Clara Amfo: 'Being A Joyous Black Person Is Radical'

A turbulent climax following a moody decade that preceded it, in which each year grew increasingly more unpredictable than the last. Having a kiki, as my American girlfriends and I would say, over everything from the incredibly goodstorylines in Issa Rae’s wholly addictive TV show Insecure to the delicious joys of homemade red velvet cake (Clara has been making a lot of it in lockdown) and the shared experienceofhaving very supportive, very vocal mothers. ‘The joy is an act of resistance,’ she says, referencing the idea made famous by the feminist icon, Audre Lorde, that the preservation of one’s happiness and peace of mind is a key part of activism. In the past two weeks, both Clara and I – and many, many, many otherBlack women in media – have been thrust into the position of being asked, repeatedly, to comment on racism as the world (or at least, scores of its non-Black inhabitants) wakes up tothefact that, yes, it is alive and real in the aftermath of the murder of unarmed George Floyd. Suffocated under the weight of a white police officer’s knee, the Texan’s videotaped deathwasanall too common act of brutalisation. The horror stirred a wave of protest and unrest that was so unprecedented a friend back home called it the American Spring. So the media, and civilians alike, turned to the Black people they knew for commentary, guidance and validation. ‘MY PHONE HAS TURNED INTO A RACE HOTLINE AND I HATE IT,’ author Candice Carty-Williams memorably tweeted in all caps, summingup what many of us were experiencing. If you are one of the millions who tune in to her mid-morning show on Radio 1, or one of the 170,000 who follow her updates on Instagram, you’ll know that Clara is a woman who epitomises Black joy. I can feel it.” And she just held me and she told me, “You are standing on theshoulders of everyone who has come before you.”’ Clara has an Oprah-like knack for connecting with people herself. She’s the woman commanding a theatre full of VIPs and media insiders – normally a tough, unimpressed crowd – with a thrillingly easy effervescence at the Black Panther premiere in 2017. She’s the DJ dancing in the booth while Harry Styles sings a surprise cover of Lizzo’s Juice on Live Lounge in 2019.She’s also the woman who is consistently in the middle of the group who seems to be having the most fun at whatever party she is at. Days after footage of Floyd’s killing went viral, waking waves of people up to the reality of racism, Clara gave a speech that laid bare the heartbreak at the root of the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘And it has been for the last few days, in particular in relation to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died while being held under arrest.Idid not have the mental health to face you guys yesterday and ask: “How was your weekend?” like I usually do with my happy intention because I know my weekend was terrible.’ In thenogood,very bad year that is turning out to be 2020, Clara was effectively telling listeners, it’s OK to not be OK. Butthey weren’t aware of my Blackness in the pain and trauma.’ One in a sea of statements against police brutality that have now been made, Clara’s words stood out for their simplicity and vulnerability. Social media had become a messy scroll of words – contained corporate statements, indulgent, long confessionals and sheer outrage. The summation of absorbing Black pain through media, seeing what happened to Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Stephen Lawrence, the variouscases in the UK. ‘I’ve never been more proud of the listeners who told me they are seriously committed to anti- racism and putting it into practice.’ Growth, identity and evolution are recurring threads during our chat. Since then, her relationshipwith her mother, which became Instagram famous when she set up an account dedicated to her mother’s WhatsApp critiques of Clara’s red-carpet looks, has reached a new depth.