Currently, we are experiencing one of the biggest global crises since the Great Recession of 2008. The economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to plunge the world into a second large recession or worse. This however, is not the first pandemic humankind has faced, but it’s the first for our generation.
As the world faces a virus that does not discriminate between genders, races, or immigration statuses, the strain of poverty is proving to be detrimental to the likelihood of survival. In these trying times, we survivors of the pandemic need to reconsider our modest lives and remove the aspects of our society that created a permanent underclass. As society gets its chance to rebuild, the divisions of a pre-coronavirus society such as political hyper-partisanship, racial and economic segregation, and unregulated damage to our environment, must be addressed.
It seems as though many in our society were blissfully aware of the need for such radical change, and for some, the reconstruction of society in a new form may be unbearable. Incremental changes may have created the modern world as we know it, but generations are defined by revolutions and create the new normal.
As this piece was being written, about a month has passed since the doors of the world shuttered for the sake of public health. In that time, we have seen countless acts of selflessness, and a coming together (while remaining apart), to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel albeit a faint one.
During my time in isolation I had a rare opportunity for self-examination. I realised how much I missed interacting with my loved ones as well as the public. I reflected on various societal issues, including the false narratives weaved by Western nations of a polite society, pseudo-liberal ideology, and hypocritical social engineering. In theory, these ideals encourage a multicultural society, but in practice, migrants and those living below the poverty line are hurt the most. These were once exclusive experiences found in the richest nations, but as the world’s interconnectivity grows, the perils of inequality spread with it.
To provide a concrete example of the double standards found in Western nations, look no further than our recent Brexit results. In the run-up to the referendum, far-right political ideologies captivated the once Labour strongholds of the north, and a malicious form of nationalist sentiment set in. As they celebrated this historic decision, and pushed for a speedy withdrawal from the European Union, they also called for the removal of migrants. These migrants, many of them now classified as “essential” workers within the National Healthcare System (NHS), are putting their own lives at risk to save people that vehemently advocated for their removal.
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson recovers from his bout with COVID-19, he issued a statement of gratitude to healthcare providers, especially the two migrant workers instrumental in his treatment. This episode proves how vital multicultural society is in our shrinking world, and exposes the need for our government to retool policies from mental health, to economic disparity, access to education, etc.
I lived in Italy for almost 25 years, and as a person of Nigerian descent, I was antagonised relentlessly due to my skin colour. More recently, as Italy has been taken over by far-right political parties like the League, people like me have been the object of racist propaganda that uses migrants and the poor as political scapegoats. Mentally, I felt the pain of loneliness and a general malaise that made me question my right to self-expression.
In my town near Modena, Black families were few and far between, and with both parents outside of the home working to build a better life for me, I was starved for attention. Without a mentor or trusted adult figure beyond my parents, I began to feel as though I was falling down a deep black hole. Struggling to find my identity, I finally found a glimmer of hope when I moved to London five years ago, where I was finally able to breathe and feel alive in one of the biggest multicultural cities in the world.
Today, my life is almost unrecognizable to my previous one. Since I moved, I completed my BA in International Relations and Politics. While completing my studies, I was able to be a presenter on radio stations such as Reprezent and Verve which allowed me to discover my passion for music and DJ in my spare time.
It dawned on me that through music, the world can be brought together. To do this I brought together a multicultural group of people to create the “Speaker Box Street Party” platform. These spontaneous street parties encourage an inclusive environment where everyone can express feelings of happiness, love, and passion for music by joining together through dance. Music and dance break down the walls that divide us racially, generationally, religiously, politically, and so on. During these brief unexpected moments of levity people can relax and enjoy life even if it's just for five minutes.
Speaker Box Street Party has given me the chance to collaborate with diverse organisations in the UK such as Stand Up Against Racism, Love Music Hate Racism, the British Red Cross, and Kairos Group in their national campaigns. We have also formed strong links with Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.
With all that I have done personally and through the Speaker Box Street Party, I now realise that I am capable of doing anything. All a person needs is the opportunity and mentors who believe in them. For this reason, I believe that Speaker Box Street Party is the ideal platform to infuse positivity in people’s lives post-lockdown. I will always strive to put a smile on people’s faces as we rebuild society and find our new normal.
This piece was written from our international contributor, Simon Samaki