Wed, 15 Jul 2020
POSTERS supporting the worldwide Black Lives Matter campaign, which were put up on Hampstead Norreys village noticeboard, have been mysteriously removed, sparking anger on social media.
Following two peaceful BLM demonstrations in Newbury last month, villagers put the posters up in a gesture of solidarity.
When the posters were first taken down, they were promptly replaced, only to disappear again.
It was suggested by some that the posters’ central message was being misinterpreted by many otherwise open-minded locals.
In response to this, a group of villagers decided to take action.
Among them was Lesley Ravencroft, a volunteer at the community shop.
Mrs Ravenscroft said: “The posters were taken down, which a lot of villagers were very cross about.
“So then more posters appeared and the whole noticeboard was covered in posters.
“They were again taken down, probably after about a week or so.”
Alongside replacement posters, Mrs Ravenscroft included a message to whoever was removing them plus detailed explanation of the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.
The notice read: “Our community wish to show compassion and understanding that black lives really do matter.
“This is a public noticeboard.
“If you would like to discuss our views, we would be pleased to talk with you … leave a note at the community shop with your contact details and someone will get in touch. Thank you.”
The noticeboard is usually reserved for the promotion of village events. However, lockdown has resulted in the cancellation of virtually all such activities, leaving plenty of free space.
There had been a suggestion that the noticeboard belonged to the council and therefore couldn’t be used for social or political messages, which was being looked into. The villagers who administer the noticeboard said that the posters had not been removed by them.
One of several villagers who originally put up the posters and repeatedly replaced them was Anna Scully, who said: “I felt it was important to demonstrate support outside of the echo chambers of social media, and in a village that is largely white, hoping that people here – comfortably distant from city protests – were also listening and considering their accountability.
“Right now, our only alternative to racism is anti-racism.
“So many people seem to think that this doesn’t concern them, when that very idea is what perpetuates prejudice, pain and injustice.
“A number of ‘all/white lives matter’ and similar statements have been made, while some people have patiently tried to explain why that is so damaging.
“A large number of residents have shown online that they care, and are willing to learn and stand up for what’s right.
“I hope more people will use their voices.”
The persistence and initiative of BLM supporters in Hampstead Norreys has been praised on social media.
On Facebook, one Compton resident said: “I love the ‘do not give up’ spirit of this group.
“I would have loved to put something similar up in my village, but feel afraid of managing the repercussions.
“As a black person I don’t want to be seen as ramming stuff down people’s throats.
“I also think I’d feel afraid of who was living around me if my attempts were removed or defaced.
“How awesome for the black, Asian and other non-white people of HN to have such determined allies.”
Hampstead Norreys villager Azita Bodin-Ford said: “As a family of Caribbean and British heritage, it’s encouraging to know that we live in a very progressive community who outwardly reject racism.
“Living in a rural village, where ethnic groups are underrepresented, it’s important to know our opinions are heard and understood with compassion.
“Therefore, it’s equally important to know that we are supported when we challenge those who resist progressive change by censoring what is a very important message, in a time of much-needed togetherness.”