‘Black Britain Decides’ was the first of its kind; it was reminiscent of the programme ‘We Count! The black agenda is the American agenda’ I and thought to myself ‘why hasn’t Britain done something like this?’
‘Black Britain Decides’ filled the void with a UK party political twist. Having volunteered to help out in the run up to the event, I was confident of success and as 2,000+ people turned up into the Methodist church hall the atmosphere was similar to Sunday mass.
From the three main political parties we were joined by Harriet Harman Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Camberwell and Peckham, George Osborne (PPC) Tatton and Vince Cable (PPC) Twickenham
The Rt Hon Harriet Harman was the first of the deputies to give her speech which addressed the progress Labour has made for BME communities as opposed to the Conservatives.
If I’m honest it was a tentative performance. In saying that I do not know if it was the high expectations I had of being that she was from the Labour Party that has done a great deal for the BME community people (in terms of the Equality Bill and representation politically from cabinet ministers such as Paul Boating). Moreover, she has been the MP for Camberwell and Peckham 10 years.
Q & A’s followed the hot topics of the overuse of stop and search and the overrepresentation of BME people on the DNA database. Her proposal to deal with this and her call for a more ethnically diverse police force was positive. However, I was a little concerned about the inference that BME people commit more violent and sexual crimes when she said it was important to tackle those specific crimes.
This was followed by a recorded speech by David Cameron which scored some points for effort. George Osborne then made references to some influential US black leaders and civil rights campaigners but no reference to British ones. He also pointed out that they would have the most BME PPC’s compared to the other parties, however, the ones in safe seats should have been questioned.
His Q & A’s stopped and started as the audience shouted statements rather then questions at George Osborne.
For me the Lib Dems once again, just like in the TV debates, showed how honesty and sincerity is the only way to win people over whatever race or creed. Cable spoke about his childhood and aristocratic “white supremacist” dad and the day when he came back home with the mother of his two children. It was humbling to say the least and the impact of his speech was best described when Caroline (another volunteer) said ‘Many people walked in labour and came out Lib Dems’.
In between and after the Deputies speeches influential BME speakers addressed the audience, notably, Ken Olisia, Saqeb Mueen, Bishop Wayne Malcolm and Bella Ribeiro (spokesperson for the Black NUS) who addressed many concerns and solutions to our social ills.
Kenny explained the transition from when he grew up to now. Remembering when evidence of black progression/breaking down of barriers within the UK; when The Voice published a piece on the first black bus conductor, remembering the excitement generated so much so ‘that people would look for the bus he was on to ride it’ pushing the point that we need to stop using race as an excuse to fail or when we fail “Yes it is a factor, but not an overriding one”.
Saqeb Mueen touched on a greater point especially in this ‘post racial’ century/age that ‘if we talk about race we are somehow disloyal to our country.’
Bishop Wayne Malcolm was in one word electric a speech truly inspired by God as he called on the BME community to have as he called it ‘backroom discussions’ concerning our community not just general election or when we want to be seen on Television. He highlighted a great point in regards to our community that I and Bella Ribeiro agree with as she called on the politicians to ban tuition fees as this was the biggest obstacle to equality in the UK. He noted the argument that ‘we can’t afford it whilst spending it on weapons of mass destruction, illegal wars and ID cards” does not stand.
This electric event was rounded up by the music from the Harps and performance by poet Faith Jegede: a great night!
By Anthony Kula