Black History Month 2020 has been identified by many as the most important month in the 33 years of its inception that defines the social, cultural, economic, and political progress that Britain’s Black community has made.
With the on-going Windrush scandal and compensation shortcomings along with the statue controversy. The health inequalities, disproportionately high infection rates and mortality because of Covid-19. We have also seen the global and national impact following the killing of George Floyd on 25th May. This led to the Black Lives Matter momentum, especially in the lives of our young people and how they are able to overcome the mental, physical and emotional disaffection that can lead to lives being lost; when hope and opportunity are seemingly distant.
The challenges we face are stark within the uncertainty in Britain and throughout the world. However, there is much that can be realised within the resilience, hard work and dedicated effort that has characterised the post war migrating Windrush generation and the intergenerational heritage, motivation and inspiration that can give confidence, trust and respect. Since May 25th, hundreds of discussions, debates, and dialogue have taken place as to how Black lives can matter in Britain. I have always found it a social and economic anomaly as to how a very small percentile of ethnic minorities with over 400 years presence in Britain cannot be imbedded into all levels of society. Despite many attempts by governments and failed policies and strategies. The institutional and systemic culture conspires either by intent or ignorance. I have reflected on my own humble beginnings that have seen me go from racial disaffection to multi medal winning success for Britain in my sport of karate and having served in public life for 30 years.
I have taken a long hard look intergenerationally in the lives of my parents with my mother being the survivor of that post-war Windrush migration. Now as a father myself and a Black man who has soul searched and asked the difficult questions and had uncomfortable discussions that are still taking place. I ask, “What does the future hold for my children and the disaffected and disadvantaged young people that look like me and the Diaspora as a whole?”
I believe we have reached the societal tipping point. In 1999, the MacPherson Report was launched following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Over two decades later, the recommendations have had little to no impact. The intergenerational Diaspora deserve to be celebrated and recognised during this month. However, we must remain relevant throughout the year within educational attainment, employment, and entrepreneurship. There must now be a national coalition of solidarity.
Our leading lights in professional and public life need to reflect the historic changes that are taking place in the USA, Africa, and the UK with decisive leadership. This is our moment in time to make a real and lasting impact and difference in the lives of our young people as society is judged in how it treats its young and old. The Youth Charter has fought for young people for 27 years to be given an opportunity to develop in life through sport, arts, culture, and digital technology and has launched its “BLACK HISTORYwise” education programme. This is a year-round offer – not a month and can be embedded within mainstream cross curricular learning. This also responds to Baroness Doreen Lawrence’s tireless campaigning for Black history to be taught in every school. To ensure we give Black pupils and ALL pupils and society as a whole an insight and appreciation of the rights and responsibilities that we should be afforded in this green and pleasant land.
Geoff Thompson is Founder and Chair of the London based Youth Charter a United Nations accredited Non-Governmental Organisation. He is a Board Member of the London Legacy Development Corporation, Deputy Chair of the British Caribbean Association, an Advisory Board Member at the Muhammad Ali Centre in Louisville, USA and was Chair of the Board of Governors at the University of East London between 2017 – 2019.
Geoff is a former five times World Karate Champion with four honorary degrees to his name. He has been listed in the top 100 BAME leaders in the UK and the Evening Standard’s top 1000 influencers in London and was this year awarded an honorary professorship of the International Business School at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China.