Tribute to a good friend – Mr Ima Plahar

Nine years ago, my good friend Ima Plahar passed on to the other world.  It was a difficult time for all of us.  Nine years on, tears still well in my eyes when his name gets mentioned.  Still cannot get over his passing.  Today, I share the tribute that i wrote on his passing – a remembrance and testament of my association with him.imaplahar

Tribute to a good friend – Mr Ima Plahar

The success of any immigrant community can really only be judged by the strength of the community organisations that they build. This is because the community organisations provide the supportive welfare and social environment that allows individuals to achieve their aspirations and excel in their professional lives. So the people involved in building and maintaining community organisations who thereby promote involvement in civil society must be applauded at all times.

It is therefore with a heavy heart and a deep sense of personal loss that I pay this tribute to Ima Plahar, a gentleman, a strategist, an organiser and a servant of the Ghanaian community. Though of little stature, he stood tall for his dedication and devotion to the cause of strengthening the community organisations that he belonged to.

Ima helped to organise support for my election as chairman of Ghana Union several years ago. He was steadfast in his belief that the time for change had come, he helped to shape the vision of a new Ghana Union and eventually took his place at my side as General Secretary. of the Union

In our initial discussions we agreed to handle all conflicts within the Union without being confrontational, to be visible and accessible to all, asking for views and ideas, but challenging assumptions in an enquiring sort of way.  Above all, we agreed that we must not only tell the truth to the executive and the membership at large but be seen to do so at all times.

These discussions provided me with an indication of the true character of the man Ima Plahar, for he had character in abundance, he was passionate, he had integrity, he was loyal, he had the due zeal and diligence to undertake whatever tasks needed to be implemented in the union.

It was an absolute pleasure and memorable experience to work with Ima, you just wanted him as part of your team because of his abilities and affability. As we worked together, I came to have absolute trust and confidence in his organisational abilities and would only seek approval for events that he was confident that the Union could pull off.   If a job was worth doing, it had to be done well and that is how it was with Ima.

He would on a daily basis, stop by the Ghana Union office on his way home from work to ensure that things were running smoothly.  He was serving his country Ghana through serving the Ghanaian community here in London and did this at absolutely no cost to the organisation – no fees, no expenses and no pay.

Ima was honest, called a spade a spade, expressing his views in a forthright manner which one might describe as being blunt or even tactless.  He was determined that the unsavoury habits that we had brought with us from our motherland had to be challenged and confronted and that those who deviated from operating in a transparent and open manner should be held accountable and if necessary, openly shamed.   This was someone who was not only selfless but someone who expected the same high standards of accountability, he held, from all around him.

The friendship and trust that developed extended way beyond my tenure of office in Ghana Union.  It was a friendship that was based on mutual respect and admiration and Ima became the dependable person who i came to  on rely very much for advice on all manner of issues.  Our daily lunch break conversations even after we had both stepped down from executive positions were far ranging from politics, social and business and even personal issues. I know that through his dedication and selflessness, Ima has influenced many people just as he influenced me.  I learnt from him valuable lessons about listening to people, suspending judgement till the full facts and context of situations had been established.

The sacrifices that Ima made did not detract from his role as a father and loving consort to his dear wife Tina, the same principles were on display at home.

I can attest that for the four years that I was chairman of Ghana Union, I might have been at the front but he led on most of the activities since he was at his best organising events and making contact with people.   His modesty allowed me to bask in the glory of his achievements during the years that we worked together.  I therefore had no hesitation  in recommending him as Chairman of the Union.

Ima’s spirit of service must give us hope that there are still some selfless and dedicated people within our community.  Let us take consolation in the knowledge that although his life on this earth is over, what he did and what he stood for have more than adequately prepared him for the higher work that he has been called to do above.

Ima let me say this for you one more time – funtumfunafu denkyem funafu, wom aforo bom na nso worididi a na wom aku

We will miss you.Ima, we love you but God loves you best.  .

