outlets as instigated by Gef 🙏
- Celebrating Black Joy whenever and wherever we can!
The magic of this group is our ability to communicate openly and honestly. Like with any family, at times there is some tough love that’s needed, however because of the genuine respect and love we have for one another and our dedication to our common goal, our occasional disagreements only make us stronger as we know that at the end of the day, we’ll always have each other’s back.
We have seen each other grow into leaders, effective communicators, fearless activists, incredible educators, and savvy negotiators. To say we have upskilled from our initial individual skills set would be an understatement!
One of the greatest and very real revelations that has come out of this is just how much the island is transforming. That’s not to say that we don’t hear about racist occurrences on the island happening regularly, but the attitude and willingness to stand up for what’s right to become a community that is truly inclusive and welcoming to all is humbling. We have been able to stroll through doors we thought that we’d still be banging on today, we’ve been invited into spaces that we would never have expected, we’ve created solid working relationships with the government, schools, media outlets and an increasing amount of businesses.
We have created events with huge success and thanks to the immense support we have had, we are continuing to break down the barriers and taboos surrounding the topic of race.
This past year has been living proof that the real secret to affecting change is just grab hold of your “why” and go for it because as you take the leap you’ll discover that you are far more capable than you think and remember to use every setback as momentum to propel you further. The most exciting part: the journey has just begun.
A huge shout out to the Isle of Man for actively listening, learning, empathising, for not being afraid to have those comfortable and uncomfortable conversations, for being allies. Keep up with the great Manx community spirit!