By Thomas L Blair 30 July 2021 ©;
Black Britons’ political power has had its fastest growth in years. Admittedly small in number, prominent individuals in public positions rose from 36 to 73. Thus, nearly doubling since 2017, and some 3% overall, according to The Colour of Power 2021 report by the influential Operation Black Vote think-tank led by Lord Simon Woolley
But more than firsts in high places, it will take grassroots money power and economic equality to lift people up from decades in the lower ranks of society. This article presents the brightest stars and projects.
Racial inequalities obstruct a fair and resilient economy
Blacks in high places don’t mean success for ordinary people. They generally have much lower levels of savings and assets than White British people, according to The Colour of Money (April 2020) report by the reputable Runnymede Trust race equality think-tank.
In an exceptional discovery, researchers calculated that Black Caribbeans are only worth around 20p, and Black African and Bangladeshis approximately 10p. for every £1 of White British wealth.
The struggle for Money Power
In a world where capital rules, Black businesses suffer a race credit gap says ethical investor Myron Jobson (pictured). Their loan applications to financial industry companies are more likely to be rejected than white and Indian businesses, according to researchers at the Warwick Business School. Robson, an expert in investment income and real estate is ready to reverse trends that perpetuate unfairness.
Reversing the trend is also the goal of microfinance community-based innovators. They encourage local authorities to support user-owned and –operated groups. These include Community-Based Financing Schemes providing savings and lending services to build thriving communities.
Black Pound Day
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests London’s community-minded rapper Swiss created a mutual aid Black Pound Day. Once a month, people should spend money with Black businesses, he says. It is a sustainable way to support a Black-owned economy.
“It’s to bring money in and to try and circulate it within our community,” Swiss said in an interview. “You can’t always rely on the government,” he added, “so we’ve got to turn to ourselves and make solutions for ourselves”.
There are some signs the idea can work among Black entrepreneurs too. The first Black Pound Day caused a sudden jump in sales for participating companies — with some exceeding their previous month’s revenue in one day, according to reports.
Promoting books by Black-owned publishers
This trend is recognised as a ground breaking initiative for Black-owned publishers says Aimée Felone. The co-founder of Knights Of and Round Table Books in London, favours ethnically diverse books to overcome years of economic racial inequality.
Juggling the demands of commerce and diversity in her career, Ms Felone created a pop-up book shop for books “with characters that look like you”.
Digitising pardna mutual aid networks
The pardna idea is not an easy message to spread. However ethical investment expert Paul Henrique’s Pardna App has brought the traditional Caribbean saving method into the 21st Century.*
Pardna, variously called Likelemba and Susu in some African households, helped people raise money for furniture, a car, rent or a deposit for a house.
Henrique’s app is a digital version of the rotating system “many of our grandparents and parents used to help them out in the early 1950s” he told The Voice, Britain’s Black newspaper. And it’s just as crucial now in hard times as it was in the early 1950s when the Windrush Generation were denied access to credit.
Youth are “pardna-ing”
The dire prospect of squeezed personal finances and unfair competition for education and jobs has prompted young people to start saving the “pardna way”. Youth in Coventry have taken up a money power initiative brought over by Caribbean emigrants. The Pardnas pool resources and each draws on the money in turns. They say it is a coping strategy that small groups of friends and family can use to save together outside the banking system.
The facts compromise declarations of success
Lord Woolley’s Colour of Power 2021 has spurred much enthusiasm. The data show Black, Asian and ethnic minorities in high places.
You will find them in government, the civil service, FTSE companies, the media, arts, trade unions, top universities, sporting bodies and NHS trusts.
This suggests the trend is “now translating into real change in what power looks like”, Lord Wooley says.
However, the fact that one person, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is responsible for at least a dozen firsts in his government casts doubt on the authenticity of the data and assumptions. High-profile appointees like these serve at their boss’s pleasure and can be dismissed at a whim without cause.
The same is true in other spheres. Blacks in high jobs and appointments by political parties, public agencies, professions, charities and companies are not secure. Their numbers can, like stocks and bonds, go up or down thus defeating any long-term calculations about “progress and success” trends.
Towards REAL Models not Role Models
For their part, campaigning money power innovators are forcing a rethink of what being Black firsts should mean. The evidence here shows innovators have generated a debate that enriches the public dialogue and supports sound decision-making.
Clearly, the firsts must be Real Models for the survival of their fellow citizens, cultures and communities. Real Models are courageous and outspoken against the deadening status quo that stifles Black community development and enterprise.
While they can’t themselves heal fractured race relations the firsts have a duty to undertake three essential tasks: They must promote start-up resources and funds for beneficial community-based money power initiatives. They should advocate non-discriminatory policies and fair dealing practices in the banks and financial industries. Above all, they must help to design a fairer, more resilient economy.
For the OBV report go to https://bit.ly/3y7RzYd
For the Runnymede report see https://www.runnymedetrust.org/projects-and-publications/employment-3/the-colour-of-money.html
For pardna youth see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-53725185
For Aimée Felone see https://www.thefloormag.com/post/in-conversation-with-aim%C3%A9e-felone
For more information on Paul Henriques go to: https://pardna.com and to https://www.voice-online.co.uk/news/2021/06/09/pardna-app-to-launch-bringing-traditional-saving-method-into-the-21st-century/#.YMI6kZo9GVZ.twitter
* For Pardnering in the community see Deanne Heron, Pardner Money Stories, Hansib 2011, two volumes
Notes on the author, editor and publisher
Thomas L Blair is a sociologist, cyberscholar and author. His Editions Blair eBooks and Black London Monographs are archived in the British Library.