BME Communities and Covid-19 Webinar

Missed our last webinar? Full recording and presentation slides are now available!
 
On June 8th, we hosted our webinar on BME communities and Covid-19.
 
We hope all of our attendees had a great time – it was fantastic to host so many interested people, and receive so many great questions in the Q&A.
 
If you missed out, don’t worry! You can now access the full webinar recording and the presentation slides online.
 
If you want to discuss the issues raised in the webinar please don’t hesitate to email us…
 

Black Lives Matter -Time for Change

By Tracey Gore

It has taken me sometime to be ready to put my thoughts down on paper in respect of the murder of George Floyd and the reverberations that have been felt right around the world, I have been hurting like everyone else.

At a time when we are all dealing with COVID-19, the horrific impact that it is already having on our community, so many of us have lost family and friends to this disease, the restrictions of not being able to visit family, the reality of not being able to be with them when they are taking their last breath is in itself traumatising.  The actual confirmation that this disease is disproportionately impacting upon the BME community compounding our pain.  Racial inequality continues to harm our health and wellbeing, we have been suffering.

When the video emerged showing George Floyd being pinned down to the floor; handcuffed; knee on the neck; knees on his body; calling for his mother; pleading for his life; hearing his words “I Can’t Breathe” –  at that moment, non- of us could breathe.  The pain, the inhumanity of the police officers, the casual disregard of another human being, the realisation for all of us to see, that those officers did not see George Floyd as  human.  Any person with an ounce of decency saw the senseless murder of George Floyd for what it was, murdered for simply being black.  The world stopped breathing as the reality of racism, the  dehumanisation of black people was laid bare.  For the majority of people, seeing him die in front of our eyes would have made them sick to their stomach, for black people they relived their personal and collective trauma of racism, they didn’t just see George Floyd, but every black person who had died at the hands of the police.  They relived every negative encounter they had had with the police.  They relived every act of racism that they had experienced during their lives, they relived every moment when their child had come home hurt and broken from the racism they had experienced in school, on the bus, in their work place, they relived the talks they have with their children when they walk out the door, the talk about how they have to navigate their daily lives, how to live in two worlds.  Every  woman heard the cry of George Floyd when he called for his mother, and in that instant there was the realisation that but for the grace of god that it could be my child; it could be a member of my family.

We have lived with racism and discrimination for far too long, our historians have documented it to remind the world.  We have lived it.  We have for many years been fighting the good fight in standing up to racism, calling it out and demanding change, I stood on the shoulders who came before me, who fought to enable me, a kid from Toxteth to become the Director of Steve Biko Housing Association, every generation opening the door a bit further for the next.

The leaders of this City, public, private and the voluntary sector have been told for years what the issues are and how to fix them.  There are enough policy documents, consultation exercises, research reports and reviews to fill every room in the Town Hall.  Now is the time to act and to implement change.  We have gone beyond asking what the problem is and what do you want to happen.  It’s time to act.  Taking action to address racism and discrimination is a direct route to the healing process.

What has lifted my spirits in these awful times that we are living through is the way our young people are responding, the way they are coming forward asking the questions, raising the issues, sharing their experiences, demanding change.

Our own staff member Shelique Braithwaite shared her own experiences and thoughts recently on Facebook, the Goddess Project a young black women’s group, have been supporting each other by self-love and debate and discussion, Sumuyya Khadar, artist, CLT Board member and activist has been producing powerful artwork, one of many of our young people, writing and creating powerful thoughtful, inspiring pieces.  So many of our young people have been showing up and speaking out, it makes me proud.  In times like these I go to my books, I draw strength and healing from the greats, Maya Angelou tells me to Rise, “Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise, Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise”.   Our young people are rising.

I have for a long time tried to uplift our young people, working with and supporting our youth organisations, advocating for change to make their lives better.  I have always believed young people are our future, young people will make the change we so badly want to see, we need to support them, to give them the tools, hand over the baton and open the doors.

Our annual young achievers’ awards ceremony has always been designed to give young people rightful recognition of their achievements and to enable them to have a voice, to share their hopes, dreams and concerns, to inspire them on their life’s journey.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be working to open the doors for our young people,  to facilitate a discussion with our city leaders, to lift their voices so they can be heard.  I ask City Leaders, Chief Executives, Directors, as well as turning the city buildings purple and turning social media pages black, look within your own organisations;how many people of colour do you employ? How many are in senior positions? How many sit around your Board tables? How many are on apprenticeship programmes?  How many are experiencing discrimination and it is put in the too difficult to open box.  Change starts from the top.   It is time to open your doors, pull out the chairs, let their voices be heard.  It’s time to employ people that reflect all of us and not just have pictures in brochures.  It’s time for racial equality not just in the USA but right here in the UK right here in this great city of Liverpool whose wealth was gained through the trade of stolen black people.

“We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common brotherhood.”  In time we shall be in the position to bestow the greatest gift possible—a more human face.” -Steve Biko

It’s our young people’s time.  Open the door, pull out a chair, it’s time for change

Tracey Gore is the Director of Steve Biko Housing Association, she has held this post since March 2003.  Tracey is a member of BME National, a National Housing Forum, chairs the strategic Equalities in Housing Group for Liverpool’s City Region Housing Associations.  Tracey is passionate about working with the diverse communities of Liverpool. enabling their voices to be heard not only in the housing sector, but the wider issues that impact upon their lives.  

Tracey will be speaking at a joint HDN/BMENational event on Black Live Matter -details below

BMENational Statement on Covid-19 Crisis

The pandemic has shed a light on existing inequalities in society.

