Black History Makers: Hackney author on ‘revolution’ to stamp out racism

Robyn Travis with his new book Freedom from the Streets. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

Robyn Travis with his new book Freedom from the Streets. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris - Credit: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

A Hackney writer insists society as we know it needs a dramatic overhaul to stamp out institutional racism and discrimination. 

Robyn Travis – author of memoir Prisoner To The Streets, debut novel Mama Can’t Raise No Man and most recently Freedom from the Streets – told the Gazette power systems must change. 

READ MORE: Hackney author on making peace and understanding violence

“We need a revolution. Wipe out the police, start again; wipe out government, start again; wipe out the Houses of Parliament and start again,” he said. “We have to teach the youngsters, they have a lot to learn.”

This is because “ethnic minority people are finding space and being accepted by a majority of people, but not accepted by the system we are still in”, he added.

Growing up in the early 2000s amid inter-estate rivalries that still exist today, Robyn believes engaging with children from as young as primary school is important to change entrenched mindsets. 

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He added: “They will have grown up in a situation where you don’t care what colour you are, they don’t care about race.”

In his career, the author has previously spoken to sold-out audiences at the Hackney Empire and been invited to literary festivals such as Cheltenham, Harrogate and Bare Lit.

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Robyn is critical of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which came to prominence this year when protests around the world followed the death of George Floyd, after a white police knelt on his neck in America. 

He said the rhetoric is divisive because it focuses on race: “I am not interested in BLM, it’s destructive. It’s important for Black people to know their history, about slavery and Windrush, about being socially excluded.

“Why does my colour have to become a part of it? I have never seen a white or Black person in my life – if you are talking about colour, it’s a social construct. 

“I have seen Dulux white on my wall but no one is that colour, we’re all different shades, and it’s divisive. I have learned that this is how they want us to stay in the system, by keeping us all divided.”

He continued: “How do you stop slavery? The solution is to stop taking about the past and stop talking about what slavery did.
“BLM was embarrassing for a number of reasons – anyone who oppresses me then says my life matters – it’s embarrassing.”

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