Black History Makers: Hackney advocate urges young people to 'have a voice’

Former Hackney B6 College student and advocate Emmanuel Onapa.

Former Hackney BSix College student and advocate Emmanuel Onapa. - Credit: Courtesy of Emmanuel Onapa

A young Hackney campaigner and activist is fighting to eradicate racial injustice and enact change in his community. 

Emmanuel Onapa, a leading voice in Hackney, got involved in community action because he felt no one else was speaking up for young Black men like him. 

He told the Gazette: “I just felt like somebody had to do it and nobody was doing it.

“I always got encouraged by my mum that whatever you do, just be the best at it and make sure you are making effective and sustainable change in whatever field you’re in.”

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At just 21 years of age, Emmanuel has written for several national newspapers, including the Guardian and Independent.

He is the young leader for Hackney CVS (council for voluntary service) and campaigns manager at Account, Hackney’s youth-led monitoring group. 

Emmanuel became interested in social justice while studying in Hackney at Upper Clapton’s BSix Sixth Form College.

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“I would like to see the disparity that we see in the community to be not there anymore,” he said. 

“I want the enhancement of the welfare state.

“I want people to have a voice, to have a say and for their human rights to be considered in everything despite their race, their ethnicity or background.”

The advocate’s work at the monitoring group Account saw him and others conduct research into how young people in Hackney felt about different issues.

Emmanuel said: “One thing that stood out for me was the trauma behind stop and searches and over policing within the Black community.

“The general consensus in society seems to be that stop and searches are okay, maybe they are effective and needed within the community. 

“But no one ever actually stops and realizes that the police are criminalising young children.”

Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people, recent government figures show.

“A lot of young Black men especially face trauma from getting stopped and searched and this trauma goes on to play in to their lives later on,” Emmanuel continued. 

“And it makes them not want to trust the state anymore and the political realm. 

“All of this plays a part in why we must fight for justice.”