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Activism

Marai Larasi

The Founder of the UK’s Leading Black-Feminist Network

Marai Larasi is a warrior. She fights for equality, freedom and justice for England’s Black women and girls through her roles as executive director of Imkaan and co-chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition. Many regard her work as noble, and it is, but to Larasi, it’s just the rent she pays for living on this planet.

When did you realize what you wanted to do in your life?

“Even as a teenager, I had a strong sense of wanting to challenge injustice, but I had no idea what that looked like and what that would or could mean in terms of work. For a while I wasn’t sure at all. Then, in my mid-20s, when I had an opportunity to work in a women’s refuge (a shelter), I knew that I had found my place. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this movement that dared to connect an individual woman’s right to safety and justice to the vision of our collective liberation.”

What’s something you’d like people to know about you or your job that they probably don’t?

“I work for a Black feminist organization. Our work is challenging, difficult and even painful at points. The impact of systemic oppression takes its toll on us. But I also want people to know that there is a joy that we find in working toward our collective liberation as Black women/women of color. My job is tough—it is exhausting—but it also work that is rooted in, and always infused with, love.”

What are you most grateful for?

“I am most grateful for the love and support of my communities, including those that have gone before me. I am the descendant of those women and men that were not meant to survive, but did. I am always grateful that I have family, friends, warrior sistahs and brothas who are fierce, gentle and loving and who always hold me to account. I am also loving being a nana!”

What does being a woman mean to you today?

“Being a woman, and specifically being a Black British woman with African-Caribbean roots, means being defiant enough to imagine a different world and being courageous enough (or wild enough) to commit to creating that world, on a daily basis. It means having to cope with inequality, whether it happens to be the constant stream of microaggressions or direct, ‘in-your-face’ hostility (including on social media). It means working hard and striving to join the dots between activism, work, family, community and your individual dreams. It also means looking around you and feeling a powerful sense of affirmation as we rise together as women and girls and as we demand and create change. It means dancing, on your own, or with a lover, or your sistahs because you can and because you know how important it is to celebrate life itself.”

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