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Inspiration overflow at BHM finale

RoomDr Martin Luther King Jnr had more than a dream, he had a plan. That was the message at a Black History Month finale last night, attended by some of Britain’s top political figures                   

Speaking at the event, Operation Black Vote director Simon Woolley said the community had the power to decide who gets the keys to 10 Downing Street at the next election, with Black voters holding the ‘balance’ in over 100 marginal seats.

Calling himself ‘a disciple’ of Dr King, Woolley said that the civil rights leader stood for action as well as vision. “Dr Martin Luther King had much more than just a dream – he had a plan; to emancipate African America and the Black world.

“So as we leave here today let us ask ‘what is my role in inspiring the Black community as never before?’ [because] when we do anything is possible.”

Click here to view Simon Woolley’s speech on YouTube

Floella Benjamin

Floella Benjamin

Over 500 people packed out a hall in central London (pictured above) to hear a variety of speakers from the major parties, as well as musical performances, a stand-up set from Def Jam comedienne Gina Yashere, and performance poetry from Faith Jegede.

Sadiq Khan, who attends Cabinet, nominated his hero as Bert Luther, a former councillor from Tooting, an area Khan now represents in parliament.

Khan recalled his first ever Labour Party event, where he felt nervous and uncomfortable. It was shaping up to be his last-ever meeting until Luther sat approached Khan and started to encourage him.

He said: “Had Bert not spoken to me that day in 1985, I probably would not be here today. So it is on his shoulders I stand. Any of you could be that Bert Luther to other people.”

Pull-Quotes

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Former children’s TV presenter Floella Benjamin, now a Lib Dem activist, said that her parents were her inspiration, adding: “I am the product of a long legacy of my ancestors who paved the way with their blood, sweat, and in some cases their lives.”

The election of President Barack Obama had sent the signal to young people in Britain that anything is possible now.

“I was at a school the other day, and I met a young black boy that believed he would become the first black Prime Minister.

“And he believed it so much; you know what? I believed him”, she said.

Compere for the evening, Lee Jasper, told the audience: “Today we have Black History Month, but now we need a Black Future Month as well.

“The Reverend Jesse Jackson taught us that in politics, an organised minority is a majority. That is the power of our vote.”

The event was supported by the Electoral Commission.

VOX POPS

VOX-POPSAngela Hinds, Ori Obey and Bellavia Riberio-Addy

Peter Mwaniki: “I think it’s great to be inspired by black people who remind us of where we all come from, where we are currently, and where we need to get to. Those messages do a lot for me and I’ll certainly pass this on to family and friends. We are a community. We’re relational, so having functions like this with talented poets, musicians, is great.”

Angela Hinds: “It’s nice to see so many black people turning out and there’s been some great speeches encouraging everyone and inspiring us to move forward. Everyone needs to understand the seriousness of voting. Our vote is very important so we just need to get out there and get involved, basically.”

Matilda MacAttram: “I feel fired up tonight. It’s clear we can’t take this next election lightly. It’s important we call to task those elected to serve us. We can’t let this election go without factoring in detention rates under the Mental Health Act and death rates are at an historic high; or the fact that every single black family is on the criminal DNA database. Employment; treatment of people in [immigration] detention centres. These are all key issues.”

Ori Obey: “This event is empowering us to move forward in what we believe in. Not only that, it has also given us a kickstart to the future. A lot of people have mentioned Obama. I believe that here in the UK we can one day get to the stage where a person of my colour will be standing at the door of Number 10.”

Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy: “Floella Benjamin particularly inspired me. If I had to pick an historical figure out of the many, I’d have to say Yaa Asantewaa.”

Claire Reid: “I am still reeling from all the speakers and their inspirational talks, I feel totally inspired. I brought my nephew along with me, he is 19 years old, when we came out the meeting I could see he was lost for words. I really believe he was encouraged and enthused by what he heard.”

By Lester Holloway

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