Just the other day a group of students from Lewisham came into the office for a chat with OBV director Simon Woolley.
Thoughtful questions from the young people prompted a good discussion and topics were covered ranging from black entrepreneurship to the ascension of a black man to the highest office of political power in the world.
One of the first questions was “when and why” OBV had been founded- asked by Naomi aged 17.
Woolley explained that 15 years ago prior to the founding of OBV young black men who were “going about their law abiding business” were often being arrested and held in custody in police stations. Some died in custody, and the families were given no answers or explanation. No one was held accountable.
The death of Wayne Douglas who died in police custody in 1995 sparked riots up and down the country. Black communities needed a vehicle to mobilise their voices. Woolley explained that “after the riots many activists came together.” OBV was born.
Having placed OBV into some kind of meaningful context one or two of the students wanted to know what was needed to create a social enterprise. Simon asked them “What do you think is the most important thing in setting up a business?”
The answers came back: “responsibility, motivation, confidence, and focus” among others.
Woolley prompted them further. “What about passion? Find something your passionate about. What do you care about?”
The answers that came back: “promoting fairness, helping people, protecting children, a safer future”
The kind of values needed in leaders in the making if ever I saw them. Barack Obama became president and was born before the Civil Rights Act was passed. Today Diane Abbott became the first black person to secure enough nominations to stand for the Labour Party leadership. She is the first black person to do so. Times are changing. These young people believe they can be whatever they want to be. And yes they can.
By Richard Sudan