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Even before the pandemic, Black young people were often discriminated against based on their ethnicity during the recruitment processes. With a reduction in available employment due to Covid battering the economy, the grim reality was that this discrimination would get worse and the new briefing by The Resolution Foundation sadly confirms this. Its research found that prior to the pandemic, ‘25% of economically active Black 16-24 year-olds were unemployed, compared to 10% of their White counterparts.’ The unemployment rate among Black young people is now 34% compared to 13% among White young people.
These findings don’t surprise us. Every single one of the young people we work with have been economically impacted by the pandemic and are currently struggling to find work. On average, they have been unemployed for 7 months before engaging with us and 90% self-report as feeling overwhelmed and pessimistic about the future. 60% of them also state that they do not have relationships with people in the careers they are interested in engaging with, leaving them unprepared for a competitive job market in their chosen field.
We believe to improve employment prospects for young people during and after the Covid-19 crisis, we need to work with them directly to empower them to give voice to their experiences and aspirations. With the Resolution Foundation highlighting that 16-24 year-olds account for the biggest share of those finding themselves unemployed in the last year (57%), there is an urgent need to find new solutions to tackle this head on. It is already having a significant impact on the mental health of young people, with relatively low numbers of Black young people seeking help - and it is worrying what lasting effect it could have for all young people.
One of the ways we have been working to address this crisis is through our Voltage Revolution programme. We are proud to have been funded by STRIDE, a collective of London’s Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth and Wandsworth boroughs, to support 18-24-year-old Black people who are not currently in employment, education, or training. Through our 6 month in-depth programme they will engage in a research-based, community-created support programme that is truly fit for purpose; closing the unemployment gap for Black young people.
The creative and digital economies are vital to the UK, with employment in the creative sector growing by a third between 2011 and 2017 and 50% faster than the wider economy. In London, where the majority of the UK’s Black population live, creative/digital workers are also more productive than the average London worker and account for 1 in 6 jobs in the capital.
Voltage Revolution is a six month part-time training programme that will support young people to gain the digital and creative skills needed to get a job in one of London's best-paid industries. The trainees on the program will learn and gain new skills in audio and video engineering, web development, visual and design, content marketing as well as the transferable skills they need to get a job and progress in employment. They will also have the opportunity to be mentored by leaders and experts in the field and a two-week paid placement through which they will get to use their new skills to contribute to local charities and social enterprises in their local areas.
Commenting on the Resolution Foundation’s briefing, Yoanna Chikezie, our Innovation Manager, running Voltage Revolution, said:
“The feedback we have received from the young people in the Voltage Revolution program shows that young Black people feel that despite their talent, ambition and commitment to building their skills and abilities to pursue aspirations to work in the digital and creative sectors, they will have to work twice as hard as their white counterparts to achieve the same goal. Undoubtedly the pandemic has widened the gap and many employers have had to downsize, but young Black people feel that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to not hire them.”
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Policing is a hot-button topic on any given day, but the tragic case of Sarah Everard and the recent “Kill the Bill” protests have raised the alarm and reignited public debate about law enforcement’s role in the UK. Despite renewed discussions about policing, the perspectives of Black women, Black LGBTQ+ and Black non-binary people are often excluded from mainstream discourse even though they are more likely to be victims of crimes such as harassment and assault. To amplify these underrepresented and disproportionately affected voices, we reached out to our My Moon Landing community to find out what they thought about the state of policing in the UK.
Our conversations with our members revealed a staggering majority of largely negative experiences with the police. They recounted instances of the police committing wrongful house raids, arrests, assaults and being stopped without a valid reason - highlighting a real disconnect and fractured relationship with the police. As a result of these upsetting incidents, the My Moon Landing members described living in a hyper-vigilant state, where they are intensely afraid of interacting with the UK’s police force.
The overwhelming feeling from our community was one of fear of the very same body of people supposed to ensure their safety on the streets. They expressed concerns about unjust aggression, rough handling and the use of excessive force. And in spite of worries for their own personal safety as a marginalised group that often comes under attack, our community also shared concerns about the safety of Black men who they have witnessed being disproportionately stopped and searched by the police.
How to solve the UK’s apparent broken policing?
Without a doubt, the issue of policing is complex. But there will also be members of the UK’s law enforcement body that will feel that this representation of them is unfair. Sadly, it is the few bad experiences that people remember most. We asked our community what in their opinion can be done to fix a glaringly broken system to law and order in the UK. Unsurprisingly suggestions for improving policing were varied. Some called for increased recruitment from minority communities to foster a sense of safety for ethnic minorities, especially recruiting more Black women, LGBTQ+ or non-binary candidates. Another suggestion was for police to prioritise investigating existing crimes rather than making fresh arrests under the guise of stop and search. Although other solutions mentioned improving how the police communicate with marginalized groups and the police making public apologies for misconduct against Black people, for some, the answer isn’t one single solution. Enforcing a no-racism policy isn’t as simple as telling the police not to be racist. As a result, some people are less optimistic about solutions that would enhance feeling safe around the police.
