On 29 October Richard, as Mayor of Sutton, delivered a strong message of support for the contribution those of African and Caribbean heritage have made to the borough. This is a concern Richard and Trish share – on 8 October Trish attended a service in St Paul’s Cathedral to express our detestation of the racist hate crimes that followed the Brexit vote.
Richard was making a speech closing Black History Month, which he had opened at an event at the start of October, and he repeated themes he had raised the previous day when addressing the Annual General Meeting of Sutton’s Afro-Caribbean Heritage Association.
While drawing attention to positive developments in the promotion of diversity and multiculturalism he said he had been shocked by the racist hate crimes that followed the Brexit vote, and hoped this was a phase we would quickly move on from.
The Mayor said:
“Each year October is Black History Month, focused on raising the awareness of African and Caribbean history and cultural heritage, and celebrating the positive contribution of this heritage to the political, economic and cultural life of Britain.
My own family has a great interest in black history, in diversity and multiculturalism. Our daughter is married to man whose family comes from Ghana, so we have a grandson who is of mixed race. I look forward to having long, deep and meaningful discussions with him about diversity and multiculturalism, and what he can draw from a heritage that is both British and African. But he is only one year old, so not yet.
First celebrated in the UK in 1987, Black History Month is marked annually as an important point of reference for the black community. I believe we have made progress in the UK over recent decades in tackling racist attitudes, increasing diversity, and improving equality, within Sutton and in Britain as a whole. I tell my daughter and my son-in-law that when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in this country, her marriage, a white woman marrying a black African man, would have been unusual and provoked openly racist comment in the white community.
Today, where she lives in Brixton, it is quite usual, and when I take my grandson to play groups there, such as the one I took him to in Brockwell Park last Monday, I cannot help but notice what an enormous melting pot there is of children of many different colours and racial groups, and many variation of mixed race, playing happily together. It makes me optimistic about the prospects for further progress in building a diverse community, something that is re-enforced every week when I represent the community, as Mayor, at Citizenship ceremonies, where people of many different cultural backgrounds take British citizenship.
For that reason I have been shocked, we have all been shocked, by the racist attacks and hate crimes following the Brexit vote, and we must pray that this is a phase we will, as a community, quickly recover from.
Sutton’s Black History Group was established in 2010 and has promoted a wide range of free community-wide events. The Group has been strongly supported by Sutton Council which is why I, the Mayoress and the Deputy Mayor Councillor Patel are here today, to show that support.”