"Following the death of George Floyd, I started having conversations with my siblings about what it was like to be black in Ireland," Boni Odoemene tells me over the phone.

"I remember one night, I had a meeting with Leon Diop and Femi Bankole, just to get their feedback on it, and the three of us just started pouring out our experiences of growing up in Ireland."

During the summer, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum across the globe and conversations about race becoming more commonplace, Leon posed the idea of starting an Instagram page as a platform for them to use in order to "become the change they wanted to see".

A few months later, Black and Irish was born. 

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Having shared their own experiences and stories from growing up in Ireland online previously, the young men had a fair idea that their page would gain traction, but could never have expected the 44.8k audience that followed.

"We launched it and the follows just went mental," says Boni.

Hoping to spark a conversation around race in Ireland in an approachable way, Boni, Femi and Leon lent their online presence to those who wanted to share their personal experiences publically. "It's a uniquely Irish thing, storytelling," says Boni.

"Only if you live in Ireland would you know that there are black people in Ireland," he adds. "Abroad, it's a foreign concept. So to be able to see so many black and brown faces from across the island, whether you're white or black, it was interesting to see. It was unique and personal and something that everyone could get into."

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Exceedingly charming, quick to laugh, and filled to the brim with confidence, the law graduate looks ready to take on the world, but hearing so many stories of racism and abuse can't be easy to take on, especially in a year of so much uncertainty and anxiety.

"Things were moving too fast for us to digest," agrees Boni. "We were getting so many stories in, getting them structured, posting them, checking the inbox - we didn't have time to reflect on the actual moment or the stories themselves. At one point, we were posting five or six times a day so it wasn't until a few months later that we realised how intense it was."

"The community on our page... the stories have hit people in many different ways," he continues. 

"The special thing about what we do is that we share stories from all age groups, people who grew up here in the 60s or moved here in the 80s. It's brought the different sub-communities of black and mixed-race people across the country under one umbrella."

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With the success of the Black and Irish Instagram page behind them, Boni, Leon and Femi have joined forces with Amanda Ade to create The Black and Irish Podcast on RTÉ. Together, the four hosts hope to feature conversations with inspiring individuals, exploring culture and identity, along with the struggles and successes of the black Irish community. 

Despite the theme of inclusivity running throughout the podcast, Boni says that he and his co-hosts are expecting a mixed reaction online, going by previous experiences.

"Overall, the feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive," he says. "At the same time, considering the nature of what we do, there are negative comments that we get."

"We get people who don't like what we're doing. We get people who openly criticise the people who are sharing their stories. We've had people who have privately messaged us looking for our addresses, asking why we're eradicating white Irish people. We've been accused of perpetrating genocide. "

"At one point, it was so bad, we had to remove people's photos from whatever stories we shared on Twitter because the vitriol towards them was immense."

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Undeterred, the DIT graduate insists that the overwhelming response to his content has been positive, and that any negative comments only prove the need for a page like Black and Irish.

"One thing, for me personally, that I understand is that the biggest perpetrator of hate is fear, and people fear what they do not understand or do not know. It's so important that we continue to share these stories and give people an opportunity to step into other people's lives so they have a chance to get rid of that fear and that hate.

Subscribe to The Black and Irish Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.