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A Christmas message to The Voice readers

IN REVIEW: There have been a number of sociopolitical ups and downs throughout 2017. (Photo credit: The Times/OBV.org.uk)

'We have found hope amid terror' - London Mayor, Sadiq Khan


OPTIMISTIC: Mr.Khan reflects the events of 2017. (Photo credit: PA)

I’D LIKE TO wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. This is a special time of year. It’s a time when Londoners join people around the world in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and being together with family, friends and loved ones.

It’s also an opportunity to take stock and reflect on the past year. There’s no doubt our city has endured a difficult year, with the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower and horrific terrorist attacks. But amid the pain and heartache, we’ve also found reasons to be hopeful.

We’ve seen Londoners refuse to give in to those seeking to divide us. We’ve seen the bravery of our emergency services. And we’ve seen incredible examples of generosity from ordinary Londoners – helping those in their time of most need.

During this Christmas season of hope, let’s take these examples as our inspiration to continue to help those less fortunate than ourselves – the homeless, the hungry and the sick – through acts of kindness.

I wish all readers of The Voice a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

'After a tumultuous year, we simply have to stick together' - Simon Woolley, director, Operation Black Vote


PEOPLE POWER: Mr.Woolley says there's more work to be done. (Photo credit: PA)

THE PAST year has been dominated by two seismic events: Brexit and Grenfell Tower. Both have had profound effects on the black community.

Brexit affects us because not since the 1970s has racism become so legitimised with the prevailing narrative that, ‘all foreigners should go home’, regardless as to whether or not we’re British. Furthermore, if there’s a hard Brexit, and an inevitable economic down turn, similar to the recent decade of austerity black people will be hit the hardest.

Concerning the other event I mentioned, there were few people in Britain, regardless of which community they are from, that were not moved by the families living in Grenfell Tower. However the blackened tomb of the Kensington tower block has come to symbolise how national and local government have paid scant regard to poor people, predominantly people of colour. However what happened at Grenfell should stay in our minds for other reasons.

Young black people who lived in the area that surrounds Grenfell Tower showed the world they were not the crude stereotypes some media outlets portray them as. These youths and others cared for the survivors and those traumatised in the most compassionate way. Among the other moments that give us reason for hope was our ability to convince Prime Minister Theresa May to undertake an historic Race Equality Audit right across Government.

There was also the mobilisation of the black electorate in this year’s snap general election. Never before have so many black people voted and according to the Conservative Party’s own data our community’s participation was the deciding factor in the election. After 20 years of campaigning
everyone now agrees with Operation Black Vote on this issue – the black vote matters.

Looking ahead to 2018 I believe that the coming year can only be one of black success. For example, the 70th anniversary of Windrush and the NHS offer us a unique platform to celebrate what’s best about Black Britain. Consider this for a second – globally, the NHS is seen as the UK’s jewel in the public service crown. An integral part of that jewel has been the unselfish, unswerving contribution of Black Britain, past and present. 2017 has shown that socially, politically and culturally we really matter. 2018 will give us the platform to express that and more.

'Message of love' - Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkins, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons


TOGETHERNESS: Reverend Rose explains the deeper meaning behind Christmas.

WHEN I was a child growing up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, I recall thinking how long it was for Christmas to come around. Now that I am much older of course, my thinking has changed, I appear to blink and Christmas is here!

One thing that has remained a constant is the meaning behind the celebration. Christmas back then, and now, has at the heart of it a message of “unconditional love”. It is a message of a God who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. Christmas is a message about God coming to dwell among humanity so that humanity might embrace his divinity.

Today more than ever we need to share in the divinity of Christ, to see through his eyes, to care with his hands about what happens to our fellow human being. To share in the divinity of Christ means to walk hand in hand and side by side with the rest of humanity. We have seen and heard some
shocking events over the course of 2017, not just the attacks here in the UK or in Europe, but the equally sickening attacks in Egypt, America, Africa and the Middle East; those fleeing from the ongoing terror in Syria or the Rohingya people fleeing from Myanmar after being dreadfully persecuted and the tragedy of the Grenfell tower fire.

Those of us in the diaspora will no doubt too have heard of someone affected by the natural disasters in the Caribbean, India or other parts of the world. So as we prepare to celebrate this Christmas, let us strive to look through the eyes of Christ and see all those in need. As we embrace the divinity of Christ, let us reach out with helping hands and feet ready to respond in all situations.

As we sing again the carols of old telling us of Emmanuel – God with us, let us embrace the heart of love that seeks the best in each other; the heart of love that reaches out in forgiveness so that together, we may look to 2018 with a determination to play our part in creating the change we want to see.

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