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How do we create a strong and united black community?

COME TOGETHER: Battling discrimination takes strength in numbers

HOW MANY times have you heard: “if the black community did this…” or “we the black community should…” No doubt you will not be able to count on one hand the number of times the black community has acted together.

When faced with inequalities at every level of society, from health and education to political representation and the criminal justice system, it is no wonder people feel Britain’s African and African Caribbean communities need to put up a united front in the face of discrimination.

Of course, there is no one homogenous thing such as the “black community”, but there are things ‘we’ can each do to give ourselves more clout collectively. As our elders might say, ‘if everyone swept their own doorstep, the whole village would be clean’.

Here are eight ways to build a stronger, wiser and more sustainable community.

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EDUCATION

AN EDUCATED community is a successful community. But GCSE figures for 2011/12 revealed that only 54.6 percent of black children achieved five or more A-C grades including the core subjects of maths and English. The national average is 58.8 per cent. This doesn’t need to be the case. Extra tuition – professional or in the home – is essential to ensure your child keeps up or overtakes the rest of the class. Relying on schools alone to teach your child is a grave mistake. It is for this reason that black-led supplementary schools were set up. The National Association for Black Supplementary Schools can help and Parents of Black UK Pupils also offers support to guardians.

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ORGAN DONATION

LIVES ARE being lost because of a lack of black organ donors. It is easier to find a suitable match among those of shared ethnicities. More than a quarter of people on the transplant waiting list to receive heart, kidney or liver donations are from black or ethnic minority groups.

Yet only five per cent of people from the community are registered. Following National Transplant Week this month, a campaign is underway encouraging black people to come forward. The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), co-founded by Beverley De-Gale and Orin Lewis works year-round to increase the number of black, mixed race and ethnic minority people in the UK on the bone marrow register. Find out more about their work and how you can get involved.

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MENTORING

NO MATTER your age, everyone can benefit from personal or professional guidance. Whether you are unsure how to tackle an assignment or want to talk through an interesting job offer, having a helping hand to guide you in the right direction is key to a successful career.

Accessing the right network is vital and is often one of the best ways to break into a difficult industry or get a promotion. As black people routinely face discrimination in the job market and in the workplace, it is even more important to have a well-respected advocate who can fight your corner.

Some mentoring relationships happen naturally while others require extra effort. Think about your short and long-term career goals and who the best person to assist you is. It also works two-ways: you might have skills that could help change someone’s life. Consider joining organisations like the 100 Black Men of London, the Reach Society or other well-established groups. Organisations like InspirationalYou can help connect you with high-flyers.

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ADOPTION

WHEN IT comes to adoption, black and ethnic minority (BME) children still have to wait on average a year longer than their white counterparts to find a good home. More than a fifth never do. Instead, they grow up in care homes putting them at risk of under-achieving in schools or being over-represented in the justice system.

British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAFF) interracial adoption expert Savita de Souza recently said: “Nothing has changed in 30 to 40 years for black boys; nobody wants them, black people don’t want them, white people don’t want them.”

Some have argued that black families are not slow in coming forward, but are being overlooked as prospective adopters. Most local authorities, particularly in the UK’s most diverse cities, run regular adoption events to explain how the process works, who is eligible and how to improve your application.

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JUSTICE

BLACK PEOPLE are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched on the street compared to their white counterparts. Last month, the Home Secretary Theresa May launched a consultation over the future of police Stop and Search powers.

It is vital that if you feel passionately about the issue, that you make a submission. It is also important to know your rights. There is an alarming frequency of police officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) unlawfully stopping innocent people and searching them without reasonable suspicion.

Officers are required to inform you about which law they are stopping you under, your rights, their name and the station they work at and why they had reason to believe you might be breaking the law. You also have a right to be given a receipt of the stop or search straightaway. Find out more about organisations like action group StopWatch or the Newham Monitoring Project.

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BACK THE BLACK POUND

THE SPENDING power of Britain’s black and ethnic minority community is worth an estimated £300 billion, according to the Institution of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). Ethnic minorities are more likely to spend more on technology and black people are three times more likely to own a BMW.

Black British women spend six times more on hair products than their white counterparts. So why not try supporting a black-owned business?

Women can buy hair products from black-owned market stalls or online thanks to a boom in black-owned natural hair care products in order to put that money back into the community’s pockets. When we do part with our cash, providing feedback on the service can always be helpful.

Find out more about the online campaign, One Million Households, founded by Warren Alexander-Dean.

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HEALTH MOT

BLACK PEOPLE are more likely than others to have certain health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and prostate cancer. There are a number of ways to reduce that risk.

One of the main ways to cut down the threat of diabetes and high blood pressure is eating a healthy balanced diet coupled with weekly exercise. Reducing salt intake is the easiest way to prevent high blood pressure. Men and women should both visit their doctors regularly to ensure you catch these conditions in the early stages.

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HAVE YOUR SAY

POWER concedes nothing without demand. Our community desperately needs to get vocal and not just behind closed doors.

Whether that is joining a union, getting involved with organisations like Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), challenging your local authority and, most importantly, voting – it needs to be done.

We live in a democratic society, after all. Operation Black Vote (OBV) exists to empower African and African Caribbean communities politically. Make sure you register to vote. It takes less than five minutes to fill in a form. The next General Election takes place in 2015 and the black community has a crucial role to play in influencing the outcome.

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