The structural racism faced by black communities is more apparent than ever – their voices must be heard
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, writes in the June edition of Hackney Today.
Like many imperfect allies of Hackney’s black community, the horrific death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement has caused me to stop and reflect on what I can do, as your Mayor, to bring about change.
At the same time, we are seeing clear evidence that people from black and south Asian backgrounds are more likely to catch coronavirus, and that migrant populations are disproportionately represented in the number of deaths. While the reasons for this are complex and nuanced, it’s been completely unacceptable to see national reports into this with no recommendations or action by ministers. We will continue to hold them to account.
I’ve been inspired by the peaceful protests, emotional appeals and direct messages I’ve received from so many people over the last few weeks, and I was proud to stand in solidarity with residents in Hackney over the past month. I hear the anger, sorrow and calls for action.
Hackney has a strong tradition of standing up to racism and we are a proud, diverse borough, but saying that isn’t enough – the injustices and structural racism faced by black communities are more apparent than ever. Their voices must be heard.
Tackling inequality and racism is at the core of my politics and the Council’s work. It’s why we’ve run programmes to listen to and improve the life chances of young black men, championed and campaigned against the injustices faced by Windrush generation, and established forums for our young people to influence policing and community safety. Pulling all those themes together has also been the Hackney Young Futures Commission, who have just handed the Council their 70-point plan for change.
So I recognise we must do more. The symbols of our borough’s historic links to the slave trade – whether statues or building, street and park names – don’t reflect what Hackney is today. We must all educate ourselves about these issues, which is why I have not just announced a review into the naming of these public spaces, but also working to enhance our local curriculum with more materials on how black history has shaped our community.
I’m determined that this work should not just be about removing things, but about finding new ways to celebrate our culture. That’s why I was delighted last week to announce two new pieces of public art that will honour the Windrush generation and their contribution to our borough – the first in the UK. I can’t think of a better way to say who we are as a borough than by commissioning two black artists to create these visionary sculptures. Our award-winning Windrush Generations Festival continues this week on our dedicated Hackney Spirit website.
As our borough starts to reopen on Saturday, it’s more essential than ever that everyone plays their part in preventing another wave of coronavirus infections. Despite the Prime Minister’s dangerous rhetoric, the easing of some restrictions do not mean a free-for-all or that life gets back to normal.
In the interests of our incredible key workers, our economy and the health of those around us, please continue to look after Hackney, shop locally and act responsibly.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney
This article originally appeared in the 29 June edition of Hackney Today.