Published: 23 February 2011
People power still exists and must be harnessed to fight the loss of services and benefits across the NHS, schools and the public sector, say members of the new BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts) coalition.
The group organised a public meeting at Birmingham's African Caribbean Millennium Centre on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of activist Malcolm X, and said they wanted the date to be an inspiration for the black community to become involved.
One of the strongest rallying cries came from race equality campaigner Lee Jasper, who condemned the cuts.
He called on older black activists to get involved and urged every elder and church leader to work with them.
“I am not prepared to allow this government to wreck our children’s futures and everything that our own parents worked their fingers to the bone for,” Jasper told the packed meeting.
“We need to be evangelical about this and go forward together as a national family. We need more black self-organisation.”
Jasper added that the national template for today’s coalition Government was made in Birmingham, as the city council’s political coalition was used as a model.
He added: “Now is the time for black men to take some leadership. Over the years African-Caribbean men have been made physically redundant, while the women worked to keep families’ heads above water.
“Men have simply gone from the slave ships to the Premiership – black men only have roles in sport and entertainment. Now it’s time for men to come back and have some responsibility and support these women.”
He warned that the resulting frustration from the proposed cuts will mean an increase in youth violence, with more guns and drugs on the streets. “When the economy goes down, racism goes up,” Jasper said.
Veteran race campaigner Maxie Hayles, chairman of Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit, quoted Malcolm X and added: “My message is to black people to drop their dependency mentality and become more involved. Traditionally, we have failed to participate in the wider political arena.
“We have to mobilise our communities through any way possible – through the churches and through BARAC. These cuts are a war on society as a whole and will affect everyone, destroying lives and putting women’s rights back decades.”
Other speakers included Tony Conway, of the Public and Commercial Services Union, student campaigner Tom Maguire and Doreen Brown, racial equality officer for public sector union Unison in Birmingham. She explained how tough times lay ahead for home care workers in the city, many of whom were black and often the only breadwinner in the family.
“People power still exists and we have to fight against this coalition Government, otherwise there is still worse to come.”
Other branches of BARAC have been set up across several cities in the UK, including Manchester, Bristol and London.
Demonstrators on the March 26 protest, called ‘March for the Alternative’ will assemble from 11am at London’s Victoria Embankment between Temple Place and Blackfriars to march to a rally in Hyde Park.
Unison is already organising more than a dozen coaches from Birmingham.