It took me a while to write about this because I just didn't know where to start. It's been over a month now and I saw a tweet that literally brought me to tears and that's no easy feat! Let me start at the beginning.
At 00:54 on the 14th of June 2017 residents of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington woke up to a blazing fire in their building. The tower, which is made up of 24 floors and 129 flats, was on fire from the outside in. Although the fire started in a faulty fridge freezer in a flat on the 4th floor of the building, the cladding on the outside of the building is what made what should have been a simple house fire, turn into an inferno. The first firefighters at the scene had successfully put out the fire in the flat and had given the all clear to residents, unaware that the poor quality of cladding on the outside of the building had caused the fire to travel upwards and the whole building was ablaze. It took more than 24 hours to stop the inferno and as you can imagine, the damage was irreparable.
Shortly after the news broke, social media was alive with addresses for donations and Go Fund Me pages to help raise money for the surviving residents of Grenfell Tower. People from all all over London travelled down to North Kensington to donate and volunteer their services; it was truly beautiful to see such a strong sense of community.
As you can imagine there has been a huge back and forth debate as to who in the government is responsible for the disaster and I won't go into the ins and outs of how the police and fire department handled the rescue mission, but what I will say, is that the one thing that is indisputable is that Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council is definitely to blame for this tragedy; in a bid to save money (£300,000 to be exact) they authorised an aluminium type cladding instead of the less flammable zinc cladding proposed.
Whatever the backstory, the result was the loss of a confirmed 80 lives to date, hundreds made instantly homeless and many still missing, assumed dead. The natural expectation is that the government would be as swift and smooth as possible in rehousing the survivors of the blaze but instead, reports of poor rehousing options have lead many to question the government's intentions and compassion in the face of this tragedy.
For those who are unaware, many areas in London are currently going through intense gentrification (social cleansing) which has forced the low income communities who built these areas up (such areas are mostly made up of ethnic minorities) to move in order to obtain affordable housing. In more unceremonious terms, they are white washing London. #NotRudeHonest
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is one of the areas in which such gentrification is taking place and instead of the borough to do everything within their power to help the victims of Grenfell Tower, their response was perceived as inadequate, so much so that the government relieved them of their duties and their responsibilities were handed over to other councils across London.
To say that their response is disgusting would not suffice but to hear via social media that tenants who refused to be rehoused in areas miles away from London were considered to have made themselves "voluntarily homeless" is just deplorable! These people have lost everything as a result of the council's negligence and in the wake of this tragedy they are still making their lives even more difficult but trying to move them away from everything and everyone they know, despite the fact that there are a reported 52,000 vacant houses availble in the borough! Just so they can continue their gentrification plans? Absolutely heartless!
Since the Grenfell Tower fire, the number of buildings that are failing safety tests keeps rising (181 tower blocks in 51 areas at last count) and 3 have also been NHS Trusts! On top of that, survivors of the blaze could face deportation if they come forward for help despite Teresa May having previously promised that them immigration amnesty. As if that wasn't enough, a club cancelled a Grenfell Tower fundraiser that could have greatly helped the victims because the general manager believes the choice in music will attract a "poor quality demographic and cause problems"! Don't these people have enough to deal with?
Given all this very condensed and simplified information I have provided, the video you are about to watch below is more than self explanatory:
The Housing Minister is unable to give straight answers
after two weeks?! Shameful! 😔
So what brought me to tears, you ask? The overwhelming feeling of sadness I felt upon reading this woman's response to that video.
I wish I could tell you that that Teresa Harper was the only person who saw it this way but she wasn't, beneath her tweet, many other like minded individuals tweeted things like "If he wants better housing then he should pay for it!" and "That's what's wrong with these people, they just want everything for nothing." Due to the turn the conversation under the tweeted video took, the video has since been taken down and Teresa has made her account private as a result of the backlash she received for her comments.
The fact that even after all these events have unfolded on every news station across the world, the need this man has for stability for his family can even be considered to be in any way intimidating or selfish is truly heartbreaking. I am aware that there are many injustices in the world and that black people in general are perceived to be aggressive ('Angry Black Woman' addresses this in part) but you'd think that after seeing a person's home go up in flames and hearing how the government failed them before and after the incident, their skin colour and even their reactions would take a backseat to compassion and empathy? It's incredibly sad that even in the face of such a disaster, skin colour and prejudices prevailed.
Full video of town meeting with Housing Minister and members
of the community including Grenfell Tower survivors