As we speak, the entire world is in outrage, mass protesting the death of George Floyd, a Black man who lost his life due to the brutal force of his arrest by the very people that are meant to be protecting society: four American police officers. Here in the UK, there are many people wondering exactly what they should be doing to help.
We spoke to New York based activist Mercedez Brye, owner of the popular account @BlackGirlActivist which focusses on human rights issues and has a following of over 30k about the Black Lives Matters Movement, performative activism and ways we can support that really help make a difference.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Mercedez Brye. I’m 20. Currently in college and I live in New York City. I got into activism in 2017 a couple days after my 17th birthday is when I made my Blackgirlactivist account but at the time it was called flowerchildfeminist.
2) You’re an activist that runs a few Instagram pages, could you run through the pages and what their causes are?
My first page Blackgirlactivist I made when I started to see a lot of feminist accounts on my explore page which I hadn’t see before. It inspired me to start a page of my own. As far as I have gotten looking back I never would have thought I would have gotten this far. My second page dailyactivists is a page I share with my friends that I made back in 2018. The main goal of both of my pages is to voice my opinions and give a voice to people of different races, sexuality, gender, etc.
3) The BLM movement is one that every single person should be supporting. However, there are some really problematic responses which are being used such as “all lives matter”. Please could you summarise exactly why this is an incorrect way to respond.
Saying “All Lives Matter” is a problematic response because it was only made to combat Black Lives Matter. When we said black lives matter we didn’t mean that it matters more than other lives It meant that our lives matter as well. It means that right now black people are more likely to be racially targeted and unfortunately killed at a higher rate. All Lives can’t matter if black lives don’t.
4) What is performative activism and how is it an issue?
In my opinion performative activism is only posting or talking about the issue when it’s convenient for you, if it looks good on your Instagram so people will praise you for it. It’s an issue because it shows that you don’t really care about what’s happening at hand, you only care about how good it makes you look and that draws attention away from what’s really happening and what’s really important.
5) With the current climate, there are a lot of people that are remaining silent for fear of having uncomfortable discussions or not knowing how to respond. What advice can you give to these people?
I would say that if you are uncomfortable that means that something is working. In life you’re not always going to be comfortable and you shouldn’t be uncomfortable for speaking out against injustices because people like me who are black and a woman have to deal with this stuff every day we have to be uncomfortable no matter what situation we are in. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.
6) How can we support the BLM movement here in the UK?
You can support the black lives matter movement in the UK by going to protest, donating money to BLM organizations or to families of people who have been victims of police brutality and by signing petitions.
7) Any Black owned beauty and skincare businesses or brands we can show some love to?
Some black on businesses that I love are the “You Matter” hoodies by Demetrious Harmon. I think they have a great message about mental illness and mental awareness. Also the hoodies that say “Support Black Colleges” I don’t remember who it’s by but I like the message that It sends out about how black people can be just as educated as white people and want to go to college and want to be doctors and lawyers and teachers etc.
Follow Mercedez over on her socials @blackgirlactivist and @dailyactivists