THIS IS A CALL: Reverend Eve Pitts is passionate about helping people develop and flourish
CRUSADING CLERIC Reverend Canon Eve Pitts has issued a rallying call to some of the black community’s finest minds to launch a national ‘think tank’ in order to tackle the issues holding back those of African and Caribbean heritage.
The Anglican vicar’s church in the heart of inner-city Birmingham hosted a round table debate with some of the UK’s top academics, who united to thrash out key concerns such as mental health, the education of the next generation, and understanding finance.
Emotions ran high throughout the evening and the debate, chaired by Jacqui Francis, was heated – but Reverend Eve said afterwards that she was confident she now had a solid foundation of support on which to move forward. She said:
“Tonight is not the night when we are going to have all the answers, but this has been a very positive exercise. This is all about engaging one with another and beginning to hear – even if you are familiar with some of the problems – some of the solutions. In our community we are good at talking and we know what the problems are.
“We need to use our intellect within this think tank to find some of the answers. We need an intellectual collaboration to come together.
“I am hoping that people will come forward to be part of this think tank so we can look at the spiritual problems, the socio-economic problems and begin to think clearly about how to make change happen.
GOOD TO TALK: From left - Oenca Fontaine, Dr. Martin Glynn, chair Jacqui Francis, Dr. Lorna Cork MBE and Dr. Carol Tomlin
“I am doing this because I believe passionately that there must be a way forward for us and I know ‘a change is gonna come’, as the song says.
“We can use our differences to build a platform for economic change, as a political analysis which is going to move us forward.
“This agenda is ours and it can’t be taken away from us.”
Earlier, Professor Robert Beckford, who was brought up in Handsworth and is now a professor in theology at Canterbury Christ Church University, said he believed the reasons for the disproportionate number of black people suffering mental health issues were ‘multi dimensional’.
However, he said there was a current mental health crisis in universities, with at least 50 per cent of first-year students struggling mentally. He put a lot of this down to the financial pressures facing the current generation. Beckford said he felt many black young people had to struggle with class and racial oppression – he also felt that more black people were likely to be medicated for a mental health ‘problem’ rather than offered talking therapies which were often much more expensive.
Fellow academic, Jahmiel Dawkins, said there was a need to adapt and work in cohesion to help each other in order to address mental health issues.
Dr. Martin Glynn, who has four decades of experience working in the criminal justice system, said he felt that today everyone was far too ‘problem-focused’ rather than ‘solution-focused.’ Success is not all about status,” he said, and stressed the need for young people to be encouraged in all areas, not just in results at school.
Dr. Carol Tomlin, an author and educator, tackled the issue of why many African Caribbean youngsters were lagging behind at school. While looking at racism, class and gender issues, she said it is also important to remember the generation who came from Jamaica in the 1950s.
“In the 1950s, Jamaica was not independent, so our parents came from a post- colonial background – they weren’t secure in their identity and unfortunately that psychosis about their identity was passed on to the second generation.”
Social entrepreneur Oenca Fontaine, who founded Christian Leadership Ministries, stressed the importance of teaching children to have good self esteem, while learning to support and praise each other.
Dr. Lorna Cork MBE, an experienced education consultant, emphasised the need for the next generation to have good financial literacy if they are to succeed in life. She said:
“Weren’t we the community who launched the credit unions? We seem to have overlooked all this, yet it’s so important.”
Ms. Fontaine expanded on this, adding that financial education led to financial independence and changing people’s mindsets.
She said: “Look at your circle of influence – inspire other people. Get involved in social action and be a role model – make a difference.”
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