Report by James Cracknell
A new community campaign launched by Leyton residents has drawn up an action plan for tackling racism in Waltham Forest.
The ‘Many Faces, One Community’ initiative was born out of the Black Lives Matter protests that took place in the Grove Green area in the summer, following the killing of George Floyd in the United States.
Members of the group say they want to create a legacy beyond the protests, with the aim of working towards becoming an anti-racist community. Their action plan includes steps to address racism “in whatever form it takes” – be it discriminatory policing, disproportionate levels of ill health, unemployment, education or housing.
The initiative is already being backed by community leaders including Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer, trade union representatives, mosque organisers and local councillors. The Labour MP said he wanted to work closely with the group and added: “A cornerstone of social justice, equality and fairness is opposition to racism and bigotry everywhere.
“Britain’s own record is not clean. Black people are three times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people; the number of fatalities among BAME communities from Covid-19 is disproportionately high; and the British Empire was based on slavery and piracy – which is why it’s important the curriculum incorporates black history.”
Many Faces, One Community is seeking meetings with the Metropolitan Police’s local safer neighbourhood team, plus representatives from NHS providers and Waltham Forest Council. It plans to work alongside existing campaigns such as Waltham Forest Black Lives Matter and Waltham Forest Migrant Action. Ideas include organising an anti-racist festival and developing an anti-racist history of the area.
Grove Green councillor Anna Mbachu is supporting the initiative and said: “I welcome the action plan. Residents and community organisations in Grove Green have shown incredible solidarity in the fight against racism and hate.”
Husain M, from the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, is another supporter. He said: “It is not enough to be not racist. We must be anti-racist. We cannot allow the protests to pass without real change. The action plan offers local people the chance to bring about real and lasting change alongside like-minded people in the community”.
Local representatives of two of Britain’s largest public sector trade unions, Unison and PCS, have also given the project their backing. Lizzy Ali from Unison said: “Covid-19 has shown the real divides in our society. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people and those on low incomes are more likely not only to catch the virus but die from it. We need the positive action called for in the action plan to address this massive injustice.”
Saira Afzal, from PCS, added: “The action plan will play an important part in the fight for change.”
Leyton resident Tom Taylor said: “Grove Green came together to offer solidarity during the coronavirus crisis through setting up mutual aid groups and supporting essential workers. Now we can begin work on becoming an anti-racist community.”
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