Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to honour the significant social, economic and cultural contribution black Londoners make to life in our city and country. From celebrating the African-Caribbean community at Europe’s biggest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival, to the millions represented by the war memorial in Brixton, black history is woven into the fabric of our city. I’m looking forward to joining Londoners from all backgrounds in the celebrations whilst also raising awareness of the challenges that are still faced in London today.
This month at City Hall we will again be holding a Black History Month reception after I restored the event last year. On October 27, Londoners and visitors are invited to Africa on the Square – our annual festival of music, art, food and dance in Trafalgar Square.
There’s no doubt that it has been an important year for black communities in Britain. It is 25 years since the racist murder of London teenager Stephen Lawrence, and in April I attended a reception with Baroness Lawrence to celebrate Steven’s life and reflect on the lasting impact of his death on our society.
At City Hall we are determined to lead by example and do all we can to tackle the many challenges that are still being faced among our communities. This includes targeting the under-representation of young black men in the capital’s labour market through schemes such as our Workplace Integration Network.
In August it was my privilege to open up City Hall for a service in commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The evening was a poignant reminder of how slavery has shaped London and how its legacy of prejudice and exploitation continues to affect communities today.
We also opened up City Hall to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush and pay tribute to those remarkable men and women who helped rebuild the country after the war. ‘Arrival’ reflected the best of London and featured outstanding contributions, including an art installation by gal-dem and contributions from Afua Hirsch, Sharmadean Reid and Kwame Kwei-Armah.
Like most people I was horrified to learn that some of the Windrush generation – many of whom are Londoners – had been subjected to appalling treatment by our government. I was further shocked to learn of the problems young Londoners with insecure immigration status have faced. This really has shone a light on an immigration system that is unfit for purpose and I will continue to call on the government to end its hostile environment policy.
It is important that we remember that black history is a part of everyone’s history. That’s why here at City Hall, we’ve made it a priority to ensure that we recognise the tragedy and injustice that sought to divide us in the past, while also celebrating the phenomenal achievements and the shared stories that have united communities in modern Britain.
Wishing everyone a very special Black History Month.