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Community unites to honour an icon

AWARD-WINNING: Actor Cherrelle Skeet

A NEW generation of radicals is needed to help stop the alarming number of shootings and stabbings on the streets of Birmingham over recent months, said award-winning actor Cherrelle Skeete as she spoke out at the city’s annual tribute to legendary civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr (MLK).

Proud Brummie Cherrelle, who has starred in Danny and the Human Zoo and Ordinary Lives, told a packed audience: “When I say radicals I don’t mean extremists – I mean a new generation who can rise up and be anything they want to be – even if it doesn’t yet exist.

“Elders and mentors should support them – and let them go in order for them to be the best that they can be. They need to be healthy in heart and mind so we can change what is going on out there.”

Cherrelle, already a seasoned theatre actress, who calls herself ‘a creative hustler,’ spoke of a poignant email she had received from a Birmingham youth worker last month.

“The youth centre manager said they were at the end of her tether because there had been more than 30 shootings since last June. She said some youths were ‘chopping each other up like meat’ with many violent crimes going unreported by the media.

“My mum is an usher in a local church and she tells me how many young people’s funerals she witnesses. Some of their names and faces are familiar to me. It’s overwhelming.”

But Cherrelle, who is running the Parish half-marathon in March for the charity Children With Cancer, praised those who had come along to support the Martin Luther King tribute night, organised by Inspiring a Generation, which was being held for the first time at Birmingham Town Hall.

OPPORTUNITY

“People here are providing an opportunity for change by supporting this event and being proud of their heritage.”

She has remained true to her Birmingham roots and recently worked with young people at the Lozells-based Lighthouse Project, helping to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.

The MLK sixth annual tribute event, hosted by Audrey Hayles-Parkes, of Inspiring a Generation, Mykal Brown of Wassifa Showcase, and Big Centre TV presenter Rebecca Hemmings, awarded its own unsung community heroes for the first time this year.


VETERAN: Photographer Ras Tread receives his award from New Style Radio presenter Danny D (right)

The trio included: dance and choreographer Ikeela Sealey, aka Toffee, who set up Tru Street Dance back in 1998 – a performing dance company for everyone regardless of age, race or dance ability.

Second to be recognised was popular Birmingham rapper Damien ‘Lil D’ Morgan, who has been rapping since he was a teenager. He has delved deep into the rise of hip-hop both as a culture and art form. He made headlines last year before Valentine’s Day when he proposed live on air to his girlfriend on New Style Radio, the city’s African Caribbean radio station.

The third award went to veteran photographer Ras Tread, aka Colin Braham, a respected Rasta high priest, who has worked within the community for decades.

Among the event’s key speakers was Selena Carty who spoke passionately of her crusade to honour people of African descent who fought for Britain through her Black Poppy Rose campaign.

Selena, who has ancestors who fought in the Crimean War, launched the initiative in 2010 as an alternative to the traditional red poppy, while stressing that her intention is not to detract from the legacy of the British Legion.

While black history in schools campaigner Stephanie Pitter urged people to support her campaign to have black history firmly placed on the National Curriculum.

Veteran civil rights activist Maxie Hayles spoke of the importance of ‘faith by action.’

He said: “Too many times our community thinks that God will drop manna from Heaven and resolve our problems. We have to take action. The time is right to do what is right.

“As Martin Luther King said’ faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.’”

An impressive roll call of performers included award-winning soprano Abigail Kelly, Perry Beeches Trust Choir, Robert Cavarlho, rapper Wandarin Dragon, Khaliq, Little Nugz, Emma Marie & Reuben.

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