- 30 Jun 20
The Black Lives Matter movement has seen stylist and producer OYINZA emerge as a powerful voice against prejudice. She talks to STUART CLARK about online activism and picks ten people who’ve inspired her.
A striking aspect of the Irish Black Lives Matter movement – and the calls for an end to Direct Provision which have dovetailed with it – has been the number of young people powerfully addressing the issues on social media.
One of those is OYINZA, a 24-year-old Dublin-based stylist who’s worked with the likes of Soulé, Jafaris, Zali, Aimée, Super Silly, Erica Cody, UNQ, UD and Backpack Blu, Mango X MathMan, Wav€s and Lilo Blues of Hare Squead.
“When I was younger I was interested in Amnesty International; we were doing petitions, we were doing protests,” OYINZA reflects. “But when I became more passionate about what I wanted to do career-wise, I became a bit quieter and thought, ‘You have to separate your identities’. But in the last few weeks I’ve got so many messages from people venting to me and speaking about race that, as a black woman growing up in Ireland, I have to step into the role of being a temporary activist.”
OYINZA is heartened by the growing sense of community and the fact that more and more people are feeling empowered to talk about the racism they’ve encountered.
“When I started getting vocal, I noticed a lot of other black girls who are influencers or in corporate jobs, who’d never speak about certain things, post about their experiences in secondary school and the racism they face now in their careers,” she continues. “The second I saw people I never, ever expected to acknowledge Black Lives Matter I realised finally we’re not going to let this die. Most the people in this conversation are under 24, 25. The June 1st Black Lives Matter protest in Dublin started with a few posts on social media. JyellowL, Emeka Congo and Dennis Egunnike, who organised it, did an amazing job. They had the confidence to speak out and fight against the higher powers. I’m genuinely proud of our community right now.”
With June being Pride month, there’s also been much talk on twitter and Insta about LGBTQIA issues and the need for intersectionality.
“There’s a lot of homophobia and transphobia in all communities,” she rues. “I’m going to namedrop Di and Rayann and Black Pride Ireland. They’ve had a fundraiser facility since last year. Their target was only €500, but since people care so much about black issues now, they’ve been hitting crazy numbers like €21,000. There are people fighting racism, fighting homophobia, fighting transphobia, fighting sexism, fighting disablism, fighting Direct Provision. There’s so much to it. Just accept that we’re all in this battle together. I don’t want this conversation to end.”
OYINZA believes that music has a pivotal role to play in breaking down all manner of prejudice and stereotypes.
“I’m so passionate about working with people in the Irish hip-hop and R&B scene – I’m careful not to call it ‘urban’ because it’s such an odd word,” she says. “In my work as a stylist, I’ve always tried to promote diversity in terms of sexuality and race and ethnicity and body size. I’ve tried to bring about a change in how we see beauty in Ireland.
“I want to help black people and artists grow. Access is what matters. I’m going to help young black people who have an idea but don’t have the funds or the connections to get what they want.”
What there’s absolutely no paucity of, though, is talent and ambition.
“Soulé has had a quarter of a million views on her video, which I’m very happy about because I’m the one who styled it!” OYINZA smiles. “Uncle Bounce does this amazing online magazine from his gaff, Slight Motif. FeliSpeaks, who I was in college with, now has a poem on the Leaving Cert. I want to become an English teacher one day, so hopefully I’ll be teaching her poetry to kids. There are so many incredible people out there who just need the support and the exposure. Representation is so important.”
10 MORE ARTISTS & ACTIVISTS TO FOLLOW:
- Amanda Adewole: Vocal activist on social issues and digital creator (Instagram: @the_amanda_ade)
- Black Pride Ireland: Space for Irish LGBTQIA* folks – run by vocal activists Di and Rayann (Instagram: @blackprideire; Twitter: @blackprideire)
- Bounce, the P.R.O: Chief editor and creative director of online magazine Slight Motif which covers "all things urban" in Ireland (Instagram: @unclebounce; Twitter: @unclebouncee)
- FeliSpeaks: Poet, performer, playwright and artist who uses her voice and platform beautifully (Instagram: @felispeaks; Twitter: @felispeaks)
- Fortunelago: Multimedia artist who you should already know and if you don’t, fix it now (Instagram: @fortunelago; Twitter: @fortunelago_)
- Grúpa.ie: Creative community for everyone - run by Hope Bello and Michael D’Angelo (Instagram: @grupa.ie)
- Karen Miano: Nonbinary DJ and activist at the Queer and Black organisation, Origins Eile - run along with Maia Nunes (Instagram: @nonbinaryicon; Twitter: @nonbinaryicon)
- Shekinah BB: Portrait photographer who has an inimitable approach to shooting black skin (Instagram: @shekinah.bb)
- Solow the Astronaut: Artist, bassist, songwriter and producer who has worked with almost everyone in Ireland (Instagram: @solow_ta)
- Zack Oke: Artist and writer/social commentator who calls music his free therapy (Instagram: @zackoke; Twitter: @zackoke).