Listen to Clara Amfo’s powerful message on racism, mental health and blackness in culture

“You cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues"

BBC Radio One DJ Clara Amfo delivered a powerful speech on her radio show yesterday (June 2) dealing with racism, mental health, blackness in culture and the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis last Monday (May 25) following an altercation with police officers. Floyd, who was African-American, was killed when a white police officer appeared to kneel on his neck as he lay on the ground during an arrest. Former police officer Derek Chauvin has since been sacked and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

With protests calling for racial equality taking place across the world and millions taking part in a ‘blackout’ on social media, Amfo delivered an impassioned opening to her BBC Radio One show yesterday explaining how the death of Floyd had left her distraught and unable to attend work the previous day.

“Now, before I get into it, I just want to say that I am fully aware that we are in the middle of this devastating pandemic and I am fully aware that I am not a medical professional or a frontline worker,” she told her listeners. “I am just a woman who does a radio show, but my job is very public-facing so I want to talk to you.

“Now, if you have small children or would rather not hear what I’m about to say, because I am going to discuss race and violence, please check out something else on the BBC Sounds app for the next few minutes. If not, then I really welcome you to stay with me.”

“Now as you know at Radio One, we talk a lot about mental health, and mine was in a really bad way yesterday. In fact, it has been for the past few days in particular in relation to the death of George Floyd.

“George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died whilst being held under arrest. Now I didn’t have the mental strength to face you guys yesterday. To ask, ‘Hi, how was your weekend?’ like I usually do with my happy intention, because I know that my weekend was terrible. I was sat on my sofa crying, angry, confused, and also knowing, stuck at the news of yet another brutalised black body.”

She continued: “Knowing how the world enjoys blackness and seeing what happened to George, we black people get the feeling that people want our culture but they do not want us. In other words, you want my talent but you don’t want me. There is a false idea that racism, and in this case anti-blackness, is just name-calling and physical violence when it’s so much more insidious than that.”

“One of my favourite thinkers is a woman called Amanda Seales and I feel it deeply when she says this: ‘You cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues.’ And I say that with my chest.”

After encouraging listeners to tune in to shows by Annie Mac (dedicated to black artists who have enriched the musical landscape) and Seanie B and Ace (who discussed their experiences as black men in the UK), Amfo concluded: “I want to say to our black listeners that I hope you feel seen and heard today.

“And to those of you that have already, let me know that you are doing the work to be committed to doing better – I see you, so let’s do this. Let’s all be anti-racist.”

Many names from the world of music have spoken out to call for justice for Floyd, as well as for an end to systemic racism in all forms.

For more information or to donate to the Movement For Black Lives visit here, and visit here for anti-racism resources.