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"I won't be Boris' black mentor and you shouldn't be either"

BORIS JOHNSON: London’s mayor has failed to recruit a targeted number of black mentors and volunteers

NO MATTER how desperate the situation is for 1,000 black boys, I won't be signing up to London Mayor Boris Johnson's failed mentoring scheme. And you shouldn't either.

Why? Because Deputy Mayor Munira Mirza's appearance on my BBC London show did not convince me that she can be trusted with the welfare of black boys and black people - period.

By now you will know the story. Boris Johnson identified 1,000 black boys who are in danger of becoming 'waste men' unless they find 1,000 adult volunteers to mentor them.

It's taken a year but, so far, the mayor's office has only managed to get 122 mentor/mentee pairings, an admission which I had to drag out of Ms Mirza who initially suggested there were 200 pairings. She subsequently conceded that she expected there to be 200 by the end of the month.

Let's not quibble about numbers. Having tried and failed is better than not having tried at all - especially when we're talking about the well-being of young black boys. But to impugn the reputation of one of the most prominent and successful black voluntary organisations with a repeated allegation of failing financial due diligence was unappetising. Particularly unedifying of someone charged with being deputy mayor for education and welfare.

The organisation in question is 100 Black Men of London. As you will know they are a voluntary organisation which has been running mentoring schemes in the capital for over a decade - long before Boris Johnson came up with the idea.  You would have thought that 100 Black Men and the mayor's office would fit together like teeth and tongue over the question of mentoring black boys. But no.

Despite the assurance of 100 Black Men of London president, Kola Sonaike, that they would not have anything to do with any money, and that they were in consortium with the charity Barnardo's who would deal with all financial matters, the deputy mayor kept reverting to that default position of the question of 100 Black Men of London failing the financial due diligence.

Okay, I heard you the first time. Why do you have to repeat that same phrase half a dozen times in the same interview, unless you're trying to send a message, particularly when the 100 Black Men already said they didn't want anything to do with any money?

Is the message, 100 Black Men have failed financial due diligence the same as the mayor's office has failed in their attempt to recruit black mentors? The mayor's failure to deliver on mentoring is like any other financial failure - at the public's expense. Where was the financial due diligence there?

SUSPICION

You see, ever since the mayor's friend, the journalist Andrew Gilligan, stuck it to Lee Jasper over ‘financial-something-or-other' when Jasper was the previous Mayor Ken Livingston's advisor, a cloud of suspicion has hung over every black person who has gone to their bank manager to try to get funding to start a business or who has applied as an organisation to get funding for well-meaning projects. The oft-repeated suggestion is that you can't trust us with cash.

I know that is not what Munira Mirza is saying, I blame Lee Jasper for that impression. But in this climate of mistrust of black finance the repeated charge against the 100 Black Men of London on national radio has wider implications. It is an easy thing to besmirch every black person with and you don't even have to provide the evidence.

I know, it is all about the kids and we shouldn't lose sight of that. But what is more damaging for the kids? That you and I refuse to take part in the mayor's mentoring charade and leave those thousand kids to fend for themselves, or that the kids' futures are undermined by a continual sideswiping at black organisations and businesses when it comes to money?

That is what is killing black entrepreneurship. That is what is keeping us at the bottom of the ladder. That is what is leaving these 1,000 boys with little, if any, hope.

Ian Wright has probably not thought this one through, otherwise he might reconsider his position as 'ambassador' for the mayor on this issue. For whatever reason, the mayor doesn't want the 100 Black Men of London to run t'ings. And, now the 100 Black Men of London have got the hump. Result? A question mark hangs over the mayor's scheme and over 100 Black Men of London's financial due diligence.

So it's better 100 Black Men of London carry on doing what they've been doing for many years with no money and we continue to support them. They've at least got the credibility and there will be no questions of financial-something-or-other hanging over them.

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