“Boris Johnson says we can’t go back and rewrite history. We don’t need to, we just need to tell the truth.”

That was the powerful message from Jojo Blankson, of Basingstoke United Against Racism, as a peaceful demonstration at War Memorial Park on Saturday.

Addressing the crowd of around 100 people, Jojo urged the public to learn about the history Britain has played in structural racism.

He said a better education and understanding into Britain’s history was desperately needed.

Jojo said: “Boris Johnson said we can’t go back and rewrite our history. No, we don’t need to. We just need to tell the truth. There is no point in lying to people. We just need to tell the truth.”

“Do you know slave owners were paid for losing their slaves? What about the people who were slaves? What about their children? What about the people who were bought and sold?”

People cheered in the crowds as he made this point.

Jojo said racism exists at every level: global, nationally and locally here in Basingstoke. He said: “Locally I am doing my bit. This is where I live. This is where my fight begins.”

Organiser Jen Campbell echoed Jojo’s point about further education needed. She said: “We need to teach true history. We need the truth to be told.”

She asked the crowd how many knew that slave traders in the 1833 were paid when slavery was abolished for their loss in earnings.

Out of the 100+ crowd, just a handful raised their hands.

Jen continued: “Once the slaves were freed, many of them were then put onto unpaid apprenticeships.”

Shahida Akhtar, who also gave a speech at the event, urged residents of Basingstoke educate themselves about Britain’s role in the slave trade.

“We all have a part to play in ending systemic racism. We can educate ourselves in our shared past colonial history and our relationship with the slave trade and how it weaves into the fabric of our society today. We can then start seeing black people who came to this country as citizens rather than illegal immigrants, as they were treated during the Windrush scandal.”

She added ““Having a talk with your teenager usually means talking about the birds and the bees.

“For a black person, it is how to make sure your son comes back alive.”

She said: “You may ask, ‘But surely we live in a fair and just society? We don’t have laws that allow black lives to matter any less than any other. Surely what happened to George Floyd wouldn’t happen here?’”

However, her response was: “Yes of course we all live in a just and fair society. But there is always a but. And it is a big a but as you can get.

“A fair society is where laws are applied and implemented equally. Where laws are not applied in equal measure, systematic inequality breeds discrimination.”

During his speech, Jojo said: “The whole world system is set up against black people in general. The world that Great Britain is built on is off the backs of black people. America has over 300 years of free labour. If you take that amount of people from any society, what do you think will happen?”

Jojo said however his desire is for unity and for people to come together. “This is not a fight against any individual, we are fighting the systems and the structures that have supported white privilege. Let’s all educate ourselves and create a system that benefits us all.”