Lord Woolley and Akala join online Brent Black community event

Lord Simon Woolley centre stage for the Time to Talk about the Brent Black Community Action Plan event.

Lord Simon Woolley centre stage for the Time to Talk about the Brent Black Community Action Plan event. - Credit: Brent Council

Lord Simon Woolley and Akala were the keynote speakers for an online event looking at the experiences of Black people in Brent.

On December 9, more than 250 people attended Time to Talk about the Brent Black Community Action Plan, for which £2 million in grant funding has been awarded.

Hosted by Brent Council and Young Brent Foundation, the aim of the event was to feed into the recently launched Brent Black Community Action Plan, and reignite the conversation on race, identity and the experiences of Black people.

It included keynote addresses from Lord Simon Woolley, founder of Operation Black Vote, and hip-hop artist and writer Akala.

Lord Woolley set the scene by discussing the history of Black liberation struggles in the USA and UK. He spoke about the overwhelming grief over the George Floyd killing this year, as well as the devastating impact of the coronavirus on the Black community.

He said: “History will ask us how we responded to the double pandemic - did we keep our head in the sand or did we do something profound?"

Lord Woolley welcomed the Brent Black Community Action Plan, and said it was a good start, but noted the council would need to be committed to carrying out the actions.

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He said that the time to act should not be delayed: “If not now, then when? And if not us, then who?”

Akala spoke about race and class, and the importance of investing in Black communities for the long-term and giving young people opportunities.

READ MORE: Brent councillors agree Brent Black Community Action Plan to tackle generational inequality

A panel discussion followed, talking about the Brent Black Community Action Plan as well as key issues facing the Black community. The panellists were Brent-based figures including boxer Ashley Theophane, Boney M singer Liz Mitchell, headteacher Danny Coyle, youth and community manager Deji Adeoshun and psychotherapist Martina Jean-Jacques.

Audience members fed in their questions to the speakers and panellists. Everyone welcomed the plan but there were challenges about creating more community-owned spaces, sustainability and accountability of the action plan as well as providing the community with the adequate resources.

The in-depth discussions included the topic of healing the trauma of the Black community due to years of overt and institutionalised racism, working with young people to help them achieve their potential and having more opportunities for Black people to enter leadership positions. 

Carolyn Downs, chief executive of Brent Council, gave the closing address and announced that the council had recently provided the community with £2 million worth of grant funding to help deliver actions in the plan, and support communities badly effected by inequality.

She announced a further commitment of funds from the council to support the delivery of the Black Community Action Plan and to tackle poverty in the borough.

“The time is now and it is us that will help deliver this change," she said.

Time to Talk about the Brent Black Community Action Plan

Time to Talk about the Brent Black Community Action Plan - Credit: Brent Council

Cllr Margaret McLennan, deputy leader of Brent Council, said: “It has been a tough and emotional few months for the Black community around the world. This event provided a space for the people of Brent to discuss the issues of race and racism and we want to empower the community so that they are recognised, seen and heard. We must remind and show everyone that we can only tackle inequality by giving everyone an insight to the inequalities that our communities face.

“There is still time to leave your comments and feed into the Brent Black Community Action Plan via our online consultation portal, as we want to make sure that the ambitions are backed up by sustained action we can hold ourselves accountable for.”

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, said: “We have one of the most diverse communities here in Brent, and we really want to hear from the community about the Brent Black Community Action Plan and how we can make positive change.

"Racial inequalities are deep rooted and there is a lot of work to do. We are committed to doing our part, working with communities, partners and lobbying for change on a wider level too.”

Visit https://bit.ly/brentblackcommunityactionplan to comment on the Brent Black Community Action Plan.