Black Lives Matter & G4S: Reflections On My Day At Wimbledon

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In solidarity with the agitation of black people in the United States, I decided to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt on the final day of the Wimbledon championship, which took place on 10th July 2016.

After queuing from 5:30am, I finally entered the Wimbledon ground at 10:50am. I was optimistic that there would be no repeat of an incident that occurred at the 2015 US Open when I was initially barred from entering because I wore a t- shirt highlighting the racism inflicted on Serena Williams. I was also optimistic because the previous day I had worn a t-shirt with the inscription “Love Serena Hate Racism” to watch the ladies final and I didn’t have any issues with the officials at SW19.

Upon entering the ground, I walked around the area, before settling down on Henman Hill to watch the final on the big screen. None of the Wimbledon officials who I passed by had any issues with the t-shirt and a number of people on the ground (including many white people) approached me to express their support for the Black Lives Movement.

After Andy Murray won his final match against Milos Raonic, I went to the South Concourse to watch Andy Murray lift his trophy in front of hundreds of fans. Murray came on to the balcony around 17:15 to show off his trophy and those of us on the ground cheered him. After Murray went in, the crowd dispersed and I walked towards Court 18. When I was midway to getting to Court 18 (near the lift by St Mary’s Walk), a heavyset official who works for G4S Security (the security service providers for the Wimbledon Championship) stopped me. The officer who was black and around 6ft called me to a corner and the following conversation occurred:

G4S Official: I understand why you are wearing this shirt, but I don’t think you should be wearing it here.

Me: Why?

G4S Official: The shirt is political and political messages are not allowed here in Wimbledon.

Me: But there is nothing political about this shirt. I have read the list of prohibited items and the inscription on the shirt is not prohibited. The list says political slogans are not allowed.

G4S Official: Black Lives Matter is a political message.

Me: No. What is political is a message like “Obama for President”, “Hillary for President”‘; “Trump for President” or “ Theresa May for Prime Minister”.

G4S Official: Politics is when 10,000 people gather together wearing a common uniform and supporting a common cause.”

Me: So does that mean 60,000 Arsenal supporters in Emirates who wear a common red jersey are engaging in political activities?

G4S Official: Well I don’t know about Arsenal. What you are wearing is political.

Me: But is the word “Black” political? Is the word “Lives” political? Is the word “Matter “political?

He then whispered to me and said, “All I want you to do is to cover your shirt.”

I ignored his advice and walked away.

What I find intriguing about the incident is that while Wimbledon officials had no issues with the t-shirt, it was only a Black officer working for G4S that found fault with the t-shirt. We live in an age where the humanity of black folks is been stripped away as blacks are lynched KKK style by a trigger-happy police force. Yet a black man working for an organisation that has had its fair share of controversy on the ill treatment of incarcerated black people has become a willing participant in silencing the cries of millions of black people around the world screaming BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Ever since the white world came into encounter with the black world, there have always been a few black folks who have made themselves available to sell their brethren’s to Massa for 30 pieces of silver. Some sold their brothers and sisters into slavery; some undermined the plans of the field slaves for the privilege of sleeping on the floor of masters house and eating the crumbs that fell from his table; some acted as FBI informers by snitching on civil rights leaders; some are now ignoring the cries of the black masses because they drive flashy cars, live in the suburbs and have scaled the corporate ladder.

This incident also highlights that there are institutional barriers, which prevent the plea for racial injustice from being heard. We are seeing this played out in the USA where there is a covet attempt by some sections of mainstream media to paint the Black Lives Matter movement as a violent organisation. Powerful institutions such as the corporate media organisations or G4S have the clout to control the narrative of what is or is not acceptable.

No matter how much the odds are stacked against us, no matter how much powerful forces try to mute our voices, no matter how many pints of our blood they spill, we must not retreat, we must not recoil, we must not relent, we must not reverse and we must not relax until justice is served.

Selah.

10 July 2016

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Writer and social critic

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