Generation Revolution: Young black London activists in all their complexity

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Serving police officer Seb Adjei-Addoh gives his take on a powerful new documentary on activism among young 'black and brown' activists in London. 

Generation Revolution (GenRev) is a documentary chronicling the discourse, complexity and vibrancy of an emerging iteration of the black social movement in the UK.

The discourse evident in the film was not an entirely new narrative: that of young black people with sentiments of disenfranchisement, lack of agency and frustration with society. The major difference here is that they are seen organising politically, most notably as part of the London Black Revolutionaries (or Black Revs).

The sense of discrimination was felt most acutely by young black people in their interactions with the police. This had an impact on me in particular, as a serving police officer and a black man myself.

The complexity of the protagonists was reflected in their divergent ideas on what collective action to take. The film showed a range of responses, including constructive peaceful protest, acts of charity for the homeless and canvassing of other young people. There was also to destructive behaviour that I do not support, such as disorder in Brixton, criminal damage to a shop and blockades in Central London.

The complexity of the characters was captured perfectly by the film-makers in the schisms that envelope the Black Revs and eventually lead to the demise of the movement.

For me, one poignant scene in the film was when we heard a young black woman in conversation with an activist describing her fear of male black activism. This spoke to the hyper-masculine, uncompromising take on activism she felt was evident in some she had come across.

That the film-makers were fearless in showing these intersectional tensions between race, gender and class that we all negotiate is a testimony to the layering of the film.

GenRev documents the vibrancy of politics among young people in London. It is vital in a progressive society that a diverse array of voices are heard, which the film achieves.

My only hope is for a similar recognition that complexity and diversity also exists in institutions, such as the police force, and so a ‘them versus us’ narrative between police and activists is as inaccurate as this film is precise.

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