Rest in perfect peace in the Lord – yaa wo dzogbann

 

‘Africans Were In Britain Before The English…’

This powerful statement of fact is how historian Peter Fryer started his seminal book Staying Power (Pluto Press, 1984) documenting the black presence in Britain

SONGSTRESS: An unnamed member of The African Choir from South
Africa who played concerts for a high-profile audience including Queen Victoria, courtesy of Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

IT IS a notion that would confound most people, particularly against the backdrop of today’s fierce debate on migration. Yet the truth remains that African history in Britain stretches back to the 3rd Century when valiant and gallant soldiers fought beside the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Though a few of these largely forgotten heroes remained in England, Scotland and Wales, the focus has been on Africans as slaves and servants in royal courts in the stories of people like Quobna Ottobah Cugano, Olaudah Equiano and others
who documented their lives in Britain.

After the transatlantic slave trade, Africans started coming to this country as much sought-after musicians and performers in the courts of nobility. Others came as seafarers working on ships that brought raw materials from
the colonies to Britain and returned with finished goods fashioned for the tropics.

They settled mainly in the port towns of Bristol, Liverpool and Portsmouth and through the advent of colonialisation
others were brought here to learn the language so that they would act as interpreters to aid trade with Africa.

Continue reading “‘Africans Were In Britain Before The English…’”

Can We Have An Intelligent Debate On Migration?

Can We Have An Intelligent Debate On Migration?

MOVED ALONG: African migrants from Sudan and Eritrea are forcibly removed by Italian police from their camp

“We are here because you were there” is the apt response given to the xenophobic reaction to immigration in Britain. The truth is that most people migrating to Britain have an affinity with the Motherland that had presided over the ‘Empire on which the sun never sets’ spanning from the East to the West.

In the months and weeks leading up to this migration crisis, Britain has been awash with political talk about the need to control immigration and several pejorative references have been made about migrants: they are benefit cheats, they are taking our jobs, they are changing the diversity and character of villages and towns and anything that can, has been hurled against them.

All the political parties are at it, even the Liberal Democrats and, surprisingly, Labour whose former leader – the son of an immigrant – had carved into his 10-foot stone commandments that he would control immigration and even had the coffee mug made to prove it.

All this talk has come about because of the fear that they needed to get the votes of UKIP sympathisers. Last year, the home secretary had caused vans to be sent around warning about what would happen to illegal immigrants and soon after the elections there was talk of penalising landlords for letting property to illegal immigrants.

University students have also been threatened that they would not be allowed to work in Britain and would be sent back to their countries of origin after graduation even before they can attend their convocations.

And yet when politicians make these statements and suggest that there needs to be an intelligent discussion on immigration, all we get is the same media-influenced reactions, bunching genuine with failed asylum seekers, mixing refugees with economic migrants and suggesting that those who have been migrants here for several years are also somehow in the mix and the cause of all the problems in Britain.

All it took for the position of politicians to unravel was the sight of defiant refugees refusing to be accepted in the reception and detention centres in Hungary, having a standoff with the police after invading the train stations and then deciding to walk across to Austria to their preferred choice of Germany.

Continue reading “Can We Have An Intelligent Debate On Migration?”

Do Black People Feel Excluded From Brixton?

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/do-black-people-feel-excluded-brixton

Do Black People Feel Excluded From Brixton?

LOCAL LANDMARK: The street market in Electric Avenue, BrixtonDOWN TO: The market in Electric Avenue.

THERE WAS a time in this country when the mention of Brixton symbolised the experience of Caribbean people in Britain.

While this is still true to a large extent – Brixton is home to the Black Cultural Archives, and rightly so – it seems to be the only legacy remaining.

For a significant number of the children of the Windrush generation, their lives were about Brixton: where they went to school, where they grew up and made lifelong friends and where they ran into various scrapes that finally culminated in clashes with heavy-handed police in 1981.

However, when a large number of shops closed after the riots and Brixton was left almost derelict, a run-down no-go area, it was black professionals and businesses – accountants, lawyers, estate agents, recruitment consultants, newspaper publishers, PR and advertising agencies, builders and contractors, management consultants, researchers, restaurants, book shops – who staked their claim to it and helped regenerate the area.

