The members of a new Tower Hamlets Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission have met for the first time this week (Wednesday 16 September), ahead of their detailed work to tackle racial minequality in the borough.
The commission has been formed in response to community feedback following the Black Lives Matter movement and the worldwide reaction to the tragic killing of George Floyd in June by a policeman in the United States. It has also formed to support action in the borough that will help people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the fight against Covid-19 as they are far more likely to become negatively impacted by the virus.
Mayor John Biggs appointed Deputy Mayor Asma Begum to chair the new commission, which will gather evidence to investigate what practical changes and improvements can be made especially in the areas of health, employment and education, and community leadership.
The commission starts its work immediately and will hold a number of subject area focused sessions and other meetings, ahead of announcing its findings and an action plan early in the new year.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The huge international focus on the Black Lives Matter movement has rightly made institutions of all forms, and their leaders, challenge themselves to recognise the serious inequalities that remain in our society. I’m delighted to welcome the commissioners to their roles and know that each of them will put their many years of expertise and experiences to positive use. This is a unique opportunity to reach out across our borough, to seek out the authentic community voices that will push for positive change and continue to inform the way we make decisions in the future.
“It’s so important that as many local people and organisations from all backgrounds get involved in the commission, sharing their lived experiences and also their great ideas for how we can a make real and lasting difference.”
Councillor Asma Begum, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Youth and Equalities, said: “The ongoing historic events of recent months related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Covid-19 pandemic continue to shine a light on the disproportionately negative impact on people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. For many people, these impacts are likely to be made much worse as we head into further economic recession.
“After a great deal of thoughtful community discussions and reflection over the summer, it’s great to have brought our commissioners together for the first time. We’re all really excited to hear from local people and to get stuck into the important work we have ahead of us.”
Over the summer, the council pledged to champion anti-racism and equality and asked residents to contribute to the ongoing conversation about how issues of race and equality are represented in the borough’s public spaces. The suggestions will be reviewed with a range of possible outcomes including but not limited to relocation, the addition of explanatory information, renaming or removal. In some cases, it may be decided that no action is necessary at all. In the coming weeks, more details will be made available about how the council will ensure genuine community involvement in reaching those eventual decisions.