Birmingham dancer launches new ‘Stand Together’ campaign against intolerance
Birmingham-born Junior Cunningham has launched a new campaign on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st to help in the fight against discrimination and intolerance.
In summer 2020, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the subsequent response across the world, Junior Cunningham, a former contemporary dancer, wanted to take action to help heal himself. As a Black man with two young children, he was deeply affected by the events, and as a creative person, for him, a creative response was the obvious starting point.
Junior Cunningham: “I needed something to pour my attention into, something that could help me heal but also that could shine a light on the support that I was getting from my friends and family and that’s where the idea for Stand Together came from. Stand Together is about positivity and the promise of potential. I truly believe there’s promise in equality and we’re on a journey to get there. Things have got better but unfortunately we’re not there yet”.
Junior asked his friends and family to take short videos of themselves standing up and raising their heads to look at the camera. It was a simple move that anyone could do, but it indicated a sense of purpose and determination.
He was inundated by video clips sent to him by friends and family – who all wanted to express their own solidarity with Junior at this difficult time. In the end, he received too many to use in the video he was planning to make.
Junior: “The sheer number of responses I received really helped me to understand that despite what was going on in the world around me, there are also a lot of people who do want to stand up against intolerance and injustice and are willing to be seen doing this publicly. It was in a way, a first step to my healing process. I’ve spent a lot of time editing these clips into my final video and it’s been a really liberating process.”
Once the video was made, Junior realised that it could provide a good tool to help others heal too. And a way for people who want to show that they will not support intolerance to do something positive together.
“I’ve always felt the burden of wanting to fit in. But confrontation isn’t always a negative thing. You shouldn’t sit back and allow things to be done and without confronting them you’re allowing wrong things to go unchallenged. Fitting in is not as important as doing the right thing.”
“That’s why I’ve decided I want to launch a campaign. I realised that for me, this isn’t just about racism. It’s about prejudice of any form. I want to ask people who want to do something positive to demonstrate their belief in unity and the beauty of diversity and difference to take videos of themselves standing up together. This could be in in your household bubble or once lockdown is over, socially distanced in your school, university, community clubs, choirs, sports teams, with friends or family, in religious settings and so on – anywhere that people are together safely. Or start a chain on social media of standing up by yourself and challenge your friends to join you by filming themselves too. I want people to share their videos of them all ‘Stand Together’ – standing together against any form of division or intolerance.”
Videos can be shared using the hashtag #StandTogetherCampaign