It was to Brixton that all black VIPs and celebrities from abroad, such as Nelson Mandela and Mike Tyson, flocked to for a taste and feel of the black experience when they came to these shores.

Continue reading “Do Black People Feel Excluded From Brixton?”

Why we must support black carers – Ade Sawyerr in Voice Online

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/why-we-must-support-black-carers

Why We Must Support Black Carers

SUPPORT NEEDED: Carers see their role as part of their duty and often do not know that help is available for them

THROUGHOUT THE UK there are a lot of people who care, unpaid, for a family member or friend who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support, and provide assistance to them in diverse ways.

Conventional wisdom suggests that most ethnic minority people will care for their loved ones, children and relatives. The reality however is that this unpaid duty can leave carers physically, mentally and emotionally drained to the extent that, the longer they carry out this role without support, the more likely they are in danger of their becoming unwell themselves and isolated.

The major problem is that there are a large number of hidden carers amongst the black and minority ethnic (BME) community who do not ask for help. These hidden carers see it as part of their duty, or they do not know that help is available to support them as carers. Or it could be because they think that asking for help would mean that they cannot cope with what they regard as, their basic duties of care to a loved one. There are others who also fear that knowledge of their duties will mean that their cared for may be taken into an institution where they may not be properly looked after.

Carers face a number of other difficulties such as having to juggle their paid work around their caring role and this can impact their career and earning power.

Continue reading “Why we must support black carers – Ade Sawyerr in Voice Online”

Celebrating Black Businesses at Black History Month 2013 – Ade Sawyerr

Mayor of London Black History Month Event.

Many things have been celebrated in black history month over the years but I doubt whether there has been any celebration of black people in business in Britain so in this brief note I intend to chronicle the history of black business development and celebrate the initiatives in the hope that more assistance will come in the way as we look forward to contributing to the brighter future of wealth creation in this country.

We have come a very long way from the days when black people did not routinely aspire or even think of self employment; setting up a business was but a dream for most.

I know there were several small black-owned businesses around 35 years ago, travel agents, hairdressing salons, night clubs, takeaways and restaurants, newspapers, patty shops and bakeries, records shops and various other businesses though most were devoted to personal services.

Research into black businesses

In 1980, the UK Caribbean Chamber of Commerce had brought their difficulties to the attention of government.  The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee commissioned some research and called for several papers and published in December 1980 the report titled: West Indian Businesses in Britain.

Several others carried out research on the back of this initial report to assist in the development of policy on how black people in business in this country can be assisted.

  • Martin Kazuka wrote ‘Why so few Black Business’ for the Hackney Business Promotion Project
  • Alan Brookes researched Caribbean businesses in Lambeth
  • Peter Wilson focussed on Brent for the Runnymede Trust in 1983
  •  Ade Sawyerr also contributed to the effort with my research on Particular problems faced by black controlled businesses in Britain with some proposals for their solution for his MBA dissertation at Manchester Business School in 1982 which broke academic ground on the subject.

Most of these reports revealed that black businesses faced several problems:

  • Black businesses were small and remained so because they focussed on personal services serving a captive ethnic market.
  • Access to capital and credit was difficult in the face of unwillingness by banks to lend partly because they did not understand the businesses and did not have confidence in them as entrepreneurs.
  • There were problems with access to premises and skilled staff and competent managers
  • Markets were generally closed to them because of their size and this led them to focus on their own communities.

These could be resolved with concerted action by government, the private sector and the academics working together and by facilitating organisations also providing assistance.

But it was left to Lord Scarmann who had been asked by government to inquire into the Brixton disorders who having found that ways of policing Brixton was totally unacceptable bemoaned the issue of young black people who were unemployed and to a large extent had no stake in the british society.  He was bold enough to suggest a raft of employment training initiatives and went further to push government into action.  Scarmann wrote …..: but I do urge the necessity for speedy action if we are to avoid a perpetuation in this country of an economically indisposed black population.  A weakness in British society is that there are too few people of West Indian origin in the business, entrepreneurial, and professional class.

Continue reading “Celebrating Black Businesses at Black History Month 2013 – Ade Sawyerr”

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