'Racism has no place here' Laois African businessman speaks out

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

'Racism has no place here' Laois African businessman speaks out

Michael Onalimi

A well known Laois African businessman has made a passionate statement about racism and the Black Lives Matter issue. 

Michael Onalimi who lives in Mountmellick with his local wife Tara and their family, is the energetic hard worker behind the award winning Flavour Safari range of sauces.  

He has written a long and passionate piece on his business's social media page about the need to defeat racism, with hundreds of positive responses from supporters. 

"So many people have asked me over the past few days, what do I think about the current situation in The US and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and as a prominent figure in the Black Community here in Ireland, I feel I have to say something, as if I didn't, I wouldn't be true to myself...

"A lot of you will know me, some of you may not but my name is Michael Onalimi & I've lived in County Laois for 20 years now and I am the proud founder of FLAVOUR SAFARI, Ireland's First African Inspired Sauce Range!

Below Michael with his son.

"Racism, in its many forms, is ever present albeit not always apparent in all parts of society today, right across the globe and has been for hundreds of years! Generations of black people have suffered as a result of both systemic and institutionalised racism that still takes place today, in one way or another in every community but the problem is...that it has become so entwined, so integrated, so much a part of the mindset of a generation....that it is not always recognisable for the cold, ugly truth that it is...and I believe that it has become so "normalised" that people will quite often fail to realise what it is, or that they are guilty of it in some small way, in some of the things that they do...

"We do not have far to look, to find where racism hides, be that in Sport, Business, Schools, Everyday situations....but we do have far to go when it comes to changing something so deep set within the minds of those, who believe it has justified reasons for existing...this is where the change we all need, is going to be so important.

"I have never let racism stand in my way when it comes to what I want to achieve in life...I've refused to...Some people seem to believe that in continuously giving racism a platform, you will only feed the hate in those who are consumed by it but I believe that if we don't put it on a platform, for everyone to see, it will continuously feed hate and consume us!

"Not letting racism stop me, does not mean however, that I have not seen it, it does not mean that I have not felt it, have not lived through it, have not experienced it, in one form or another throughout my life and hence why I believe it is so important here that I use my voice, to address it and try to give an insight into what it's like, as I believe that sometimes, Silence helps to feed the violence and in open discussion, we can shed light on the fact that when we break it down into specific parts, we will find that racism is nothing but the twisted legacy of a select few who somehow managed to poison the minds of a generation who would carry it forward with them, resulting in long term, lifelong consequences for millions of people, long after the perpetrators were dead and gone!

"I think, in order to defeat racism, once & for all, we need to become acutely aware of what racism actually is....We need to be able to not just identify it but to identify with it, regardless of where we come from...We need to work together, to expose racism for what it really is and drag it out from where it hides, into the open for everyone to see, and for everyone to feel...

"I believe that we can never truly understand something, until we've felt it...until we've been through it, until we know exactly how it feels and I think that the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose life was taken by that police officer, who gasped for air, who pleaded for his life, who begged for a breath for almost nine minutes...whose primal fear kicked in as he realised he was dying and cried for his Mother. ..who do we call for when we are in trouble, when we are sick, when we are in pain, who do we call to save us...Yes, Our Mothers....I believe that this video of this racially motivated, horrific brutal & heartless murder, was the first time that everyone around the world, got to really see how it feels!

"We close our eyes when we really feel something, be that kissing your loved ones, praying, dreaming... that video, was just one video...one of hundreds, possibly thousands but yet, that one video was the video that finally opened our eyes and for the first time, we all really felt something but this time, with our eyes open!

"In a world battling COVID19, in a world where, especially these last few months, we have all realised how much stronger we are, when we work together...This senseless act of racial violence has no place here! So many of us, from all around the world, have helped each other through this virus pandemic...people of hundreds of different nations, people of every colour, race, nationality... all working together to save lives, exactly as we should be....and you will all agree, what a difference we all made!

"Now, I believe, we face an even greater battle...because now it has to get uncomfortable...now we all have to stand up and be counted, individually and be held accountable for our own actions! COIVD19 has not been around a year but yet we have almost defeated it, but Racism has been around for generations, so we still have a lot more work to do before we can finally defeat it, together!

