Race and equalities activist Simon Woolley to be knighted by Queen

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PRESS RELEASE: Immediate

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For more than 25 years of fighting for social and racial justice, Operation Black Vote's founder and Director Simon Woolley is to be knighted by the Her Majesty the Queen in this years' Birthday Honours list.

Sir Simon Woolley has been credited with helping transform the ethnic and racial makeup, not only of parliament, but also local authorities, the magistracy and public bodies.

He is also seen as the inspiration behind the much acclaimed Race Disparity Unit launched by the Prime Minister, Theresa May. The RDA is globally seen as one of the most innovative tools to help tackle persistent race inequalities in Government, and public and private bodies. The Prime Minister appointed Woolley as its RDU Advisory Chair 18 months ago.

Woolley, born in Leicester and brought up on the council estate St Matthews said:

"I am truly honoured and humbled. For the past 24 years I've had the best job in the world. I wake up in the morning racing with ideas about how I can change our world, challenge racism, transform institutions, and inspire working class young men and women to be the best they can be. In the past two years it has been a privilege to work with the Prime Minister Theresa May on building a strong platform to tackle persistent race inequality. The Race Disparity Unity, and its Advisory group that I chair has begun to construct the building blocks that will in time deliver dramatic change in racial disparities, not just for BAME groups, but also the white working class too.

I hope that with this honour, working class boys and girls, black and white, will be inspired to follow their dreams. I also hope that this will help me deliver greater equality sooner rather than later.

Finally, I accept this honour on behalf of the most brilliant team at Operation Black Vote, and the support I've had from BAME communities"

Civil Rights icon Rev. Sharpton said of Simon Woolley

Simon Woolley is well-deserving to be knighted for his contributions to the global political and economic empowerment of marginalized people. He has worked with absolute commitment and dedication to uniting people around the globe in a peaceful, but in a directed and effective manner towards trying to equalize unequal people; to bring peace to people that live in turmoil and to uplift the downtrodden. I have worked with him over the last two decades, and have witnessed his impeccable integrity and unbreakable belief in establishing justice through peaceful and effective means. Congratulations; well-deserved."

Notes to editors:

1) OBV is non-partisan political campaigning organisation.
2) Operation Black Vote exists to ensure we have greater racial justice and equality throughout the UK.

OBV's and Sir Simon Woolleys' achievements and milestones:

  • Since OBV's drive for greater political representation Parliament has gone from 4 BAME MP's to 52 BAME MPs
  • Four MP's - nearly 10% - have come from OBV mentoring schemes including former Equalities Minster Helen Grant, shadow Treasury Minister Clive Lewis, shadow Disability Minister Marsha de Cova, and the first Sikh MP to wear a turban in Parliament, Tan Dhesi
  • The first female Asian Cabinet Member, Sayeeda Warsi was part of OBV in the early days, campaigning in the North of England
  • OBV Alum and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees became the first directly elected Mayor of a major city in Europe from an African/ Caribbean descent
  • Haringey Council leaders Joe Ejifor, and Mayor of Newham Roskanna Fiaz both volunteered with OBV for many years within our family of organisations
  • Over 40 BAME councillors have come through OBV leadership programmes
  • Our Magistrate mentoring programme nurtured over 100 BAME magistrates, who collectively have served over 1000 years public service
  • Helped found the Transatlantic Inclusive Leadership Network; three of its alumni were recently elected as Minority MEP's
  • On a biannual basis OBV registers 10's of thousands of BAME individuals to vote
  • Whilst serving as an Equality and Human Rights Commissioner Woolley drove the campaign that challenged the racist membership policy of the British National Party
  • Woolley also spearheaded the EHRC report into illegal Police Stop and Search, which accounted for a third of all BAME Stop and Searches
  • Woolley convinced the then Home Secretary Theresa May to audit the Home Office for racial disparities. May went further when she become PM and built the Race Disparity Unit that would go right across Whitehall
  • Under the RDU 90 Million pounds has been earmarked to tackle unemployment for disadvantaged young men and women
  • Alongside the RDU 200 million pounds has been earmarked to tackle gangs
  • Alongside the RDU the Prime Minster announced an official Stephen Lawrence Day
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