What the Black Labour Movement must do! – Ade Sawyerr

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Black Labour: Speaking for Ourselves!!!! –  6th December 2017 at Peckham

Labour missed an opportunity in the 1980s to embrace and consolidate the support that it had from the mass of African and Caribbean people.  These people had mostly voted Labour at elections and the rejection of their own movement, Black Sections, was a kick in the teeth for most of the activists especially since the leadership was often unwilling to support them as candidates in winnable seats in areas where there were a lot of black people in the population.

I attribute this rejection as the reason for our inability to grow confident activists who should rise within the party without patronage.  The result now is that we cannot influence policy and help set an agenda within the party that would encourage more race equality.

The past couple of years have presented some opportunities but we are still so slow to take these up to create a formidable movement that should reflect our electoral usefulness to the party.

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The party has agreed to the formation of the Black Socialist Section in the party, but this has not quite translated into the political success of activists from African and Caribbean communities.  The issue of the name is important, there are many who are Labour who are not comfortable with the socialist label.

An Ethnic Minority Taskforce is in operation that incorporates BAME Labour, Chinese for Labour, Somalis for Labour, Labour Arab Group and Africans for Labour.  The concern is that the voice of the A4L will continue to be muted if it continues to be reactive to issues within the party and expects that it will be called to the table to discuss issues of importance to the party.  Even now that there are several persons of African heritage in the shadow cabinet, we are in danger of having the agenda set for us if we continue to be docile.

We know that the talk at our dinner tables and when we are on our own is about how disenfranchised we are.  We know that whilst it is easy for people to demand all women shortlists at party selection we still do not have the clout to ask for black only shortlists.  We privately admit that the party is taking us for granted and by extension taking our community for granted.

We have seen an organised well-resourced movement grow to have influence within the party within a short space of time!

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We know that as councillors we are rewarded with cabinet positions when we do not complain too much and that to a large extent we are easily set against each other; we get recycled and are almost always in danger of being deselected.  We even suspect that the leadership is ambivalent about promoting more race equality lest it result in a perceived backlash from the majority community and yet we continue to do nothing about this state of affairs.  We allow ourselves to be more disempowered

But we know that there is a lot that we can do!

We know that Labour has always been a broad church with the competing forces between modernisers and traditional Labour , Blairites against Corbynistas and new Labour against old Labour and we assist in this divide when our issues are about racial equality and looking out for the best interests of our black communities.  Even as we speak today there is a battle for who are the legitimate owners of the Momentum Black Caucus or Connexions!!!!

Our issues are about racial inequality and discrimination! Our issues are about poverty and marginalisation! Our issues are about jobs, hope for our youth, health and social care. Our issues are about anti-austerity.

If this is the party that we commit to, then we should let our voices be heard at the high table of our party.  But we can only do that if we are able to plan properly, organising appropriately and find resources needed to operate in a formal way so that we can become a force in Labour.  We must be bold and assume that we can set an agenda for the party acceptable to all.

We must be courageous, we must be resolved, we have to be united and we have to know how to set objectives that resound with will, we need to be able to plan our strategy and we need to organise to attract more black members to the black labour movement wherever they are – not too difficult since they probably vote Labour anyway.

So what must the Black Labour movement do to ensure that it can be listened to and that it exerts some influence in the party and amongst the large numbers of people who vote Labour at the elections?

Let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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Race Equality and the Black Experience in 2017 – the current debate

Ade-house of commons

Was at the House of Commons yesterday to take part in this debate.  this is my presentation.

Inequality remains a problem in the United Kingdom, especially for black people.

There is a still a penalty for being black, there is a penalty in stop and search, in health, in education, in the criminal justice system and in dealing with people with learning difficulties, there is an ethnic pay penalty and a penalty in doing business.

 

The government needs to tackle inequality!  This country will not be a better place when inequality is still glaring, and our younger people are not getting the jobs that they are ordinarily qualified for even when they go on to higher education.  Without true equality, the country will be unstable in a way that will affect community integration and social cohesion.

 

A more equal society will put the country back in better balance and will promote the equity that breeds more prosperity and the environment that engenders prosperity and the contribution to the wealth creation effort and more fairness in the distribution of wealth in this first world country.

 

We have certainly come a long way from those days of open discrimination, but there is still urgent work to be done by black people to keep up with the protest and campaign against racial discrimination.

 

We need to push for positive action now that our proportion of the population is growing.  It is no longer less than the 1% that it was in the 1970s when we pushed for the Race Relations Act 1976 to be passed.

Over the past 40 years, a lot of work has been done but we cannot afford to be complacent now that there are over 2 million black people and in some local area almost 50% of residents.

 

The black population is expected to reach over 10% of the working population in the next 10 years and yet black people continue to be discriminated against in workforce.  This is the time when the government must lead the way in implementing targets for the recruitment and progression of black people in their employment.  The question that needs asking is why were those targets that were promised in the Home Office stopped?  Were those targets dropped after an evaluation or was race no longer the flavour of the month. My answer is that let us bring the targets back; the targets may look symbolic but they may yet prove effective for the benefit of the black population, because other departments and other establishments may just follow that desirable example!!

Continue reading “Race Equality and the Black Experience in 2017 – the current debate”

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

“Why do you worry when your Lord never sleeps…..prayer for forgiveness, should be our guiding staff, and we will sing Alleluia and never never lose our way!”

Ramblers International Dance Band

Xpuzzle

Two holiday periods are celebrated by most Christians across the world: Christmas and Easter. Christmas is a period of good cheer and goodwill amongst men and has been widely accepted by both the secular and religious world as a time for festivities. People go on shopping sprees, exchange cards, gifts and greetings as we usher in a New Year that we wish will be filled with hope and prosperity. It also evokes debates amongst the various sects on the true meaning of the Advent and whether indeed the date chosen is correct or merely a convenient one. This long period of nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit always gives way to Easter and its more profound symbol of a Christ who lived a life of example and teaching but who was tortured and crucified and yet rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.

These festivals present an opportunity to reflect on various interesting schools of thought surrounding Christianity. So, after these festivals, I felt that after several years celebrating these holidays it is time for me to consider how I might explain why I profess and attest to Christianity in the hope that those with a deeper knowledge of this faith will share with me their understanding and help strengthen mine.

Born and nurtured within a Christian family, I was baptised an Anglican and dutifully followed my grandmother to church at St. Mary’s till I was old enough to follow my older siblings to Sunday School at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Accra, to learn about Jesus Christ and the other stories of the Bible. For a while, I lived with my uncle Mr. Mensah, who led the daily devotion for the whole household at the crack of dawn. I also had the opportunity to attend Brother Lawson’s ‘The Lord is There Temple’ at Korle Gonno the Apostolic sect to which he belonged at the time. When we moved to Accra New Town, because there was no Anglican church in the area, I attended the Presbyterian Church.

In secondary school, I spent my Quiet Time reading the Bible, especially the compelling stories of the Old Testament: the story of the creation, God’s relationship with man, the books of the Judges, Kings, and Prophets. These stories were about how living a righteous life would lead mankind to prosperity and yet despite those teachings, man broke all the covenants with God and strayed onto the path of sin that always ended in adversity and destruction.

Continue reading “Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr”

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?”

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