To mark the start of Black History Month this October, I have written a short introduction to Black History Month for the official website and magazine.
You can read my message below or here.
It feels as though Black History Month is needed now more than ever.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise and I find my country more divided now that at any prior point in my lifetime. Looking further afield, the election of Donald Trump as US President threatens to undo decades of work by civil rights campaigners.
As the son of West Indian immigrants and the Member of Parliament for one of the most ethnically diverse constituencies in the country it is a privilege to be asked to write a message for Black
History month. I am delighted to support what is a vital opportunity to explore and take pride in our history and culture and a celebration of the rich and diverse tapestry of cultures and ethnicities that make up our national identity.
However what we do in the United Kingdom does not take place in a vacuum and what happens overseas has an impact here too. It has been truly shocking to see the President of the United States of America draw moral equivalence between the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and neo-Nazis on one hand and citizens protesting these groups on the other. I was privileged to be invited to speak at the recent Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. and there is no doubt that hard-won civil rights are under threat. In recent weeks we have seen global sporting superstars taking a knee in order to stand up for the rights of minority groups, and here in the United Kingdom we must offer solidarity with those fighting against injustice elsewhere.
So whilst Black History Month is a time to appreciate and commemorate the many vital contributions to our national life that have been made by Black Britons, we must remain vigilant in the face of division and intolerance and redouble our efforts to come together proudly to stand for unity. That is the message that I will be sharing at Black History Month events in my own constituency and elsewhere.
This year I was proud to publish the Lammy Review – my independent review for the Government looking at the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in our criminal justice system. The General Election on June 8th returned the highest ever number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Members of Parliament, but it is clear that there is still a lot of work to do and there are many rivers to cross in all walks of life – from our prisons to our elite universities and from the boardroom to the Cabinet table.
I sincerely hope that across the country Black History Month is embraced in homes, schools, communities and places of work. I pay tribute to all those who work hard to make the month such an integral part of our cultural calendar by organising a range of fantastic events and I encourage everybody to get involved and participate in any way that they can.
With my very best wishes to you all for October.