One local woman has found a novel way to raise awareness about racism – by walking 140 miles around Mid Devon. Tsara Smith has a full time job, but has spent every weekend since early July walking and speaking to the people she meets about racial inequality, encouraging them to learn more about the topic and to donate to an anti-racist charity. Although Devon is a predominantly white county, says Tsara, people of colour are still experiencing racism in our midst.
Since the murder of George Floyd, I have opened my eyes and ears, more than ever before, to the existence of racism. It is not just in the USA, it is here in the UK - it is here in Devon. Systemic and individual racism is still having a devastating effect on people of colour, here and now.
When the recent Black Lives Matter protests were taking place, I wanted to join one. But there weren’t any in my area. Once I began thinking about it, I felt that there should be a show of support from rural communities, and that it was time to start a conversation about racial equality in a space where such conversations don’t often happen, in my experience.
I started the conversation in my village of Westleigh, near Tiverton. But then I decided to combine my love of walking with my desire to take the anti-racist message further, by walking through every ward of the Mid Devon district. My aim is to walk around 140 miles (the equivalent of about five-and-a-half marathons) between the beginning of July and mid-August, passing through as many towns and villages as I can on the way.
I am carrying a big 'Stand Up To Racism' banner and I hope to:
- raise awareness of racial inequality and encourage people to learn more about the topic
- help people to think about what they can do to tackle racism
- raise money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (which aims to have a real impact on tackling discrimination and disadvantage in the UK)
- meet and speak to as many people as possible along the way!
So far I’ve had lots of positive responses, with several in depth conversations with people I’ve met on each walk.
I'm leaving a sign in each town and village that gives suggestions for what we can do to actively fight racism - this is in the form of a 'planning application' to build communities that don't tolerate discrimination.
We can often think there is little we can do individually to effect change, but we have more power than we realise - starting conversations, sharing information, signing petitions, raising money, writing to our MPs, attending protests - all of this adds up. Imagine if every town and village in our little, predominantly White, county was filled with champions for change - we could achieve so much!
This article by Louise Adjoa Parker on this topic is very informative and interesting for those curious to understand more.
My route will take me through all Mid Devon's 24 wards (shown in CAPS), mileage is approximate - I am well known for underestimating!
Here is my itinerary:
Friday 3 July 13.5 miles (CANONSLEIGH) Clayhanger-Huntsham-Staple Cross-Hockworthy-Holcombe Rogus-Westleigh-Burlescombe-Sampford Peverell
Sunday 5 July 12 miles (UPPER & LOWER CULM) Clayhidon-Hemyock-Culmstock-Ashill-Uffculme- Willand
Friday 10 July 15 miles (CASTLE, LOWMAN, HALBERTON & CRANMORE) Cove-Chevithorn-Uplowman-Halberton-Tiverton
Sunday 12 July 14 miles (CULLOMPTON, BRADNINCH, SILVERTON) Kentisbeare-Cullompton-Butterleigh-Bradninch-Silverton
Friday 17 July 13 miles (CADBURY & WESTEXE) Cadeleigh-Cadbury-Thorverton-Bickleigh-West Tiverton
Sunday 19 July 10 miles (CLARE AND SHUTTERN) Morebath-Shillingford-Bampton-Oakford Bridge/Oakford-Stoodleigh
Friday 24 July 12 miles (NEWBROOKE, BONIFACE, LAWRENCE, SANDFORD AND CREEDY) Stockleigh Pomeroy-Shute-Newton St Cyres-Shobrooke-Crediton-Sandford
Sunday 26 July 10 miles (WESTEXE, WAY) Calverleigh-Cruwys Morchard-Pennymoor-Poughill-Cheriton Fitzpaine
Friday 31 July 9 miles (SANDFORD AND CREEDY) Puddington-Woolfardisworthy-Kennerleigh-Morchard Bishop
Friday 7 August 10 miles (YEO) Cheriton Bishop-Hittisleigh-Colebrooke-Coleford-Copplestone
Sunday 9 August 9 miles (UPPER YEO, TAW, TAW VALE) Bow, Zeal Monachorum, Lapford, Chawleigh
Saturday 15 August 11 miles (TAW) Down St Mary-Coldridge-Brushford-Wembworthy-Eggesford