Simon Woolley gave a rousing address about the need to address the inequality and under representation of the BME Community at the tables of power,where the important life impacting decisions are made. The key thing is how do you understand the needs of all communities if you do not have that participative connection with them.
The key point Simon made was the importance of this first scheme being the beginning of a journey for the whole BME Community toward reflective governance in key civic roles such as Magistrates, Custody Visitors, School Governors, Councillors and indeed MP's etc. This should create a pathway for others who have that ambition to follow in a positive manner with less barriers.
Simon publicly endorsed the work that I am doing in the City surrounding Voter Registration and Civic and Community Engagement, bearing in mind the affiliation between OBV and Birmingham Empowerment Forum with Voter Registration. He also paid tribute to the partnership work also being done by Bishop Dr. Joe Aldred.
Ian Ward, Mike Whitby and Paul Tilsley all spoke about the great diversity of Birmingham and finding ways of working with it. The key element of this is that the BME Community is more than capable and all that is really being requested is a level playing field.
I believe a scheme like this is beneficial from the point of view of allowing individuals to gain an insight of what Civic Duty/Roles are all about and ensure they take up the appropriate responsibility, should they wish to do so. We need to get away from the issue of tokenism which is really an insult, as we all have capabilities some more or less than others irrespective of who we are.
Sharon Thompson spoke about the support she received from OBV on her journey to becoming a Magistrate, which was quite significant as she was apprehensive to do it in the first place, but, she is now a Magistrate. She thanked the course participants for volunteering and wished them luck.
Overall is this the way forward?
In order to take up Civic Roles we must understand what they are and the time constraints and indeed the tasks. We need positive people who are willing to perform these roles and also inspire others in doing so.
The removal of the myth of an exclusive club for the Middle and Upper class also needs to be removed as we are all members of society and we all have a voice which may not be positive or constructive at all times, but, we are only human, however, we all do have a contribution to make.
Many people elude to the various speeches made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and it is significant that this year will celebrate 50 years since the March on Washington and they famous 'I Have A Dream' speech, but, one must remember the key message from Dr. King was always the same, I as am good as you i.e "EQUALITY".
I am of the opinion that we must embrace our rich diversity and stop talking about it. When I went to School my friends were just that friends and not identified by the religion or race. That's what is known as embracing diversity, the ability to live, work, respect,share,talk,make decisions,and govern our City with the only identity of being just people as effectively we are all the same.
It is also biblical but let me quote the late great Barry White:
"Telling me this and telling me that
You say once I'm with you, I'll never go back
Say there's a lesson you want to teach
Here I am baby, practice what you preach"