Despite the police’s existing initiatives for improving minority relations, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Even though many debate the effectiveness of diversity, people from the My Moon Landing community still want the police to undergo personal development courses that could improve relations with the Black community.
As our government looks to the future of policing, we can't afford to relegate historically unheard voices when they are overwhelmingly affected by policing and crime. What feels like a watershed moment now is an opportunity to rethink how we approach law enforcement and ultimately make the country safer for all citizens, including the most underrepresented parts of the Black community.
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What do the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and Kanye West have in common? Many things flood to the mind, but one that sticks as evidentiary is a belief system that corrupts the lens through which Black people are viewed. Notably, Kanye west articulated his own dissenting opinion in 2018 when he theorised to TMZ that living in the 400 year legacy of slavery in America is a choice. Today the Sewell Report exhibits the same lack of nuance and awareness of the way people live and have been affected by negative race relations in the UK. The report proudly couches itself in decorations of objectivity by removing the individual experiences of race, the stories of the people that the data represents from its exploration of it. That is not what research is supposed to do. Research is supposed to marry to quantitative with the qualitative; the numbers and the stories are meant to support each other. In any other institution, particularly institutions with higher academic pedigree than the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, if the stories don’t match the numbers it is the numbers that are wrong.
The elitism built into the assault on race-based activism is rife in the declarations made in the 285 pages they probably didn’t expect many people to wade through. Sentences like this one: “For some groups historic experience of racism still haunts the present and there was a reluctance to acknowledge that the UK had become open and fairer.” Perhaps the reason there was a reluctance to admit the given statement was because it did not ring true to them. In one part of the report there is an accusation that those they were speaking with did not fully understand the nuanced terminology that the researchers were using to define racism, the conflation of terms offended them.
An appalling dismissal
The assumption that the Commission has interpreted the data with, is made clear by mentions of UK legislation that criminalises the use of certain slurs and violence on the basis of race. They have assumed that these overt expressions of racism are the only valid forms of it. In regards to language, there is an early dismissal of microaggressions as a figment of our imaginations with the report stating: “It is certainly true that the concept of racism has become much more fluid, extending from overt hostility and exclusion to unconscious bias and microaggressions. This is partly because ethnic minorities have higher expectations of equal treatment and, rightly, will not tolerate behaviour that, only a couple of generations ago, would have likely been quietly endured or shrugged off. The fact that this generation expects more is a positive aspect of integration.” What the report declares to be “more” my own experience of racism in the UK and the experiences of the staff and members of our own Do it Now Now community would deem to be, is just as awful and in some cases even more insidious. Just as much as I wouldn’t like be called a N***r to my face, I wouldn’t like to be held back from an opportunity because there’s “just something about me” that doesn’t fit the “culture” of a prospective company.
A disingenuous attempt to discredit racial justice groups
It is very clear that the conclusion was decided before the work began. The Commission and report were tasked with the invalidation of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK and other activist groups seeking racial equity across the country. At multiple points of the document the writers invite us to take a victory lap for a battle they are trying to convince us has long been won. How do they expect us to “stop refighting the battles of the past” if they do not acknowledge that those battles rather than benevolence is what has won us the incremental movement toward a better present day that they are so keen to focus on. There are few people that have ever sought to propagate the argument that Britain is where it was; we recognise the achievements and we celebrate ourselves and the allies that have helped us win those battles. As the rapper DAVE so poignantly professed at the BRIT awards a couple of years ago, in a moment that was celebrated throughout the country as a marker of progress, “the least racist is still racist”. We all know we are better off than some places, but the condescending context in which those achievements are placed in the body of this report, ironically, has proven that we are much worse off today than some of us activists and change makers previously believed.
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Announcing our new factsheet: employment trends, income and civic participation of the UK’s Black population
Our recent research highlighted the social and economic factors that drove the creation of Black-led organisations in Britain. The social, political and economic forces that shape the experiences of these community organisations provides a body of insights that cannot be ignored, and we are excited to unveil a factsheet summing up our key findings.
Our factsheet contains data on employment trends, income, education and how civic participation uniquely impacts the Black community. These statistics help to illustrate the experiences familiar to Black-led organisations and their beneficiaries.
It is no simple feat to deliver impactful services while facing the same inequalities you are fighting against. It is our hope and aim to support these vital community groups as they work hard to remove these inequalities.
We hope these findings give you a better understanding of the complex backdrop of Black-led organisations and the communities they support. With deeper understanding of what is faced by the Black community, we can bring tangible change for some of the most underrepresented impact organisations in the UK.
If you would like to receive a copy of the factsheet, please sign up for our newsletter.
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We are excited to announce that we are working with Nesta to provide Black people impacted by COVID-19 with access to jobs and financial support. The two other organisations working on this project to reach particular demographic communities are The Big Issue Group and Youth Federation.
