By Daragh Nolan
Imagine going to school in Galway each day wondering what form of racial abuse you will be faced with today. What will they call me? What will they do to my stuff? Will anyone ever help to stop this?
These questions have plagued the minds of many young ethnic minorities in Ireland today and in countless years gone by.
Ikenna Anyabuike has lived in Galway for most of his life. He has been residing in Ireland since he was six years old and experienced racist abuse throughout all that time. As a result of this he has never felt truly at home in Ireland because of it.
“I was the only the black kid in my class, I had just come from Nigeria and it was tough, they tortured me…I was severely bullied throughout all of my time in primary school because I was black,” Ikenna explains.
“Unfortunately, every year except one, 4th class, this was happening to me. The teacher I had was such a lovely lady, loved art and she did not accept bullying, so she stamped all that out. If more teachers had done the same maybe it would have been different.”
Ikenna feels that more can be and needs to be done to stop people being mistreated and abused in this country. We would all like to believe that such archaic thought processes are dying out but that is simply not reality.
“As an adult I am not sure that has changed, I am an artist and most of the money I make comes from Britain or elsewhere, not from Ireland,” he says.
“I knew I was going to find it hard to find work in Ireland, I realised very young that the barrier of my name on a CV would prevent me from getting certain opportunities.”
Frustration has been at the heart of Ikenna’s experience as he laid out his feelings of abhorrence for how he had been treated in his life.
“You never forget it; you won’t ever forget those negative experiences and the stuff you had to put up with but as a result you also never fail to remember the people who were there for you in those times,” Ikenna says.
Ikenna never forgot those people. Two individuals came straight to mind when I asked Ikenna about those figures in his life who did support him through the toughest of times.
“God rest her soul, I had a neighbour, Sharon. She passed last year and was the nicest human being you could ever possibly meet. She couldn’t care less about what other people thought, she always looked out for me, was always there for me. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and I could never thank her enough for that,” he says.
“My music teacher changed the whole trajectory of my life; she was so encouraging at all times and she is the reason I decided to do drama and theatre and why I am where I am today.”
Ikenna has offered advice to anyone going through a similar struggle.
“Don’t let it destroy you, do not let it break you down and above all else, don’t accept it, never become okay with it happening to you or anyone else,” says Ikenna.
Ikenna and many others are sharing their stories and experiences on BlackandIrish.com. They are on a mission to engage with the wider Irish society. To come together, celebrate black and mixed-race Irish identity, and to spread awareness by telling stories.
Melissa Ndakengerwa, the business coordinator of Black and Irish explained the origin of the organisation and what they are hoping to achieve with this project.
“Black and Irish was founded on the third of June 2020, in response to the online discourse after the killing of George Floyd. It was founded with the aim to spread awareness around the world of the experiences, struggles and successes within the black and mixed-race community,” says Melissa.
“I followed their Instagram page and when they started posting stories, they all really resonated with me, even just the familiarity of hearing them all. It made me feel as if I was not alone, their stories had such a profound impact on me.”
After following the progress and growth of the organisation, Melissa decided to get involved herself and to work alongside people that are also dedicated to creating a better life for the black and mixed-race Irish community.
“I was drawn to the organisation itself because of their mission to spread awareness and dedication to giving a voice to the black and Irish community, something I have never seen growing up here myself. I believe that the work that the organisation is doing is crucial, because it is increasing the visibility of the community. It is positive representation and offering people an opportunity to find and connect with each other,” Melissa explains.
“The aim of the organisation is just to better integrate the black and mixed-race community to the wider Irish society. To reveal, challenge and eradicate racism from our society and just to mainstream like blackness into the wider Irishness. We plan on achieving these aims just by working across different areas of our society, such as education, business, and media, politics, community, and entertainment, just to make them more equal and inclusive.”
One island, many voices.
For more Galway Pulse stories click here.