Saturday, 20 August 2011

Black Community rallies for Operation Hope and Recovery: media totally ignores positive moves.

Massive London rally calls for social action to tackle the issues that gave rise to the riots.

Lee Jasper speaking at Operation Hope and Recovery Meeting

Last night saw a quite remarkable event take place in London. It went unnoticed by the capital print, broadcast and blog media despite the current media currency attached to all things riot related. I think it’s probably true to say it was ignored except by the Media Trust 360 web based programme.

In response to the overwhelming negativity in the press about young people and the riots a group of community activist and black church leaders decided that we needed to respond to the crisis facing our communities across the capital, both black and white.

The significance of this meeting would be lost on most people but the thing to note is that a leading figure in the black Church decided that it was time to take action. Traditionally the black church has been deeply conservative preferring to minister to its flock and shunning any real involvement with politics.  There are some notable exceptions.  Ruach Ministries Lambeth in the last London local government election embarked on a massive voter registration drive that determined the outcome of that election. These examples though are rare.

This meeting on the Monday morning following the riots took place against a backdrop of burning embers, acrid smoke and bitter recriminations

We came up with a framework for action, booked the venue of Friends Meeting House Euston the same day. By Tuesday we had a logo and flyer designed and we posted that out. That left three day’s to try and publicise the meeting. Our thought process was focused on action not further analysis. What could we do to make a positive difference?

And so was born Operation Hope & Recovery. Focusing on delivering an inner city focused political and economic empowerment programme. With a plan to train hundreds of activists with a programme that seek to educate and inspire young people to engage in social action, democratic and campaigning politics and economic development creating businesses we hoped that a call for positive engagement with all young people would be popular.

With less than 3 days notice we were able to mobilise 700 people to attend a meeting that took place on a balmy Friday summers evening. This was a remarkable turnout and the overwhelming contribution of all those in attendance was to offer their help free of charge to help deliver the programme in cities across the country.

Speaker after speaker spoke of the need for people to get engaged in taking action in contrast with just commentating on events offering no real solution and taking no real action. The meeting was completely positive in all aspects.

One important principle that was established was that this new social action movement would be completely independently financed.  This is an important departure form the dependant norm and the meeting responded by raising £600 in a collection to provide seed capital for this fledging movement.

Although a press notice was sent out to all mainstream and black press no one turned up to cover the event. That includes broadcast media, print and blog media all failed to show up.  The reality is this was a majority black meeting that was focussed on the positive and therefore not appealing to the prevailing stereotypical news agenda that salivates on a steady diet of race and deviancy.

This is illustrative of the failure of mainstream press to understand the reality of black communities; preferring instead their own prejudice. Black people doing good things is not considered newsworthy.

Nevertheless this meeting was historic and without precedence. The focus on social, economic and political issues provides a powerful antidote to the barrage of negativity that has engulfed our communities in the aftermath of the riots.  It demonstrates the integrity and commitment of our community and the overwhelming desire for positive change.

We are already receiving calls from around the country requesting that we bring this movement to their areas. Whilst the media continue to attempt to distract the nation from their own shortcomings in relation to phone hacking and police corruption by whipping up post riot hysteria that seeks to demonise all young people, we as a community were taking action.

Operation Hope & Recovery has arrived and enjoys unprecedented levels of public support the fact that it had zero press coverage says more about the press than it does about meeting.

As we prepare to roll out this programme we are looking for people to help. People who are prepared to contribute financially and donate their services or volunteer to help deliver our programme. By increasing voter registration and raising awareness through political education, teaching people how to campaign to change their situation and promoting business start ups and enterprise as a response to poverty and youth unemployment. We intend to make a difference.

We intend to create a vast army of volunteers focused on taking action.
 Interested? Email me with “Here to Help” in the title.

Lee Jasper

Watch video clips of Operation Hope and Recovery rally. Video By Narrow Path Films.

Photographs of Operation Hope and Recovery rally. By Ubuntu Photography 

All Photographs by:

Tatenda Nyati -