So how is Britain dealing with racism, apart from its periodic use as a political football, or the broader issue of diversity? Last year, there was a loud and determined effort with government ministers roped in to address diversity within the broadcast and film industries.
The year before, in comparison, there was a more muted and internally-focused effort to do the same within music – all the major music industry bodies signed up to the Equality & Diversity For Music. RE:IMI (Race Equality: In Music Industry) would like to see this effort succeed, and during this year’s British Black Music Month, aims to galvanise stakeholders in redoubling their efforts in addressing equality issues.
An election year, is a particularly good time to be dealing with these issues. The major political parties have all issued their manifestos, some like Labour and Lib-Dem, have actually also issued mini-manifestos addressing the inequalities faced by Britain’s African, Asian and ethnic minority (AAEM) communities. Community organisations such as OBV (Operation Black Vote), BTEG (Black Training & Enterprise Group), and for the first time the ‘black’ church under the auspices of NCLF (National Church Leaders Forum), have also issued manifestos.
This election, like any since the notorious 1964 elections from which the victorious Labour government introduced the RRA, has had its fair share of ‘race’, racism, immigration and xenophobia stories.
All this is happening at a time when we should be marking the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the 1965 Race Relations Act (RRA), the bedrock of Britain’s equality laws. You would be forgiven if what should be a landmark legislation, which came about as a consequence of African-led activism with the support of progressive Europeans, has passed you by.
There’s been no fanfare, not even the merest mention anywhere. This is interesting, particularly at a time when some feel there’s been a roll-back of progress made in tackling racism in the intervening decades be it through entrenched institutional, the usual insidious or covert, or the occasional overt manifestations of racism 50 years on.
It’s against this backdrop that London community groups BTWSC and African Histories Revisited mark British History 50:70, on May 14, one week after the general election, with the launch of a documentary in Westminster in which over 50 people, drawn from diverse backgrounds opine on the state of racism in Britain.
Contributors to the ‘Look How Far We’ve Come: Commentaries On British Society And Racism?’ DVD, which will be launched at the Abbey Centre in Westminster, include the late politician Tony Benn, who was instrumental in the passage of the 1965 RRA. There are other politicians such as David Lammy, Keith Vaz, Diane Abbott, Ken Livingstone; ‘race’ activists Lord Herman Ouseley, Lord Anthony Lester, Linda Bellos, Dr Richard Stone; community and political activists Darcus & Leila Howe,Eric & Jessica Huntley, Lee Jasper, Marc Wadsworth, Toyin Agbetu; academics Prof Gus John, Prof Harry Goulbourne, Prof Paul Gilroy; trade unionists Lord Bill Morris, Zita Holbourne, Wilf Sullivan;and Bristol Bus Boycott leader Paul Stephenson. Contributors are also drawn from the Church, law, police, nursing, and broadcasting.
The guest of honour is educationalist Dame Jocelyn Barrow, a founding member of CARD (Campaign Against Racial Discrimination), one of the organisations whose work led to the 1968 amendment, which brought employment and housing under the purview of the RRA. The launch is preceded by a post-Easter presentation entitled ‘Is Jesus White?’.
A competition based on a teaser video consisting of snippets without sound posted on Youtube (http://bit.ly/1MyamSp) will run from May 1-9. Winners who decipher what’s being said by a particular contributor will receive a copy of the DVD, the ‘Look How Far We’ve Come: The Race/Racism Primer’, and two complimentary tickets to the launch. For more details or to book for launch: http://bit.ly/1xWMG1d.