Rev Sharpton Backs OBV project to unify all voter registration campaigns before the next UK election


Operation Black Vote (OBV) hosted a successful voter registration roundtable on February 6th 2023, at the House of Commons, Westminster, London in the presence of a wide range of Black, Asian and mainstream prominent political funders and campaigning figures from the UK.

The event was graced by our special guest, Reverend Al Sharpton, who was warmly welcomed by OBV Board member Audrey Adams, mother of Rolan Adams who was murdered by a racist gang attack in Thamesmead, South London, in 1991.

Audrey remembered how Rev Sharpton came to the UK to support her family during their grief and led one of the biggest black-led demonstrations held in response to organised fascists since the late 1970s.

She thanked Rev Sharpton for his consistent and unwavering support over the last 30 years. Audrey Adams said:

I just want you to know that we will never forget what you did, and you will always be in our hearts, and the fact throughout the last 30 years we've kept in touch tells you all you need to know about the man.”

In response, Rev Sharpton thanked Audrey and recalled an incident where a Metropolitan Police officer claimed to be a reporter on the plane to the UK and tried to get him to say that he wanted violence in response to Rolan's murder.

Speaking to the issue of voter registration, Rev Sharpton stated:

It's great to be working with OBV, and whatever I can do to support the effort of maximising the turnout at your next election, you can count on my support."

Rita Patel, Chair of OBV, spoke about the event's significance and its potential impact on future elections. She said:

Our voter registration was a huge success, and thanks to the Rev Al Sharpton, we've taken a massive step forward in seeking to build and coordinate a unified national voter registration campaign. In what could be quite possibly the most important election in modern times, the support we received was simply fantastic with a number of MPs, Lords, campaigning and funding organisations all in attendance and committed to further discussions."

Editor of The Voice newspaper, Lester Holloway, shared research conducted by the Voice Newspaper, indicating that the African Caribbean community in the UK could affect the outcome of over 70 key marginal seats alone.

He explained that the power of the Black vote is bigger than most people realise, paying homage to OBV's ground-breaking work using statistical models in 1997 and 2010. Lester said,

Our vote can determine who wins the next election; everyone understands that except us, and it's time we woke up to that fact and exercised our collective voting power.”

Our planned voter registration drive is not just about registering new voters but will also focus on educating and informing the community about the importance of voting and its impact on their lives. The voter registration event is only the beginning of OBV's efforts to maximise the turnout of Black voters in the upcoming election. With the support of prominent figures such as Reverend Al Sharpton and the community's commitment, OBV is poised to impact the election significantly and beyond.

Organising across communities, especially Black and other people of colour, must be one of our core strengths if a real political change is to be achieved. We all need to engage in this change, and young people's involvement is absolutely crucial. The conclusion and outcome of this event are that we believe that OBV has taken an important first step toward achieving what is now a shared goal of a unified national voter registration campaign and maximising the voter turnout of Black Asian and other racialised communities.

OBV has prioritised voter registration as part of OBV’s new five-year strategic review (2023- 2028), to be published later this year. OBV has taken the time to reflect on a fast-changing political and economic environment and, in consultation with the community and key stakeholders, has identified various new and emerging priorities.

Voter registration is recognised as one of these key priorities and resents a crucial step towards OBV's overall mission to empower and engage Black, Asian and people of colour. With the hashtag #BlackVotesMatter, OBV aims to send a loud and clear message to all the political parties that in a multicultural democracy, every vote counts, and every voice matters.

If you're interested in hearing more, working or volunteering with the OBV team, contact us at [email protected].