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BME women on EU Referendum: 'Our voices need to be heard'

STRONGER IN: Young black voters

THE EU referendum is taking place on the 23rd June. The debate has brought rage, despair, hope, confusion and fear.

As women of colour, we put our names to this letter for many reasons. Like millions of ordinary brits, we care about our country and its peoples. We care about our children’s future. We honour our country’s past. We know we must be present today. There is no opting-out.

Equally important, we want our voices heard. Too much of this debate has been monopolised by a mono-chatter of white men in suits. Understandable at one level, unacceptable at another. With black and minority ethnic people making up 16 per cent of our population, there are no excuses for the lack of plurality of voices in the mainstream media. We have a responsibility to the next generation to say we stood up and were counted. How else can we expect them to be fearless when they face challenges?

We teach our children Nelson Mandela’s mantra, ‘You are either part of the problem or you are part of the solution’. A man who saw adversity in as raw a sense as is possible; 27 years locked in a prison cell. A man who ended up serving his country as a President with humility, leadership and forgiveness. It is not our words we want the next generation to hear. It is our actions. It is the belief that anything is possible.

As mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, grandmothers who have faced the intersectionality of class, race and gender all rolled into one, we know the power an individual holds. Between us, we live with experiences of survival, for acceptance, for recognition, of not being from the right networks, for not belonging to one community or another, for not being of the right gender, colour or class. We have collectively faced the reality of doors shutting when one hasn’t gone to the right school, when one challenges our communities about abhorrent cultures practices, when one stands up against institutional racism in the face of horror, when one argues for humanity to be recognised beyond binary identity politics.

We also share much to celebrate about our Great Britain. The people who walked with us during our struggles from all backgrounds, male and female, young and old, of faith and no faith. British values of solidarity, of conviction, of honour, of ‘doing the right thing’ actualised. We have all been beneficiaries of everything that is good about our country too: Of ordinary individuals showing us why we are still Great Britain.

VOTE TO STAY: TV host June Sarpong believes we're stronger in the European Union

We recognise the women who protested against the ‘sus’ laws. The Southall Black Sisters winning the historic court case against Ealing Council. The Grunwick strikers, the Dagenham Ford machinists, the millions of others we cannot name. We recognise the part that suffragettes like Indian princess Sophia, the goddaughter of Queen Victoria played in the journey that brings us here. Anita Anand, author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary said,

“The empire took everything from her father but she spent her life fighting for women’s rights in this country. She believed there was something stronger than racial hatred and it was the sisterhood.

On their shoulders we stand. Our lives are intertwined with the invisible ancestral golden thread our communities celebrate, weaving through generation after generation. We continue to fight for a more equal, kinder, more peaceful society.

We live with the anger one feels at a political system that is fractured, of being left behind. We know that inequality; injustice and insecurity hit the poorest hardest. We recognise the EU is far from perfect. We also know paid holiday leave, parental leave and anti-discrimination laws, safety in the workplace and equal pay laws are all protected by the EU. We appreciate the EU Integration Fund provides financial support to fight against racism and xenophobia. We know in times of austerity, funding from the European Structural Fund invests in regional projects that don’t have the hothouse pressure of Westminster. For that we are grateful for it allows creativity to blossom in the inner-city deserts where many of our communities live.

We urge all our communities to vote remain on the 23rd June. As a gesture of hope; as a commitment to the next generation; as recognition of the honourable men and women who fought for peace across Europe’s fertile soil; as an action to look outwards, not inwards; for the belief that fear will not win and hatred is not perpetrated in our name.

