I am Councillor Tele and I am tired and black.
The title ‘Councillor’ does not protect you from the overt and covert discrimination at Havering Council. When I have walked into the Town Hall, and without speaking a word, Council staff have immediately directed me to the public gallery to watch the proceedings, instead of the Council Chamber where my colleagues, politicians, like me, are sitting. At meetings, I am warned that I am asking too many questions, my recommendations are not noted, and my remarks are cut short. Meanwhile, others can speak at length and with no restrictions. What they have in common is the colour of their skin. More often, I raise my black hand, which is very visible, yet the Chair looks around the room and says, “let us move on.”
It is a year since I was physically assaulted at the Town Hall by a white Councillor and Havering Council has done nothing. If it was a black man who aggressively grabbed a white woman in the Town Hall, the Council would have reacted very differently. I have written a report on diversity and race for Havering Council and put forward recommendations. Emails have been sent, and meetings had about these issues. I and many have concluded that Havering Council is institutionally racist. George Floyd’s death and outcry for justice has shown me that several voices are powerful and it will take a collective to push the race agenda and that black lives matter.
Therefore, I am making a Call-to-Action for you to email Andrew Black-Herbert, Chief Executive: firstname.lastname@example.org and Councillor Damian White, email@example.com the following demands;
- Switch on the Town Hall lights to purple in memory of George Floyd and in support against the fight of racism on Friday, 12 June 2020. This is being done across the country by other Councils. Havering Council has also done this before, and therefore, it is not a policy issue, but merely a decision to show solidary or not.
- Launch an inquiry into the entrenched racial inequality at Havering Council which affects their workforce and Councillors. This should be an independent Investigation – and not someone on Havering Council’s retainer as this will lead to a whitewashed report. Recommendations must be adopted within 5-10 years.
- Havering Council should set up a task group including the BME forum and their BAME employee forum to provide solutions to tackle racial inequality in our community.
- Havering Council should create an equality fund by the next Budget Council meeting. Members in the community can apply and use the funds for projects which will bring about better community cohesion and inclusion.
- Havering Council does not know the ethnicity or race of over 40% of its workforce. How can they aim to want to achieve the ‘Excellent’ rating in the Equality Framework for Local Government when they do not capture or monitor such data about their employees? That is basic for any organisation and this failure shows clearly how much their employees’ lives matter. Havering Council must close the data gap by April 2021.
- Havering Council should diversify its Senior Leadership Team and Senior Managers within 5-10 years. At the Senior Leadership level, there is not a single black or Asian director in 2020.
In Havering, brothers George, Keane, Ryan, Charlton, and Robson Handley will be running a combined marathon in support of Black Lives Matter on Sunday, 14 June. The Romford Recorder has published an article here; https://bit.ly/2zUT4jW. You can donate here; https://bit.ly/309nrxs.
Please see here other ways you can support George Floyd family and the Black Lives Matters Movement in the UK; https://linktr.ee/grmdaily
Councillor Tele Lawal