Published 28 October 2021 4 min read
Demi Stokes

‘We have to keep challenging, keep talking and keep educating’

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Demi Stokes

England defender Demi Stokes discusses why it’s important to keep striving for change even after Black History Month has finished
I’m often asked about my role models and for me growing up it was Rachel Yankey. I looked up to her as she was the first Black female player that I had seen. It was relatable and as soon as I saw her, I was like ‘I want to be like her’. 
 
I think it's so important that you see people who look similar to you or are in similar positions or come from similar backgrounds to you when it comes to aspirations.
 
The older that I have become, I know that it is important for me to almost pave the way forward as it is my time to do what Rachel Yankey did for me. I want the next little girl or boy who is watching our games to see that it is possible, because I believe if you can see it then you can become it.
 
Growing up, I was like ‘I’m just Demi and I’m like the next person’. But actually you are in the limelight almost and people are looking to you to see what you are up to, what you are eating, what you are doing and that kind of thing.
 
Definitely the older I have become, I have realised that you actually do need to make sure you are being a good role model and helping out where you can.
 
I am speaking as part of Black History Month and I think it is important to celebrate the small margins. But I think it is important that we celebrate Black history every day and we do little things to contribute and make changes every day we can.
The Lionesses and Manchester City defender believes we should all keep pushing for equality and change
The Lionesses and Manchester City defender believes we should all keep pushing for equality and change
It is good that we have it as a monthly thing but what sometimes happens is we celebrate the month and then it is forgotten about.
 
We can see in the media that there are still a lot of issues and problems going on with things like racism and the rest of it so whilst it is good to have Black History Month, we still have things we can do after it has finished.
 
I think it is a daily thing or a habit where we challenge ourselves or we try to educate or whatever it may be to help and make people understand.
 
Education is important because things are still happening all the time. People keep saying ‘you are on about that again’ and I’m thinking ‘yeah because it's still there and it's still an issue’.
 
If we can educate people and get them thinking why things are the way they are or think differently about situations then they can understand things better. You don’t have to think differently to disregard it but it's so people maybe say ‘O I didn’t know that’ because I know from my own point of view that I don’t know everything and I don’t know everything about my ancestry.
 
Everyone can do it in their own niche way because it can be uncomfortable, it can be tough and you probably will get things wrong or say the wrong thing. But it's just about keep doing your little things, whether it's a post on social media or a little conversation with the older generation who were brought up differently and maybe you say ‘well you can’t say that now’ and little things like that where it can actually help a lot even if you don’t think it is.
When I think back to education around Black history when I was growing up, there wasn’t any. I think in history class we watched Roots and I remember it being really uncomfortable because I was the only Black person in the class and it's a very uncomfortable film or documentary to watch anyway.
 
Apart from that there wasn’t much education on Black history. When I lived up north, we talk about people using the wrong terminology but no one at that time corrected you to say ‘this is the right way’ or ‘this is the wrong way’.
 
I think it was very different when I was growing up and I wish what I know now I knew back then - when I got things wrong or maybe when I didn’t question people on what they said which is wrong.
 
It's different now but it's good that we are challenging and helping each other.
 
I do think there has been a bit of a shift in the last year or so. I think lockdown almost gave people no choice because people were stuck in the house and couldn’t really do anything else and it was almost like they needed to find another distraction.
 
In lockdown, I said ‘do you know what, these topics are uncomfortable but actually you need to start helping and people will listen’. If it is one person who does listen then it is a small change and a small difference so it is worth doing.
READ NIKITA PARRIS ON BLACK HISTORY MONTH
On the other hand, I do think we sometimes take a step forward and then ten back. We've seen that the England men’s team are still getting racially abused and it's still there. It's not going to go away but it's important that everyone is doing their bit and playing their part every day and not just in Black History Month or when a situation comes up.
 
It seems that something happens, we are outraged by it and we might have a little conversation about it and then it goes away but it hasn’t gone.
 
It's important that we keep the ball rolling, keep demanding, keep pushing even when it has gone quiet.
 
I’m often asked about my hopes for the future and I want us all to keep making change. I can help even if it is me just using my voice or joining talks and even just being a role model day-to-day, visiting youth clubs and things like that. That is how I try to give back and try to make changes.
 
I think we have to keep challenging, keep having conversations and keep educating – and I include myself in that as well because I don’t know everything. 
 
I know myself that I need to keep checking myself and keep reminding myself that things are still happening because you can get caught in a bubble and selfishly forget about things.
 
We can get caught up in our own lives and everyone has things going on, which is understandable, but we have to try to remind ourselves that things are still happening and we can all make a difference when it comes to trying to make a positive change.