“This is about the future not some misimagned past. We women must not let fear and narrow nationalism take away the future which the young will inhabit long after we are gone.” - Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

“For the black and wider BAME communities, EU law prohibits discrimination on the ground of race in employment, training, social protection, education, access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public. It also helps combat racism and xenopia across the EU and on a global scale. All too often issues that face our community are at the bottom of the political agenda, this will worsen if we leave the EU – make your voice heard on June 23rd and help create a fairer more unified society." - June Sarpong

This is an open letter signed by:
1. Pamela Chabba - Writer and LGBTQIA Activist
2. Samantha Asumadu - Editor in Chief, Media Diversified
3. Cllr Jacqui Dyer – Councillor
4. Arinder Sadhra – Actor
5. Rohema Miah – Non-Executive Director of UKBCC
6. Samirah Siddiqui - Conservation Assistant, WWF
7. Shazia Nizam- International Marketing Strategy Director
8. Hibo Wardere - Anti FGM campaigner
9. Florence Nosegb - London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark
10. Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti – Writer
11. Rabyia Baig - Chairwoman for Worcestershire Conservative Future & UK Youth Employment Ambassador
12. Sharmila Chauhan – Writer
13. Adeola Fadipe- Student and founder of BME Legal
14. Liz Woodroffe - Graphic Designer
15. Tabyyabah Ahmed – Solicitor
16. Subashini Nathan - Barrister
17. Senay Nihat - Barrister
18. Yvonne Kramo – Barrister
19. Sonali Bhattacharyya – Playwright
20. Rozina Visram – Author
21. Rachel McFarlane - Singer/Songwriter
22. Pooja Kumar – Actor
23. Sharon Raizada – Writer
24. Cllr Preet Kaur Gill – Councillor
25. Geeta Sidhu-Robb - CEO Nosh Detox Delivery Ltd
26. Samina Bhatti - Housewife and Mother
27. Harvinder Kaur Virdi - Home Support Assistant
28. Arooj Shah -Chair of BAME Women North West Labour
29. Cllr Abtisam Mohamed - Solicitor/Labour councillor
30. Priscilla Nwikpo – Broadcaster
31. Salma Hamid - Primary School Teacher - Community Organiser, Hope not Hate
32. Karenjit Sahota - First Assistant Film Editor
33. Cheryl Garvey - Director Talk Listen Create
34. Harjeet Sahota - Junior Account Executive
35. Isabella Silvers - Digital Assistant at Instyle Magazine
36. Naomi Luie - Lawyer
37. Jen Davis - London Young Labour BME officer
38. Yasmin Walters - Doctor
39. Letitia Jarrett – Sales Assistant
40. Nicola Claire Quinnen – Doctor
41. Ade Onibada - Journalist
42. Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz – Councillor
43. Lynette Obeng - Business Management Student
44. Abimbola Ogidan - Law Student
45. Jade Bentil – Student
46. Muneera Tanya Williams - Rapper and Community Officer
47. Dupsy Adefioye – Mother
48. Jendella Benson - Writer, film maker and mother
49. Hauwa Karaye - Economics and Politics Student
50. Jane Grell - poet, writer and storyteller
51. Cynthia Nakanjako - Student
52. Catherine Nalule - President of Essex University East Africa Society
53. Lola Mosanya - Student
54. Priscilla Mensah - President of Cambridge University Students Union
55. Janice Beckles - Business Consultant
56. Winifred Adjei - Business Coach
57. Sheyi Ogunshakin - Research Executive
58. Cynthia Edwards Wilson - Business Executive
59. Maria Petnga-Wallace - Diversity Advisor
60. Gemma Parmar - Diversity Knowledge Co-ordinator
61. Lily Mensah Yeboah - Entrepreneur and business owner
62. Erykah Blackburn - Independent Domestic Violence Advisor/ Cognitive Behavioural Therapist
63. Chetna Pandya - Actress & Creative director of Outspoken Arts C.I.
64. Anna Chen - Writer and Journalist
65. Ruhi Hamid - Filmmaker
