Time to upgrade Black presence in Britain’s New Year’s List

By Thomas L Blair,  1 January 2014

Mutual aid and self help are the best hopes Black Britons have for a decent future. Not many will disagree.

Championing change -- Rev David Shosana, Street Pastor
Championing change — Rev David Shosana, Street Pastor

And yet no one seems able to focus on the matter in ways that could help. And the lack of Black awards and applicant marked a continued, discouraging decline.

The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List 2014 published last week recognised the achievements and services of extraordinary people and is open to nominations from any individual or organisation. But only five per cent were from Black and ethnic minority communities, a one per cent drop from last year and 7.8 per cent fall from 2012.

Those who claim to know lament this dramatic persistent decline

Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake claims the problem is lack of nominations from these communities.

Still, Sir Kerslake saw fit to spend months of effort and debate over this race gap.

He said: “This year we have hosted a number of outreach events to encourage greater participation in the honour system.

“But the issue is people seem to think that it is not for them or it is not something they should aspire to.

“Actually it is for everybody and our focus is to get this message out – through the media, community organisations and house of parliament events.”

Strengthening the Black presence in the New Year’s List has everything to do with organising self-help and mutual aid among a still troubled people.

However, Black civil rights leadership, for all its emphasis on de jure equality has done very little to improve the lot of “honest toilers” in disadvantaged districts, or to raise up low wage toilers and encourage despairing youth.

Leaders argue broad principles such as anti-racism and specific programs for voting empowerment but have paid dismayingly little attention to the impact of either principle or program. Meanwhile, we are turning out yet another generation of ill-educated children and young adults who will grow up to be essentially useless in a technological society.

I don’t mean to say that the annual Honours List is the yardstick for Black progress. This must be achieved by the people themselves. Yet the absence of Black-led initiatives is a cause for concern. The question that ought to be the focus of attention should be what to do about it.

We might begin by agreeing on a few basics:

Honouring individual hard-won achievements no matter how worthy does not build healthy and strong communities.

Ennoblement should inform us about the scores of community organisers adding economic and social “Power to the People”.

  • One significant group is the Street Pastors, a charity that exemplifies “the energy of Black independent churches”. Founded by Rev Les Isaacs and Rev David Shosanya, a thousand supporter of their grassroots rescue mission celebrated their  10th anniversary celebration in Southwark Cathedral, London.
  • The regeneration group, RAFFA, led by Rudi Page is another standout example. Expert volunteers promote “enterprising, safe and vibrant neighborhood”. Economic recovery programs include business management, learning skills and volunteers “to connect to and inspire sustainable communities, cultures and generations”.
  • The 100 Black Men of London are professionals, educators and entrepreneurs aiming to uplift communities. They mentor aspirants to careers in business and education, and press for social services for single-parents of school children.
  •  Community pride is the focus of the West Indian Association of Service Personnel. This veterans group’s “Remembrance Sunday” strengthens community morale and pride. They celebrate the sacrifices of Black British and colonial troops — from Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia – in the service of King and “Mother country”.

Community-based initiatives add value to nation and the social economy. They legitimate a noble purpose ad merit the moral prerogatives of the Crown.

Moreover, promoting links with Black progressive organisations will be a boon to contending political parties in the 7 May 2015 General Elections.

For me, Making 2015 the year for Black  Community Development could be the break-through for the struggle-weary and the strife-torn,  deprived areas in which so many live.

Useful resources include

The Voice-online http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/more-women-get-new-year-honours-while-minority-people-fall

The 100 Black Men of londonhttp://www.100BMOL.org.uk

The Shaping of Black London http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/community-development/editionsblair/shaping13.aspx

British Library Social Welfare Portal http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/community-development/pub_index.aspx?PublisherID=149777&PublisherName=Editions+Blair

Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham thttp://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/index.aspx

The House of Commons http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/general/