Race Equality Week is an important time to mark the accomplishments of people of colour in the country, the fight and those who stood for equal rights and recognising how we can do more. The theme for this year, is #ItsEveryonesBusiness. Simply put, this theme highlights how race inequality is everyone’s business.As a British-Pakistani Young Liberal, I’ve often felt out of place. This feeling has reduced over time and is something I continue to work through. For people of colour in this country, there are many historic moments we all remember. For me, it was growing up and the EDL marching in my town. This was where I first learned about the group and the rife racism they spread in society. As I grew up and became more involved in politics, it was studying data from Stop and Search and understanding our country’s history with slavery, racism and prejudice. Over time, in History and Politics I learned about the American Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and colonisation.
It was a few years later, where the BlackLivesMatter movement made me understand how much progress needs to be made. As a Liberal I am proud of our party’s commitment to ending Stop and Search, which has seen a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities. I am also proud and applaud the work of Chinese Lib Dems, LDCRE and other individuals and groups in the party, who have worked tirelessly to make the party more representative of this country. Being the REDL Officer is a privilege, and one I take seriously. It would be amiss for me not to recognise the talented people who came before me, who paved the way so people like myself could lobby for change, be able to vote and be treated with respect and dignity. The UK still has issues with institutional racism, but this week I want to celebrate a few people who I have looked up to during my life - at various points, and who have shaped how I view my identity.
The first person I wanted to include was Councillor Josh Babarinde OBE, who will be attending the Get S**t Done panel at YL Winter Conference. I know he will provide an interesting take on his contributions to politics and public service, but here is why I’ve selected him as someone I look up to. Josh has a number of achievements I could detail, but I will focus on one that spoke to me. One of the things I found really inspiring is a company he founded called ‘Cracked It’. Cracked It is a company where at risk young people and young ex - offenders are trained and employed to fix smartphones. By empowering their entrepreneurial spirit, Josh has provided a pragmatic way to help people to invest in theirselves and realise their worth. Here, Josh’s company uses employment which is the most effective factor in reoffending to give people choices. For ex - offenders, only 17% gain employment a year after release even though 86& of their employees recognise their work as good. Stereotypes and prejudice contribute to this - where people, organisations and groups are less likely to hire ex - offenders due to preconceived notions of who they are. Josh’s company and the work they do is invaluable - providing employment and providing skills to employees who can go on to work in other industries or jobs, gives them a base to spring their future from. Cracked It came to exist because Josh’s work with Year Here Fellowship showed him how many young people needed to have a sense of belonging, self - worth an needed income. His solution to give them skills would go onto help their self - esteem, their income and self worth. The young people employed have undoubtedly benefitted from the work of Cracked It and the company continue to do invaluable work, recognised by a wide range of news sites, organisations and high - profile individuals.
Vanley Burke is the second person I’ve chosen to include. I worked at an arts centre where I was introduced to his work, and begun to understand the history of Birmingham. Birmingham is special to me, because I go to the University of Birmingham and consider it my second home. Burke’s work depicts the experience of the African - Caribbean community in a beautiful way. In mainstream media, we can see and find stereotypical, racist and negative portrayals of people of colour. Burke’s work encompasses decades of history, and there is a reason why he is considered the godfather of modern British photography. Burke’s work is remarkable and his capturing of the African - Caribbean experience over five decades is not only an extensive collection of work, but also the living history of many African Caribbean people within Birmingham. As he says “The only way black people got into the news, was if they committed a crime” - his work has been instrumental in counteracting the negative and biased media portrayal of black people within Britain. You can find his stained glass window work on the first floor of the Midlands Art Centre which depicts a collage of Caribbean migration and settlement.
Lastly, Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon is someone I look up to immensely, I learned about the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence when I was about 13. It spurred me to read and research into systemic racism in the justice system and initially inspired me to go into law. I then chose politics years later, finding it a better fit (due to my various interests). The work she has done and continues to do is inspiring - she has been relentless, resilient and determined in the face of unspeakable tragedy. After Stephen’s murder which was due to a racist attack in Southeast London, the Baroness founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (now the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation). The organisation promoted reforms of the police service and the first Stephen Lawrence day was celebrated in 2019. Alongside her advocacy, the conviction of the two suspects who murdered her son was achieved in 2012 as the UK abolished its double jeopardy law, which was due to the work she and her family and community organisers did to ensure Stephen’s death was not left unpunished. The Baroness has been a tireless advocate for reforming the police services and honouring Stephen’s memory with her extensive charitable work, which included the formation of the Stephen Lawrence Centre which has programmes for all ages and is a hub for social research and community learning. Her impact was recognised with her OBE for services to community relations in 2003 and she was made Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon as a life Labour peer.
Throughout the year, I will be sharing the stories, accomplishments and the many aspects of history of people of colour. These three individuals have inspired me in multiple ways, as have others.