Black Lives Matter and Anti-Racism: What can you do?

14 Sep 2020
On Thursday, 20th August, AONTAS and EPALE came together to host an online workshop on why Black Lives Matter still matters, and why it matters in Ireland in 2020. The workshop was delivered as part of the ‘Adult and Community Education: Supported Learner Pathways 2020-2021’ project under the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL), funded by SOLAS and the European Commission.

Black Lives Matter in Ireland in 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining traction since its establishment in 2013. The movement began with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of African American teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. Since then, communities in the United States and around the world have come together online and in person to protest the violence perpetrated against Black people. A focus has been police brutality towards Black people.

As a social justice organisation AONTAS has set about to further anti-racism action in adult learning and to support our members to understand and embed anti-racism across the adult and community education sector in Ireland.


The Black Lives Matter movement and Anti-Racism: What does it mean and what can I do?

On Thursday, 20th August, AONTAS and EPALE came together to host an online workshop on why Black Lives Matter still matters, and why it matters in Ireland in 2020. The workshop was led by Rosemary Kunene, a former resident of direct provision and now the CEO of Dignity Partnership (DiP) in Portlaoise, a social enterprise that provides self-employment support for people who are or have been in the direct provision system in Ireland.

Rosemary addressed many of questions that have emerged in the wake of the recent killing of George Floyd. Floyd’s killing was a shocking reminder that many Black people are still unsafe in their communities, and left a lot of people asking

The principles of equality and inclusion are key to adult education provision. After the killing of George Floyd, there were widespread calls to defund the police and a renewed focus on the daily inequalities faced by Black people, not just in the United States but around the world. The adult education community in Ireland is researching and implementing concrete and effective ways to help fight racism to help create an Ireland that is welcoming, inclusive and safe for all.

Rosemary addressed many of these concerns by teaching us about the history of colonialism and racism and offering practical suggestions for how to use this knowledge to counteract racism in our communities.


“All Lives Matter”?

Critics of the Black Lives Matter movement have countered with the “All Lives Matter” slogan. As Rosemary pointed out, however, no-one in the Black Lives Matter is disputing that all lives matter. What the movement hopes to achieve is highlighting the specific injustices, violence, and danger that black people experience just because they are Black. Black people, for example, are three times more likely to be killed at the hands of the police than white people. Rosemary shared the following quote by Trevor Noah, an award winning comedian from South Africa and host of The Daily Show:

“Black people are asking for equality, not charity.

They’re not asking companies to hire Black people just because they’re black. They’re asking companies to stop not hiring Black people just because they’re black.”

The presentation covered some disturbing historical instances of organised violence and brutality against Black people. Many participants noted that they found this upsetting, with some sharing that they had been unaware of this part of colonial history. Yet, this was an important learning moment as this showed us that the racism and violence experienced by Black people today has a legacy. The material was challenging, but it raised our collective awareness of the historical portrayal of Black people as inferior to white people that is still used to justify violence today.


Racism in Ireland

Rosemary expanded on her points by sharing with us that racism in Ireland is not just experienced by Black people. Some of the stats she shared included the fact that:


Participant feedback

“This is something that’s difficult for a lot of people to really look at because it really does mean dismantling the way that a lot of us think and have been taught to think and have known for our entire lives.”

“There is so many resources… that at this stage in 2020 there is no-one that can still claim or want to hold onto ignorance.”


What can we do to fight racism?

Rosemary summarised some of the key ways we can fight racism in our own communities. These include:

Participants were asked to complete a survey on their experience of the workshop. 100% of participants surveyed said that they will take further action on racism as a result of taking part in the workshop. One participant stated that

It was excellent! I learnt a lot from Rosemary's presentation and it made me think of so many times I caught myself on my own bias.”

Have you engaged with the Black Lives Matter movement? What have you learned or what would you like to learn about anti-racism? Tweet at us

This event was organised as part of the Adult and Community Education: Supported Learner Pathways 2020-2021 project under the European Agenda for Adult Learning. This is funded by SOLAS and the European Commission.


Further reading on the AONTAS Blog

What role does Adult and Community Education play in the process of anti-racism?

Racism in Ireland is something which AONTAS members recognise needs to be addressed.


Upcoming Racial Justice training for members

AONTAS is committed to supporting our members around anti-racism work. In collaboration with City of Dublin ETB, AONTAS is planning training for members titled: Racial Justice and Community Education – Awareness, Reflection and Practice 

The aim of the training is to start a reflective journey over three weeks that focuses on how adult and community educators can:

Numbers for this training are limited. To  find out more information please contact Sam O’Brien Olinger, AONTAS Information and Policy Officer at:

AONTAS will keep you up to date on future activities planned.