VIEWS: Simon Woolley
SIMON WOOLLEY, one of the driving forces behind a national campaign to get more black people involved in the political process was back in Birmingham – three months after launching a UK-wide black voting registration campaign in the city.
The director of Operation Black Vote (OBV) told two separate church congregations yesterday (January 27) that it was vital in these times of austerity to be not just spiritually and economically strong but politically too.
“The challenges for our community have never been greater,” he said, speaking at Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Handsworth. “Everywhere you look up and down the country, communities are feeling the brunt of austerity and when austerity comes, discrimination rises.”
In the 50th anniversary year of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Woolley harked back to that time in 1963 when King had a dream but also a plan to politically empower black people to give them a voice.
“How come in 2013 that more than 50 per cent of our community are not even registered to vote?” asked Woolley, who had earlier visited the New Testament Church of God in George Street, Lozells. “How can we have justice without a political voice?”
He said it was even more critical at this time when Education Secretary Michael Gove had revealed plans to remove leading figures in black history such as Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano from the National Curriculum.
“Our children are already being marked down in exams for no other reason than the colour of their skin,” he added. “The same children who sit the same exams but without their names on the papers are marked higher in a ‘blind marking exercise.’”
Woolley then asked all the children in the congregation to come and stand on the altar and as up to 20 youngsters came forward, he said: “Why can’t these children be the next doctors and lawyers? Or perhaps this church has someone who will become the UK’s first black prime minister.
“If you are serious about providing the tools that will take these boys and girls right to the top, then you have to make sure you are registered to vote. With God’s will we will no longer ask for justice, we will demand it.”
For his voting registration rallying call Woolley was joined by Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, secretary of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (MECA) part of Churches Together in England, and Desmond Jaddoo, founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum.
All three men launched the national black voting registration campaign last October at ‘The Rock,’ the New Testament Church of God in Ladywood.
Jaddoo, who stood as a candidate in Birmingham’s bid for an elected mayor, is determined to make sure every black person in Birmingham is on the voting register in time to vote at the next General Election in 2015.
He said: “I’m not telling anyone who to vote for – I’m just urging people to become engaged in the political process.”