Housing is an important social determinant of health, and the current lockdown arrangements have highlighted the central role of the home in people’s lives. Inequalities in housing provision have major repercussions for the health of our communities.

As BMENational we make a commitment to work with partners to address these inequalities. Our partners include mainstream housing associations, central, regional and local government, health authorities and the voluntary and community sector. We reaffirm our commitment to our communities both today and as we emerge from the pandemic.

Read more about our position below.

BMENational Supports Calls For Independent Review of Institutional Racism in the Home Office

BME National fully supports and joins in with other race equality organisations into calling for an independent review of the Home Office. The full text of a press release issued by the Runnymede Trust on 19 March 2020 is below.

Race equality and migrant rights organisations call for independent review into institutional racism in the Home Office 

Following the publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, 15 race equality and migrant rights organisations (full list below) have today called for an independent review into the extent of institutional racism in the Home Office and whether its immigration policies are in accordance with equality law around racial discrimination.  
 
The Windrush Lessons Learned Review outlines that the UK’s treatment of the Windrush generation was caused by institutional failures to understand race and racism in relation to the Macpherson definition of institutional racism, as set out in Lord Macpherson’s landmark Inquiry report (1999) into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.  

 
The 15 race equality and migrant rights organisations, including the Runnymede Trust, are also urging the government to make a full apology to those affected by the Windrush injustices and to make the Windrush Compensation Scheme more accessible and to introduce independent oversight of the scheme, as a matter of urgency. 

Further recommendations include scrapping the Hostile Environment and appointing an independent advisory group and chair reporting directly to No. 10 and the Cabinet Office to implement the findings of the Windrush Lesson Learned Review, and ensure the inhumane injustices of the Windrush Scandal are not repeated.  
 
The full set of recommendations are: 

  • The treatment of the Windrush generation was a terrible but predictable injustice. The Review shows that government ignored repeated warnings and has still refused to apologise and compensate people who were detained, deported and in some cases died having been wrongfully treated. The government must right the wrong, beginning with a full apology to those affected, and making the compensation scheme process more independent and accessible.  
     
  • The Review shows why the Hostile Environment must be scrapped. None of the measures cited in the report, such as Right To Rent, have been repealed, the Home Office continues to treat people badly while the current Immigration Bill continues with policies and framing that will lead to further injustices. 
     
  • The EHRC to undertake an independent review into whether the Home Office’s immigration policy and practices are in accordance with equality law, including its understanding of racial discrimination and the extent of institutional racism in the department.   
     
  • The Review also reveals poor workplace practices and culture in the Home Office. It is long past time for systemic reforms in decision-making, to ensure caseworkers get better support and are able to raise concerns with senior managers, and for leadership to send a stronger message that it is committed to a more open and empathetic organisational culture.  (continued) 
     
  • Deportations of those who have lived in Britain since they were children should now end. Further, citizenship policy (including fees) should ensure that those who have the right to citizenship are provided with that citizenship, and racially discriminatory clauses in the 1971 Immigration Act and the 1981 Immigration and Nationality Act should be repealed. (continued) 
  • The government should commit to an extensive well-funded programme of support for grassroots and voluntary sector services that run outreach and support programmes for survivors of the Windrush injustice. The Hostile Environment is the latest in a catalogue of injustices experienced by this community over many years, and so this support should be extended to the wider cause of racial justice.   
     
  • The Windrush injustice reflects the Home Office’s failure to listen to those affected and organisations that pointed out the likely impact of the Hostile Environment. Government has refused to listen to civil society, dismissed concerns out of hand and attacked the integrity of those raising genuine concerns. The government must implement the WLLR recommendations on better engaging outside government, including groups that criticise its policies, if it is to avoid another similar injustice. 
     
  • The government should establish an independent advisory group and chair that reports directly to Number 10 and the Cabinet Office on the implementation of the Windrush Lesson Learned Review. 
     

The full list of race equality and migrant rights organisations supporting these recommendations are:  

The Runnymede Trust; Race on the Agenda; Voice4Change England; JCWI; Migrant Rights Network; Jewish Council for Race Equality; Traveller Movement; Race Equality Foundation; Friends, Families and Travellers; Olmec; BME Forum Croydon; Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre; Council of Somali Organisations; Caribbean and African Health Network; Black Training and Enterprise Group 
 
Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director, the Runnymede Trust said:  
“The findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review are alarming, wide-ranging and profound: a terrible injustice was done to the Windrush generation, but the events and policies leading up to it were entirely predictable. Wendy Williams, the Independent Reviewer, makes it very clear that the injustice was not an accident, but a result of institutional failures to understand race and racism, in comparative ways as defined by Lord Macpherson’s definition of institutional racism over 20 years ago.”  
 
“It is now incumbent on this government to not only “right the wrongs” suffered by the Windrush generation (and other ethnic minority groups) as a result of the government’s hostile environment policies, but also to understand how and why Home Office culture, attitudes, immigration and citizenship policies have repeatedly discriminated against black and ethnic minority British citizens. Unless the issues around institutional racism are meaningfully addressed, we risk the same mistakes and injustices being repeated.” 
 
Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE said:  
“It has been two years since the Windrush Scandal was exposed highlighting how the government systematically, as part of the Hostile Environment, abused the human rights and dignity of British citizens from the Windrush generations and descendants. We now need effective leadership from the Prime Minister to swiftly implement the recommendations with independent oversight of the Home Office. The report is more than lessons learnt, it is an indictment of the nature and impact of structural racism in government and how politicians and senior civil servants over the years have failed to have a duty of care and respect to the Windrush Generation”