An organisation dedicated to advancing justice and equity for Black people has been launched in the UK.
Some of Britain’s most influential Black figures from business, law, the arts, and social justice founded the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), including David Lammy MP, David Olusoga, Karen Blackett, Dame Vivian Hunt, and Kwame Kwei-Armah.
The hope is that this organisation will be as influential as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in the United States, which was founded in 1909 by Black progressives.
Former barrister, Mr Lammy, said, “we need a national civil rights organisation dedicated to the struggle in good times and bad”.
“As a young Black man, growing up in the 70s and 80s was hard. I experienced everyday racism at school, from the police and on TV. I witnessed the growth of the National Front first-hand. Despite the despair, I hoped that the future could only improve for Black people in Britain. But after the Windrush scandal, the Grenfell fire and other endless tragedies, it became clear that progress was too slow,” the Tottenham MP said.
“After the death of George Floyd, Black and white people came together to show their frustration at the UK’s shortcomings in tackling racism. It is now time to move from protest to action.
“I am proud to be a part of an organisation that will be at the forefront of the fight for racial justice and equality. The Black Equity Organisation will be a symbol of struggle and hope for Black people and their allies across this country as we take this next step in the fight against racial inequality.”
Last year the government-backed Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) published a widely criticised report which claimed that institutional racism doesn’t exist in the UK. As a clear contrast, BEO has been launched on the premise that systemic racism exists in Britain and affects millions of people.
A legacy of historical policies and attitudes has led to half of Black children living in poverty and four times as many Black mothers dying during childbirth. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black people were four times as likely to die of the disease as white people.
Launched around the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent tide of anti-racist protests around the world – including in the UK, where the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was toppled into Bristol harbour (Bristol is also well known for the Bristol Bus Boycott). The BEO will address critical issues where there are inequities for Black people, including economics, education, politics, criminal justice, healthcare, and housing.
Actor, director, playwright and BEO board trustee Kwame Kwei-Armah said, “This is a generational moment; history will view us harshly if we don’t do something.”
“It is not about just that moment – as a community, we have experienced the Windrush scandal, the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the more recent distressing Child Q incident. Our launch and existence is focused on creating the change that will ensure these stop happening.”
Over the long term, the BEO plans to complement grassroots, community, and other charitable organisations that have tackled these issues for decades to deliver change.
The BEO will use all available tools to ensure that there is equity for Black people, including litigation where appropriate to challenge systemic racism through the courts with appointed staff, such as a “director of justice” who will assist Black people in accessing legal advice and representation.