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David Cameron: 'History without black history is not full'

MEET AND GREET: David Cameron talks with members of the community at The Drum

“WHATEVER YOUR background, creed or race – today you can make it to the very top”, Prime Minister David Cameron said during tour of the UK’s premier black-led arts centre in Birmingham, while acknowledging the important contribution of the African Caribbean community.

The Prime Minister spent half an hour in a round table discussion with key members of the West Midlands African Caribbean community to emphasise the vital role they play in helping the country’s economic recovery.

The low-profile get together at The Drum in Aston, organised by Baroness Warsi, senior government minister for Faith and Communities, was based on the theme of “social mobility and aspiration” during this year’s Black History Month.

A hand-picked group of community representatives, entrepreneurs and business, faith and educational leaders had their chance to talk privately to Cameron away from the glare of the media.

Afterwards, when asked by The Voice how black people could feel “aspirational” and vote for the Conservatives when there are currently no black people in the Cabinet, Cameron replied.

“We are making a lot of progress on this – for example we have just appointed Helen Grant as the first black Sports Minister. He also praised the work being done by Baroness Warsi.

“Black people today are at the top in politics, in the military, in the courts and in business. We are ending the gap in educational opportunities. Today, whatever your background you can go all the way.”

He added that it was important to celebrate people’s differences while recognising our common identity.

“We celebrate what is distinct but we also celebrate what is common. Emphasising togetherness is very important,” explained Cameron, who said he was the only Prime Minister to celebrate all religious festivals in Downing Street, recognising Christian events, Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah.

He also promised to “look into” restoring the annual celebrations of Africa Day on May 25, which used to take place in London’s Trafalgar Square when Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London.

On questions involving black history and its place in the national curriculum, he said: “History without black history is not full history.” He said recognising the important role black people have played in history was “a real advance.”

ADDRESS: Cameron speaks at The Drum

He stressed the importance of role models such as Nelson Mandela, saying he had been discussing him with his nine-year-old daughter who had been learning about him in school.

Those invited to the round table get-together felt it was more than simply a Conservative Party PR exercise and felt genuine progress could be made.

Terence Wallen, of Somewhereto, which supports young people, said: “After the excitement of 2012 last year with the Jamaican Olympic glory and the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence, things have been quite flat because people feel no legacy has been developed.

“More visits like this today could strengthen the community’s resolve to make things happen for the better.”

While Charles Small, chief executive of The Drum, who told Cameron about his centre’s plans to “raise the roof” with a £3.8m auditorium extension, said: “The fact that the Drum was the only venue in Birmingham visited by the Prime Minister today shows our significance on both a national and local level.

“It can only be good for the African Caribbean community to have the ear of the Prime Minister and tell him directly the issues that affect us.”

Robin Thompson, executive director of Bringing Hope, who works with socially excluded young people, who was at the discussion, said: “I thought it was quite telling when he spoke about Nelson Mandela.

“As Prime Minister he has met Mandela, but never studied the man at school like his daughter is doing now.”

While Wayne Henry, of City United, added: “It’s easy to knock this down as a PR stunt, but I have to say Cameron came in well briefed on all of us and we got our chance to air our views.”

Student Tisha Whyke, one of a handful of young people invited to the session, said: “It was interesting hearing what everyone had to say. On my part I am passionate about keeping the arts inclusive for everyone and I was able to get that message across.”

Other invited guests included Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, a BBC presenter and ecumenist; Beverly Lindsay, OD, of Diamond Travel; Marcia Lewinson, of Women Active in Today’s Society; Professor Upkar Pardesi, chair of MyEducation Global Ltd, and Dr Cheron Byfield, of Black Boys Can.

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