The evening of the 10th November saw The Stretch host an anti-apathy panel to discuss some of the most worrying aspects of our contemporary political and social climate. Primarily, the divide between those who have been invigorated to action by the wrongs that they are perceiving in contemporary society and those who have fallen into the malaise of disenchantment with the political system. The panel consisted of representatives from Rent Strike, Black Lives Matter UK, Anti Raids Network and Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary. The discussion began with an introduction by the curator of the panel Liv Wynter, addressing the apathy that she has witnessed at Goldsmiths, stating that this lack of concern is grounded in the image-consciousness and advantage of privilege among many students who are willing to pay only lip service to finding a solution to today’s issues rather than taking action to resolve them. “These are the people who will tell you for 45 minutes how to change the world but have no interest implementing that and putting it into practice. These are people who will remain apathetic until directly affected,” stated Wynter.
The floor was then handed over to Liam Renouf who was representing Rent Strike and is also the Student Union Housing Officer. After addressing the current unaffordability of student housing and Goldsmith’s halls, an aspect of London student living that many sympathise with, he raised the important issue of how this problem will only worsen as Lewisham property prices are expected to rise 20 percent by 2020. With Goldsmiths University looking to increase student population, competition for housing and property prices is going to continually grow, making it harder not only for students to find affordable housing but the wider public in areas such as Lewisham and Deptford as well.
The second speaker was there on behalf of the Anti Raids Network, an organisation that works in coordination with worker and migrant advocacy groups including the Latin American Workers’ Association (LAWAS), No Borders London, South London Anti-Fascists and the Precarious Workers Brigade. The organisation supports the dissemination of information regarding the rights of undocumented workers as well as actively attempting to interfere with efforts by immigration and police officers to raid homes and workplaces. An important point raised during this talk was the unusually large amount of primary legislation that disfavors undocumented workers that has been passed in recent years, namely the Immigration Act of 2014 and the Immigration Act of 2016. The tightening regulations on undocumented workers means that they may be reported just from using their bank, this ‘increases the risk of exploitation of these groups as they are forced to use black market financial services’ stated the Anti Raids Network representative.
Next, a speaker from Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary, a civil rights movement which focusses on fighting racism and sexism in the UK addressed the audience. “The majority of our members are asylum seekers; are detainees” explained the representative, “We believe that the only road to equality is to build a mass, integrated civil rights movement.” To try and achieve this goal the organisation attempts to spread awareness through talks and speeches as well as actively organising and protesting at detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood in Bedford which has come under fire after a banner accusing the guards of sexual impropriety towards the detainees was seen hanging from a window during a protest outside of the institution.
The panel closed with a representative from Black Lives Matter UK. “Black boys are 3 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school… and black women are twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts,” were just some of the statistics cited by the speaker and such data reveals the inherent flaws that the black community have to combat in today’s society and the mountain that needs to be surmounted if true equality is to be achieved.
A disappointing aspect of the event was that the cancellation of a planned discussion after the speeches, presumably due to the speakers running over their allotted time. This should have been monitored to allow for crowd interaction and discussion with the representatives. However, the purpose of the evening was achieved and the word was spread. It was encouraging to see such a strong turnout for the event and a lot of passion from the crowd, demonstrating that, for the time being, apathy and resignation at Goldsmiths is being held at the door.