"Greatness will come by the way we treat one another"


The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, addressed a #BlackLivesMatter march in Canterbury on Saturday 13 June, speaking of the need for people to be the change they want to see. Greeting the protesters outside Canterbury Cathedral, Bishop Rose was accompanied by the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, and the Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Ven Jo Kelly-Moore. 

Speaking to the crowd, Bishop Rose urged peace and cooperation in the face of injustice, saying, "Let's together, in harmony, make the change that needs to happen. And if there is anyone where in this crowd who has any idea of anything else, please, I'm telling you, that takes away from what we are wanting to achieve. So let's work together - I am with you!

"I see some of your plaques - 'Racism is a pandemic'- it is a pandemic and we have been dying, we have been dying in so many ways. And we have been dying in a way that, slowly, has also killed the next generation. You can put a stop to it, we can put a stop to it, so please let's do that. And let's go peacefully. Let's not find somebody else to blame. When we go from here, we go from here with the kind of commitment that says, 'We are going to be the change that we want to see!' Don't push on somebody else. We are going to be the change, we are going to start the change. We are going to be that change. God bless you! Peace be with you!"

The full text of Bishop Rose's speech follows: 

I want to say thank you very much for being here today. Now, you may know the story of that gather together and they're boasting about who is going to make the best contribution to breakfast. And the cow boasts, 'I'm going to give so much milk - quarts and quarts of milk.' And the chicken says, 'Well, I'm going to give lots and lots of eggs.' But the pig, the pig is quiet - and then the pig says, 'Yes, you're going to give all of those things, but actually, I am going to give everything.'  

And I share that with you, because, yes there is  a pandemic and we would have liked not to be able to be gathering in a pandemic. But this is really important. We are saying that we are standing together. We are standing together to show compassion. Compassion. 

I watched that video clip, it was sent to me a day or so before the story broke here on the news media. And I am sitting there and I am screaming, 'Get off him! Get off him!' The pain that I felt was that here was a man - a man, not some wild animal. He is laying there, he is already handcuffed, and yet his very breath is taken away from him. He used the words, 'I can't breathe. Please sir, I can't breathe - and he was not heard. Why was he not heard? He was not heard because they did not care. They did not care because he was black and they thought he did not matter. And that is why we say 'Black Lives Matter'. We're not saying 'black lives matter because we are opposed to white lives' - that is a nonsense. Let us look - black and white,pink and blue, old and young we are standing together and we are saying, 'People's lives matter.'

We want to live in a world where all lives matter - and all lives will not matter until we accept the right for black people to be free. I don't want this just to be a protest that we make and then we go back to our ordinary lives. We cannot do that. We must stay discontented, until we have the kind of structural change in all walks of life, the kind of structural change that we see in the economic structures of our society, in policing and criminal justice, education, health, housing, voting - every walk of life must change. And we must not go back to being what we were being until we get that change. We must call our politicians to account. And most of all, all of us, we must live as though we mean it. 

Let's not be carried on the wind, and on the whim of a moment. When our friends make unpleasant comments about black people, we need to challenge them lovingly. We need to say, 'Why did you say that, what does that mean?' Call them out!

I have received letters and emails from people telling me that if I don't like what's happening, then I should go back home. I don't know which home they want me to go back to. This is my home! We all have a stake in being here, in building the kind of Britain where everyone can be treated with respect. 

So I want to encourage you to keep going, to keep going. The whole thing about statues is a distraction, let's not go there. Let's do the real thing, and let us seek the change, let us actually be the change that we want to see - all of us. 

You can see from my garb that I'm a woman of faith. And I can tell you that my faith is not just about kneeling in prayer. I pray all the time, but actually my faith teaches me that God created all humans. It also teaches me that God is interested in our lives, he is interested in whether or not there is justice, whether or not there is fairness, whether or not we look after those who are most vulnerable in society.

One of the things that people throw at me is, 'But look, look at that lot over there, they are fighting and knifing each other.' Let me tell you about this. If for years and years and years you are told that you are not valuable, then you are going to behave as if you are not valuable. And that's what we're seeing on our streets, played out in knife crime. For years and years and years, a generation of children and young people are told by the way they are treated that they are of no worth and they begin to believe it. What we need is that song that Bob Marley sang - 'emancipate yourself!' We've got to free our minds, but we've got to do it together. We've got to treat each other with respect. So if ever you are in a crowd at a gathering like this and you see someone beside you begin to take things out to throw at the police or anything else, you talk them down - because that's distracting from why we are here. 

So I want to encourage you, I want to thank you - thank you for giving up your beautiful sunny day to be saying that black lives matter, to say that George Floyd's life mattered, to say all those who have died, who should not have died in the way that they died - their lives mattered. And going forward, we are committing ourselves to ensure that their lives mattered.

So I want to say to you, we are here in this amazing country. We are the ones who will make this country great - and the greatness will come by the way we treat one another. And right now because we haven't been doing it right, it is not telling us about our greatness. So I implore you, and I beg you and I plead with you and I say thank you for being out and for owning the fact that our lives matter. 

I didn't get where I am today simply because I am Rose Hudson-Wilkin. I, too, have had the pain of rejection, I too have had the treatment that I am of no worth, but I was damn lucky to have been born and brought up in Montego Bay Jamaica. Because there I saw images of myself in all walks of life, so I grew up knowing that I didn't have just play sport, or music, but that I could become anything else that I wanted to be. And that's what I want for our children - black and white, pink and blue, grey and whatever other shades we are. I want our children to grow up knowing that they can be whatever they are.

So please, every one of us, it is our responsibility. Don't leave it to the politicians, don't leave it to them. Let's do it for ourselves, let's hold them to account. We don't want platitudes. We don't want nice words - what we want is action. The kind of action that enables. The kind of action that will mean that my grandchildren will have a different outlook. 

I don't want to keep you much longer. I know you are going to go somewhere else. I will go with you but I will not take the knee. And I will tell you why I'm not going to do this. Because I am pained, that that was the very action that took his breath away. I will respect what you choose to do and that's OK but I'm just telling you now that if you don't see me kneel, it is because I am in pain at what I saw and I could not replicate it myself personally. But if it's right for you, then, please. Let's together, in harmony, make the change that needs to happen.

And if there is anyone where in this crowd who has any idea of anything else, please, I'm telling you, that takes away from what we are wanting to achieve. So let's work together - I am with you!

I see some of your plaques - 'Racism is a pandemic'- it is a pandemic and we have been dying, we have been dying in so many ways. And we have been dying in a way that, slowly, has also killed the next generation. You can put a stop to it, we can put a stop to it, so please let's do that. And let's go peacefully. Let's not find somebody else to blame. When we go from here, we go from here with the kind of commitment that says, 'We are going to be the change that we want to see!' Don't push on somebody else. We are going to be the change, we are going to start the change. We are going to be that change. God bless you! Peace be with you!