How a 200-year-old society is inspiring young minorities in Brum

Young man
Don't Settle Lunar Campfires provide a safe space for young people of colour to talk about their experiences. It was an honour to be involved in the first one.

The Lunar Society was an informal gathering of leaders, industrialists and scientists in Birmingham who met regularly 200 years ago to discuss matters of the country. You might be wondering what this has to do with minorities today in Brum.

Just as Birmingham’s original Lunar Society talked about important matters of the time, we at Don’t Settle aim to do the same.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has supported Don't Settle, a project run by Beatfreaks which helps young people of colour to tell the stories of communities that have been neglected in heritage. One way we are doing this is through the Lunar Campfires, which are inspired by that 18th-century debating society.

Young people
The Don't Settle team

 

However, instead of eminent white men, Don’t Settle Lunar Campfires want to give young people of colour a space to talk about what’s important to them. We’re specifically aimed at young ethnic minorities in Birmingham whose voices are often the last to be heard in a loud and overly stimulated world, yet more often than not have a lot to say.

I’m Not White, What Do You Call Me?

The first one took place at Soho House in Birmingham. The bold title was: I’m Not White, What Do You Call Me? It’s a provocative question that forces you to interrogate yourself, and what it means to be anything but white in a world that’s only just beginning to call out ongoing issues among ethnic minorities.

Young people at event
Making zines at the event

 

More specifically, it addresses the topic of privilege. It draws attention to the fact that people in certain communities simply do not have the same advantages or disadvantages as people from another community. This pertains specifically to people of colour versus white people - who are often the first to enjoy privileges based on the colour of their skin (white privilege).

Our theme for the first Lunar was language, how it influences us as individuals within our communities, and the environment that surrounds that community. 

Making a space for people

What makes Lunar Campfires so unique is how much thought and care is put into making the event as comfortable and safe as possible. This is because topics such as race and ethnicity can be so challenging for some young people who might not be as comfortable with sharing their trauma or opinions.

Safe space
The Have a Moment safe space

 

To ensure comfort, we created a literal safe space that we labelled Have a Moment, in which people could have a breather and calm themselves. I had never come across this before but understood why having such a space is important, and how this might encourage more young people to listen or speak out at events.

My experience as a Resident has been remarkable. I never thought I would have the honour of being part of something that actively strives for change.

I can vouch for feeling unimportant or unheard as a youth. I often felt as if anything political or relevant I had to say was quickly dismissed as “complaining” or meaningless banter that would never leave the sanctum of the table or space that it was discussed in.

This is why events like Lunar Campfires are so important in this day and age. It’s a space that doesn’t just evoke discussion in a safe space but also records and acknowledges what was said.

It has been an honour to work on such a project and to be involved with a collective that aims to not just talk about making a difference, but actually making sure what is said by young people is heard and understood.

Find out more

Find out more about Don't Settle on the Beatfreeks website and find the full discussion on Twitter

The next Lunar Campfire, Too Dark for the 'Gram, Too Light for the Culture, takes place on 27 September 2019.