We stand with Jason Osamede Okundaye. We cannot and must not allow the mainstream media to bully and intimidate us from speaking our truths. Many of you will know and appreciate Jason’s writing and in yesterday’s Guardian, in a typically eloquent manner, he both clarified what his tweets meant and reflected on the toxic nature of our public debate about race and racism.
Blackout UK’s mission is to support and amplify the voices of black gay/bi/sgl/queer men. Support for the voices of activists and scholars like Jason Osamede Okundaye is a crucial part of that mission.
It has been heartening to see many voices raised in support of Jason.
We would like to add ours.
Below is the text of a letter we will be sending to the Senior Tutor of Pembroke College who has been tasked with “taking appropriate action”, in the words of a Cambridge University spokesperson.
If you would like to add your name to the letter in solidarity with Jason, please respond in the comments below with your full name, and first part of your postcode, or send an email with those details to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘I stand with Jason‘ in the title by 9am Tuesday 29th August.
Dear Senior Tutor,
Support for Jason Osamede Okundaye
We read the newspaper coverage of Jason Osamede Okundaye’s comments on Twitter with dismay. Not for their content, but rather for the way in which he has been targeted and vilified by mainstream media for simply expressing a view with which they do not agree. His vilification has led to an outpouring of racist slurs, insults and threats of violence against Jason. Those who disagree with his views have sought to threaten his place at university. Some, ostensibly on the basis that black students at elite universities such as Cambridge University should not speak out about racism.
Closing down the voices of students or activists for racial justice through such bullying tactics is unacceptable but unfortunately part of a pattern that is coming to characterise public debate in the UK. We look to our institutions of higher education to protect freedom of thought and speech, and for students, like Jason Osamede Okundaye, to use their learning to engage with public debate. Any form of sanction imposed on him would signal a lack of commitment to those freedoms, and act as a discouragement to others to be vocal about issues of public concern.
We hope that Pembroke College will be able to use this unwarranted and unjustifiable media attention to reassert the value it attaches to freedom of speech and its commitment to equality of opportunity.
Dr Rob Berkeley MBE
Dr Antoine Rogers
Mr Marc Thompson
Editors, Blackout UK