United we stand – Divided we fall

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2020 National Black Members' Conference
18 September 2019

For many years Black people, have faced discrimination. Remember it was the government of this country that asked us to come here to provide our labour, to build Great Britain. We have seen from the Windrush scandal and the disrespect shown towards our sense of patriotism, including the racism of government officials illustrated by the Rivers of Blood speech by Enoch Powell. Further compounded by the injustice shown by the Metropolitan Police Force over the malicious killing of Stephen Lawrence and the racist immigration policies and propaganda that influenced the Brexit vote. All of which demonstrates the lack of worth and contempt that we have been subjected to in this country.

Our history of being enslaved people has deeply affected our psyche that has manifested itself in self – loathing and disunity. Products have been created to bleach our skin and straighten our hair in order to present a look that is more acceptable to white people, particularly employers.

Black people have come from a tradition of working together in our various trades, raising each other’s children and promoting unity and community cohesion.

We are here from a variety of Black culture and different religions and faiths and yet what do we really know about each other?

Wearing our hijabs has been met with hostility and distrust with the inference of being terrorists just for being a Muslim.

African men are often viewed as “loud and colourful”. Caribbean people as “lazy and lovers of music”. Asian people are mainly “shopkeepers and do not integrate”. All of these negative stereotypes create division.

As Black members we need to recognise that it doesn�t matter where in the world we come from we must also acknowledge and understand that first and foremost to the world we are Black. Science has proved that all humanity began in Africa so we are fundamentally one people.

What harms us is disunity based on skin colour, hair type, which island our parents were from and other exterior factors that should really be of no significance.

We have a month long celebration in Black History in October every year and whilst this has been beneficial and educational to many and to an extent has improved community relations, we need to do more.

If we, as Black members, work at learning about each other’s cultures, religions and celebrations this is sure to lead to more unity amongst us as Black people. We have many trades and traditions that are specific to our heritage. The introduction of workshops to teach these skills to our young members would help to ensure the continuity for the next generation.

Our young Black people need guidance and the opportunity to meet their full potential instead of getting involved in gun and knife crimes. We need local youth and community centres where our young can engage in positive activities that promote team building skills, education and the trade union movement.

Many young Black people are trapped in zero hour contracts or are unemployed and struggling to gain the skills to secure employment. This needs to be addressed by government intervention and promoting positive apprenticeship schemes that give opportunity for secure employment. It may be that UNISON could consider developing a bursary or scholarship scheme for Young Black members.

It is imperative that we work to generate a sense of pride in who we are as Black people. We need to show that we have a rich and diverse history that is one to be proud of and promote. It is time for us to learn more about each and what unites us instead of focusing on our differences.

We know that if there is unity among people then their strength increases.

Conference therefore calls on the National Black Members Committee to:

1)Work with regions and branches to promote the celebration of Black culture throughout the year

2)Ensure Black Action continues to promote Black cultural festivals and histories on a regular basis.

3)Explore with Labour Link and work on enhancing UNISON campaigns for local youth and community centres

4)Explore with Labour Link the possibility of developing a campaign for the introduction of employment traineeships for young Black people.

5)Seek that the National Executive Committee Black representatives explore the development of a bursary or scholarship scheme for young Black members