66. Michelle Lee - Founder members of the British East Asian Artists
67. Melissa Sinclair - Entrepreneur
68. Susan Belgrave - Employment Barrister
69. Emmanuelle Chaloner - Student
70. Samantha Pieris - Photographer
71. Sonia Nayya - Actuary
72. Burinder Sahota - Development Manager
73. Tia Begum - Home School Liaison Officer
74. Cllr Sharon Hamilton – Councillor
75. Shaista Gohir OBE - Chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK
76. Shahda Khan MBE - Activist & member of a number of regional & national groups focusing on gender violence, extremism & interfaith cooperation
77. Sandi Thandi - Teacher
78. LaToyah McAllister-Jones - Social Care Consultant & Community Organiser
79. Cllr Margaret McLennan - Councillor- Deputy Leader, Brent Council and Northwick Park Ward
80. Yasmin Alibhai Brown –
81. Kully Thiarai - artistic director and CEO
82. Suki Dhanda – Photographer
83. Manjinder Virk - Actress/ film-maker
84. Cllr Syeda Khatun MBE - Deputy Leader, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
85. Cllr Afia Kamal – Councillor Gorton North
86. Zakkiya Bano - Teaching Assistant
87. Shahida Choudhry - Activist
88. Bhaggie Patel - Consultant Mentor/Coach
89. Sultana Ali - Teaching Assistant
90. Surinder Kaur - Housewife
91. Amber Lone - Writer/VAWG Advocate
92. Cllr Sanchia Alasia - Councillor - Barking
93. Fazia Hussain-Brown - Regional Officer- Unite the Union
94. Cllr Josie Channer - Councillor - Barking
95. Cllr Elizabeth Kangethe - Councillor - Barking
96. Sajda Khan - Director JB Skills Training
97. Reeta Bhopal Brack - Fashion Designer ONE BC
98. Shahien Taj MBE - Director Henna Foundation
99. Komal Idris - International Development Consultant
100. Cllr Abena Oppong-Asare - Councillor – Bexley
101. Jade Browne – EU Traveller
102. Cllr Yasmine Dar - Councillor - Moston
103. Dr Mee Ling Ng OBE - Labour councillor 1986-2002
104. Merlene Emerson MBE - Vice-Chair Chinese for Lib Dem
105. Cllr Rizwana Jamil - Councillor - Bowling and Barkerend
106. Sughra Ahmed - President, Islamic Society of Britain
107. Samayya Afzal - Womens Officer, Bradford Students Union
108. Jen Davies - London Young Labour BAME Officer
109. Bhakti Tailor - Executive Director, Hindu Forum of Europe
110. Zahra Kazmi - The Zahra Trust
111. Lorna French - Writer and Associate Lecturer
112. Cllr Seyi Akiwowo - Councillor – Newham
113. Cllr Sade Bright - Councillor - Barking and Dagenham
114. Cllr Susan Jamoke Fajana-Thomas – Councillor Hackney
115. Cllr Sade Etti – Councillor Hackney
116. Somi de Souza - actress and writer
117. Eleanor Lisney – Actress
118. Lucy Sheen - actress and filmmaker
119. Melody Brown - actress and musician
120. Diane Meade - Hair Stylist
121. Wahida Shaffi - Community Activist
122. Ruth Ibegbuna - Founder and CEO of RECLAIM
123. Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway - Founder/Managing Director of Artistic Directors of the Future. Author. Producer. Black Play Specialist. Audience Development Consultant.
124. Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece OBE – Liberal Demoncrat Peer
125. Merlene Toh Emerson MBE - Co-founder Chinese Liberal Democrats
126. Adeola Solanke - Writer
127. Lady Katy Blair MBE - Cofounder, Islington Chinese Association
128. Professor Aisha K. Gill - Proffessor University of Roehampton
129. Cllr Sabina Ditta – Councillor Palfrey and Delves
130. Rehana Azam - GMB National Secretary
131. Cllr Nasima Akther – Councillor Bradford
132. Helen Tse - Chefs and Entrepreneurs
133. Lisa Tse - Chefs and Entrepreneurs
134. Geeta Nargud - Founder and Director of Create Fertility
135. Verona White - Celebrity Hair Stylist
136. Miranda Grell – Barrister
137. Karita Sharma Youth Activist
138. Purnima C Pendurth - Student

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