“I need you all to help change the way the criminal justice system sees black people”Brenda Birungi AKA Lady Unchained
For me, this clear call to action summed up the power of the INSIGHT Awards at the end of March, hosted by Expert Citizens CIC. The annual event brings together inspiring stories and examples of communities and people with lived experience – I was delighted to join Katy and Astrid in representing the APLE Collective with a virtual marketplace stall.
This year more than ever, it is vital that we recognise the critical role that our local communities play in working together, supporting each other, creating strong bonds and opportunities, and in many instances saving lives and livelihoods. The online networking space was filled with amazing organisations, some I already knew of and some were new to me, including All The Small Things CIC and The Men Unite Podcast.
Yet it was the speakers and performances, including Lady Unchained who made the event so incredibly special, uplifting and heart-warming. The experiences of her and Jamal Khan with the UK prison system, expressed through their music and poetry, highlight that creative expression is so crucial to our work as community organisers, in sharing our own experiences and working alongside people to share theirs too. Their experiences of injustice have shaped their inspiring approaches to working with communities, and are examples that we can learn from in our own lives.
I also cannot reflect on the event without mentioning the Awards themselves! They were a true celebration of brilliant practices in our communities, of people coming together and using their experiences to create change with more community-led solutions. The stand-out example for me was Beats Bus Records from Hull, who use a mobile unit to engage with young people where they are, and involve them in creative opportunities including dance, DJing and graffiti. Hearing about their work, as well as all of the other winners and nominates, filled my heart with warmth and optimism.
Above all else, the INSIGHT Awards filled me with overflowing and unbounded hope. APLE Collective exist to address poverty by lived experience, and the INSIGHT Awards, hosted by founding member of APLE Collective, Expert Citizens, revealed the power of lived expertise. The powerful performances and superb speakers showed that anything is possible, when communities and those with lived experience are able to express themselves, shift power and create change.
Dan Oliver- Start Point