"In life, if something isn't working, be that in our lives, our jobs, our actions...if something is not working, what do we do? We FIX it! We CHANGE it! If something no longer serves its purpose, we upgrade it, we MAKE IT BETTER! Racism never had a purpose, other than the oppression and marginalisation of people because of the colour of their skin, other than to portray the false existence of one race superior and another, inferior...Kingdoms built on a foundation of lies, people enslaved, countries colonised, Lives lost again and again...A legacy of hate!

"This has to stop! In order to FIX this, in order to CHANGE this, so that the world can be a better, fairer, equal place for all going forward...We have to let George Floyd's last breath, be the last breath for RACISM! We have to let the racially motivated police brutality and racial intolerance as a whole, die under the knee that George Floyd did! We have to stand up and be counted, we have to be held accountable, we have to recognise Racism in every walk of life and stamp it out, permanently because it never had a place here and until we do, we can never truly say that we will have freedom or peace because, Freedom only means Freedom, if it's freedom for all...Peace cannot exist where there is war and when hope is just an illusion that we find solace in when we don't stand up to racism, then there is no hope at all!

"There is always more room for change when it comes to making this world a better place for all...From School Student Leadership Roles being diversified to include enough people of colour to represent the actual demographic of all their students, same goes for Businesses and their staff... stamping out racism in Sports, to every person across the globe listening, learning & becoming more aware of the hidden forms of racism...I truly believe that working together, we can make this world a better place, a safer place and a more inclusive place for all our children. Our children are the future, the younger generation learn from us and that's why it's so important that WE get it right! We need to lead by good example...ALWAYS and that leadership has to start now!

"We need a collective approach, right across society to tackle this pandemic of racism...To those of you saying there are always two sides to every story...There is no other side to racism, it is wrong....full stop...to say there are two sides to racism, is to justify it, is to say that there must be some excuse for its existence....there is not!

"To those of you saying All lives matter in response to Black Lives Matter...of course all lives matter, but it's the lives of black people that are at risk right now due to racism and they can't stay silent about it anymore because too many of their children are being lost and all because of the colour of their skin.

"To say we should say All lives matter, is less of an address to the oppression they are facing right now & have done for hundreds of years, it does not specifically represent the matter at hand and the fact that so many black lives are being lost, it loses the message that they can't take anymore and actually portrays that in voicing their despair and pleas for an end to racial injustice & the establishment of equal rights for all, in trying to replace the Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter, the voice of a people is once again falling on deaf ears, once again being silenced and does far more harm than good as it seems to portray that black lives matter less...

"This has to stop, we have to find a way....and if we can't find a way, we have to make a way....We have to look for the good in society and if we can't find it, we have to be the good in society...If we remain neutral in any situations or instances of injustice, then we have made a choice to be on the side of the oppression! We cannot be silent when the lives of others are at stake, it is far too important...We cannot generalise when in doing so, we silence the voice of others!

"The time has come, for all of us to stand together as one race, the human race and bring an end to racism...The time has come, and is long overdue that equal rights are the rights of all and not just a few....We can't undo the damage that has been caused due to the inherit, systematic racial oppression that we have seen over the years...but we can ensure that we no longer carry it with us into our future!

"I stand with all those, who have lost their lives due to racial intolerance, I stand with all those who are victims of injustice, no matter their race, colour or nationality, I stand with the voiceless, those who can't speak up, those who speak out but struggle to be heard. I stand with all those united against racism and I stand up to be counted because when we keep quiet and let others suffer because it doesn't directly affect us, it means that we have lost our way.

"There is so much good in the world today but unfortunately, there is also so much hate and so much injustice and if we can begin to stand together against it...then there is nothing we can't achieve...and might I add, by WE, I mean Good against Evil, not RACE against Race. We, the human race created racism and only we, the human race can defeat racism and that time has come. No longer can racism be tolerated or accepted, it needs to be stopped, and the people who have suffered because of it have the right to finally be free from its grasp.

"Racism has no place here, it has no place anywhere and until we stamp it out permanently, we will never truly be free... #BlackLivesMatter #SayNOtoRacism #StampOutRacism #ChangeStartsNOW #BeTheChange #MichaelOnalimi #EqualRights #Justice #UseYourVoice".