Words || Katelyn Free
The Instagram account @blakbusiness first started making waves around January 26th this year. Known as Australia Day to some, and Invasion Day to others, the account provided accessible educational resources explaining the Indigenous perspective on Australia Day and the ongoing issues faced by First Nations peoples since the invasion of their land. Posts such as “Why Do Indigenous Australians Call Australia Day, Invasion Day?” were re-posted on mass to Instagram stories and generated an important conversation about our generation’s relationship with Australia Day.
The now-renowned account was founded by Wiradjuri woman Olivia Williams, who was born and raised on Biripi country, studied in Narrm (Melbourne) and now lives on Ngunnawal Country. In the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, Grapeshot sat down with Olivia to discuss her experiences running @blakbusiness and her views on allyship in the wake of our global reckoning on race.
Can you explain what your Instagram page Blak Business is all about?
At its core, Blak Business is about sharing information relevant to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Information on Blak Business includes significant dates, current affairs, TV programs, resources, creators, businesses, petitions and more. ‘Business’ is a play on the word – it means ‘stuff’ in the same way we say ‘business’ when we talk about Women’s Business, Men’s Business or Sorry Business, this is Blak Business. I strive to make Blak Business really accessible for both our mob and for non-Indigenous people too.
Why did you start Blak Business?
I started Blak Business as a space to share information about the topics I found I was often talking about with other mob and non-Indigenous people too. I felt as though people really wanted to learn more about our community but didn’t know where to start. I create content for Blak Business, share other mob’s content, recommended resources and invite mob to host Instagram story takeovers to share some of their passion and story with followers.
What has the response to Blak Business been like?
The response and support has been so deadly. I’m really pleased that Blak Business has resonated with so many people and that people continue to engage with the page. I really appreciate when followers share Blak Business content with their friends, families, colleagues, schools etc. as there are only a certain number of people I can reach by myself, but [through] the support of followers the content and conversation is opened to more and more people.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in running the account, which now has over 70,000 followers?
Blak Business is my passion project that I do outside of my full-time 9 to 5 job. Avoiding burn-out is something I really struggle with. I would like to work towards making Blak Business more sustainable. I have a few sistas helping me now and it would be deadly to become more financially sustainable so that we could spend more valuable time developing Blak Business.
In light of the recent global Black Lives Matter movement, are you hopeful that the struggles and stories of Indigenous Australians will now be more at the forefront of Australia’s social consciousness?
Black Lives Matter is more than just a 2020 movement. For decades we have been speaking the truth and calling for honesty, accountability and change. Nonetheless, it cannot be negated that recent events have brought more people to the conversation. The conversation started before this year and it will continue after this year. We will continue to share our experience and stories and I encourage others to continue to listen, learn and support when it’s not trending.
You provide a wealth of educational resources on your platform. Do you ever feel the emotional labour of providing this education to non-Indigenous peoples?
Blak Business can be very emotionally exhausting. For self-preservation and wellbeing, I am strong on my boundaries. For example, I do not entertain back and forth debates with those who are evidently close-minded to the content being shared, even if I am passionate about the topic. Also, other mob have shared with me that Blak Business has reduced the amount of emotional labour they do. For me this is a really rewarding outcome. If running Blak Business means that mob aren’t subject to as much emotional labour which can have negative impacts on health, then I am so proud to be doing that for my community.
What are the key things non-Indigenous peoples/white folk should be doing in the wake of the BLM movement?
The recent traction of the BLM movements has challenged many peoples long-held ideologies, perspectives and worldviews which can be very unsettling, uncomfortable and overwhelming. I encourage people to sit with this discomfort and persist. You do not need to read, watch, listen, see and do everything all at once; this will only burn you out. Continue to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content, resources and information at a safe pace. Sit with this new knowledge, discuss it with others, reflect on what feelings arise and be open-minded to new perspectives. You can follow social media pages run by mob, listen to podcasts and music from our community, read a book written by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander author, encourage conversation with those around you, purchase something from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander business, the list goes on…
Olivia’s work has provided important resources for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to learn, grow and be challenged in their perceptions on race. Anti-racist work is hard, uncomfortable and harrowing, but it is vital. When people like Olivia reach out and speak to non-BIPOC people, it’s important to do the work and listen, so that the emotional labour of Olivia and other First Nations people is not done in vain. To be further challenged and grow in your understanding of Indigenous Australian culture go follow @blakbusiness on Instagram.