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Sharpton for President!

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‘Sharpton for President’. That’s what the banners across Black America and beyond will be saying as the flamboyant and charismatic Rev Al Sharpton signals his intention to run for President of the United States.

Power is never given

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If I was a young Asian, particularly Muslim, I too would question the benefits of participating in British Democracy. I would also question whether or not the country of my birth –Britain- would ever allow me to be proud of my British Asian heritage, and afford me the same rights as a white person. It doesn’t mean that the situation cannot be turned around, it does, however, question though whether there’s the political will to do it.At times mainstream society seems reluctant to understand, let alone address some of the underlying reasons why, like me, so many British Asians feel frustrated, and betrayed by the political rhetoric that promises inclusion yet delivers further alienation. Should we then be so surprised when these marganilised communities turn inwards, and in some cases adopt anti-western views?Take a snap shot for example of the institutions that profoundly influence who we are and what we stand for: Westminster, local authorities, the Judiciary, The Police, the Armed Forces, and the media. At best you’ll see, -as some describe it- a token Asian face. At worse, such as the London Assembly, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly there are no Asian faces at all. In general political parties only use Asian candidates as political canon fodder- to superficially show how diverse they are. But Asians, be they from Bradford or Birmingham are not fooled. Other areas fare no better. Out of 805 senior civil servants –grade 4 and above-only two are Asian, there are no Asian high court Judges and only a small number of circuit judges. I could go on but it gets a little tedious. The sad fact is that multiculturalism is expressed only by the nations favourite dish-Chicken Tikka Malasa, or the Notting Hill carnival, not by equitable, representative decision making institutions.The alienation doesn’t stop there. Its one thing having little control over how your life is run, its quite another when you’re cited as the root of society’s ills and your religion is seen as a threat to world peace. Poor white working class and other BME communities understand the feeling of powerlessness, but it is British Muslim communities that have been demonised in way not seen since the abhorrent Enoch Powell days.Twenty years of vitriol against asylum seekers and refugees by the press barons and politicians have left all BME communities, British or otherwise targets for abuse and attacks. When a politician, such as the then Tory leader Hague states ‘let me take you to a journey to a foreign land’, that is a green light for a racist thug to attack a Black person. The race riots in the northern towns, instigated by the BNP, and the dreadful occurrence of Sept 11th only entrenched an already Islamaphobic climate.Although the race relation’s landscape for Britain’s Asian communities is bleak, it can be turned around. Responsibility lies full square not just with politicians and other decision-makers but also Britain’s Asian communities too. Central to any opportunity of change is the question of whether or not politicians have the political will to ensure the rhetoric is translated into reality. Without a fully resourced long-term plan the mantra of representative institutions and social cohesion has about as much resonance as did ‘back to basics’.The first step in that plan would be to change the demonising tone and face down the racist bigotry. Anti-immigration policies may sell papers and win a few more votes, but it doesn’t make it right. Real leadership should and could swim against the tide of bigotry and selfishness, and argue for a society that is comfortable with its kaleidoscope of ethnicities and cultures, because all have been afforded the space to positively contribute.The second step would be a programme to ensure greater political representation and participation from Asian communities. A programme based on recruitment, retention and promotion would over a five-year-period radically change the political landscape. It sounds simple and indeed is, yet the reality shows that no mainstream political party has a systematic recruitment programme for Asians or other BME communities. Leaders should see what happens across the Atlantic where Republicans and Democrats produce leaflets, posters and other materials that target marginalised groups: African Americans, Latin Americans and Women. And even though the Republicans don’t believe in affirmative action-unlike us at OBV- they do see the benefit of promoting Black faces-Colin Powell-and Condoleezza Rice-to high places.The Asian communities must play a positive role in this battle for change. It’s no good either putting our heads in the political sand or gravitating to single issue or fringe politics. Strategic participation in the mainstream would afford us the collective clout to decide who wins and who loses in many urban marginal areas. Standing up to be politically counted would therefore, be a lever to force parties to rapidly change.No one doubts there are not difficult issues such as religion and gender amongst Asian communities. Some will have to be left at the door, others boldly faced, but doing nothing is not an option.The political challenge is there for all us. Politicians, campaigners and the Asian communities need to simultaneously move at the same time and in the same direction. When we do, all society benefits. Furthermore, in the words of Prime Minister Blair, we then truly become a beacon to world of how society moves forward. In many ways the choice is simple, we either swim together or sink together.

Why I haven’t joined the Great British Queue!

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Is it me? Am I missing something that is abundantly clear to the majority of the Nation? Try as I might - which is not a lot - I cannot get patriotically stirred as the nation mourns the death of the Queen Mother.

The making of a political activist

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Throughout history Black political activism has usually stemmed from struggle. Firebrands such as Paul Boateng and the late Bernie Grant, cut their political teeth challenging the unaccountable deaths of Black youths in police custody.

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