SMALL AXE, Fighting A Different Type of Perpetrator
Thank you for getting back to me. Unfortunately, things are not that straightforward, but one thing I must make clear, there are far more than two things at the heart of this dispute, I will outline just a few of them: 1) Discrimination. We believe that we are not given equal opportunity based on our race. 2)That the same consideration has not been given to our status as a Protected Characteristics as perhaps other minortised groups. White middle class men have for the duration been allowed to interact with us at their will without due consideration to the fact that we are African heritage women. 3) Gender, I do not want this to be hidden by the 'race' issue we outline in point 2. We do not believe that men would be able to freely engage with us without regard to our being a DV organisation that is gender specific. 4)There is a tendency to overlook black groups for 'quality' premises. This is something that has become the norm in Hackney and has always remained the 'elephant in the room' 5)Finance, this is totally about finance and not safety or equality. These all play a major part in this situation. Decisions about us are made without us and by people who do not represent us in no way, shape or form. That is discrimination and Hackney are in breach of a number of their policies. We did agree at the very beginning that the things needed to be changed in order for us to exist in those premises until a more permanent building could be located. However, the Mayor has NEVER ever asked us for an update, although there have been many. They found asbestos in the Clapton property, they produced a plan for the property that we could not work with as it changed how we could access the venue and had massive safety implications. So in direct answer to your questions, no, because conversations had since and the fact that we were offered an alternative building, voids that conversation. Had the Mayor or MPs bothered to ask us, we would be a lot further forward. We have made it clear throughout the whole duration (5 years) that the property is not adequate for us. It was always going to be until something else could be found. However two things must be taken into consideration firstly, we were forced to accept a situation that we have made clear that we were not happy with. We had been unable to use the premises over two years as it became increasingly dangerous. It was a question of that or nothing. As a tiny unfunded charity, they made it clear that we had no other choice when actually we did. Who would choose to stay in a rundown shopfront? We will produce evidence of letters over 5 years asking to move. That they keep sticking to the point of "you agreed to move" is disgusting. We have made clear our reasons for needing to move, including safety, and we keep getting the same response,..."you said you would move back". Ask Hackney Council why they offered us alternative premises this year if they thought we were happy to move back. We were not aware of certain things that came to light during the renovations that impacted our decision that we could not move back there. When we discussed the renovations, there were no plans in place. The architects had created a drawing of what was going to happen to the building long after we had spoken to Hackney Council. When the plan was discussed, we did not know what the size of the office would be or that it would significantly decrease the space within an already tiny space. Yes the office permits privacy for two or three people, but by removing the kitchen in favour of a 'kitchen stand' area, makes the main space unacceptably small and makes it unusable for us. In addition the new exit leads directly into a desolate, unsafe space which changes everything. We did not agree to live in a matchbox space in a shopfront where we can't fit service users in. We did not agree to have an exit that leads to a closed off area behind the venue where drug use is a daily activity We did not agree to using that same exit which is the entrance area to a community centre that has been vacant for over a decade we believe, and where squatters have lived in the dilapidated centre for ages. We do not understand why we continue to face questions about what we agreed or didn't agree. Should survivors of Grenfell be forced to return to a building because they signed a rent contract? The fact that we have outlined reasons why we do not find that venue fit for purpose. Our risk assessment and feedback from volunteers, staff and service users have highlighted danger should take precedence over everything. We are the experts on what is safe for our DV survivors. I would like to conclude by reminding the council of the Valerie Forde & baby RJ's murder in Hackney. We are being forced to move to Clapton, the very place where you met one of Valerie's remaining daughters when you visited us at that derelict property at the edge of a roundabout in an area isolated at evenings and weekends. Is Hackney properties more valuable than black lives? Valerie's daughter called to speak of the moment her mum went to the police to report a death threat and the police recorded it as a 'threat to property'. Despite the Homicide Review, Hackney are still putting black property before lives and we have to show them that BLACK LIVES MATTER. History has shown that Hackney does not give the same opportunities to black groups and in this climate, They have never financially supported us despite the Mayors claims, we have been doing this work free for over 6 years, all we ask is a safe and appropriate space somewhere. I truly do not know why Hackney, in particular the Mayor has taken this stance. Two activities are currently taking place: 1) A petition https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/extend-dv-specialist-sistah-space-s-hackney-tenancy-until-march-31st?source=twitter-share-button&utm_source=twitter&share=ed42e660-c622-4d69-8d48-7930e31d57e6 2) A Go Fund Me. We have the support of a 'celebrity' and within 4 days of them posting, we have already received a significant amount of donations. We will use that to pay something towards our stay there if that is the problem. Of course as a charity we don't have a lot of money, but we are prepared to at least pay towards our utility and other costs until a more permant solution can be agreed. https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-safe-space-for-african-heritage-dv-survivors 31/3/2021 the date we ask the council to allow us to remain in the venue for is significant. It is the date that Valerie Forde and her baby daughter were murdered in Hackney. It is also the date that our two year contract with MOPAC concludes. Thank you.