Through the Rapid Recovery Challenge, supported by MaPS, JPMorgan and DWP, Nesta has been funding and supporting 14 innovative tools developed to best meet the needs of people most impacted by the pandemic. Our own research has shone a light on the dire impact COVID-19 has had on Black-led social impact organisations and we are excited to be part of this initiative alongside some of the UK’s leading agencies for social good. Access to tools and services designed with the end-user in mind is critical to supporting those hit hardest by COVID-19, especially while they try to find jobs and manage their personal finances.
Over the next few months we will be working with 75 Black led organisations across the UK to run a coordinated social media campaign, 1:2:1 coaching, webinars and personalised resource matching. Our goal is to support 100,000 Black people who are in low paid work, currently unemployed or financially insecure to access the innovative tech based tools funded through Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge.
Bayo Adelaja, CEO, said: “We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID crisis has pushed Black led charities and social enterprises that would typically engage with and support the underserved people in their local areas close to breaking point. The burden on local services continues to rise and the traditional infrastructure is unfortunately antiquated and unable to rise to the challenge the pandemic has set before us all. We are proud to be part of a solution, spurred on by Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge, that can address the difficulty underserved young people, low-paid and insecure workers are facing across the country, at scale.”
If you’re an organisation who works with Black people who have had their jobs or finances impacted by the pandemic, please get in touch with us to be part of the coalition we are building to support Black people across the UK
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The social landscape of the UK is constantly evolving, as our upcoming 2021 Census will soon show. Many Black-led impact groups within the UK exist to address the social and economic needs of their communities; and in the run-up to our factsheet about Black-led organisations, we explore the social and civic matters that make them a necessity.
Whether it’s youth empowerment, immigrant community gatherings, or professional groups, the organisations we’ve engaged with all serve a specific focus and purpose that would otherwise be missing from the lives of their end-users. Through our conversations with these organisations, we’ve learned how a small social enterprise can evolve into a local pillar of support for people within the community.
The trust and recognition earned from an organisation’s existence are sometimes enough to give its community a seat at the local governance level. As a result, groups can participate in meetings that influence policymaking at a local level. For the UK’s Black population, it’s an opportunity to serve the community and make their voice heard in the corridors of power.
The recent Community Life Survey, which ‘tracks developments in areas that are important to encouraging social action and empowering communities’, showed that 45% of Black respondents said they felt like they could affect decision-making in their communities. This includes in areas such as wellbeing, volunteering and civic engagement. However, only 1 in 10 Black people get involved with local decision-making which means Black people are underrepresented at the local governance level. The inclusion of Black-led impact organisations in governance gives people an avenue to share their perspectives and build a record of influence within a local community.
One way Black-led organisations grow is through volunteer positions. According to government statistics almost 1 in 4 Black people (24%) volunteer, meaning there’s an appetite for people to engage in public service. Black-led social enterprises and charities are in the unique position of having access to beneficiaries who can also double as volunteers if they so wish. As a result, there’s growing scope for Black-led to build a community that involves end-users and volunteers who also have lived experience related to a particular organisation’s services.
We describe these trends and more in our upcoming fact sheet about Black-led organisations. If you’d like to receive a copy when it launches, please sign up for our newsletter.
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Over the past few days the British media has been rocked by a conversation held predominantly by two Black women in the United States of America. The discussion highlighted systemic and institutional racism in a specific context that can be transposed to a more general experience of Black women in the workplace and concerns about the representation of Black women in the Uk’s major media outlets.
As an organisation that seeks to support willing clients in a better understanding of the experiences of Black people and other racialised individuals within organisations, here are our thoughts on the language that is being used to describe the actions taken by Harry and Meghan. Words like “bombshell”, “attack”, “grenade” are being frequently utilised to capture the impact of the revelations the momentous interview shared. However the connotations of this wording, is harmful to the wider conversation about race in the UK. A racialised individual (person of colour) speaking up about the negative experiences they’ve had within an institution is not an attack on the institution, it is in fact an invitation to work together to make positive changes that make it a safe space for all.
Other wording that is being frequently used to describe this action is, “selfish”. Meghan and Harry have been accused of being self-serving in their actions at the expense of the stability of the monarchy and the health of its most senior individuals. While we cannot comment on the specific nature of Royalty and the varying needs and pressures of the stakeholders within it, we can advocate for the normalisation of speaking up about race matters, particularly when it is difficult to do so, as a selfless act, one that requires courage and a sense of optimism about the positive impact sharing revelations about your lived experience will make.
We teach racialised individuals within workplaces to think not only about themselves, but also about the next person that a racially motivated injustice could happen to. We teach racialised adults to make a habit of standing up for themselves, because throughout our younger lives in school, university and in our own families we are frequently taught to keep our heads down, minimise our own suffering and to contextualise our pain in light of the impact the label of “racist” could have on the prospects of the aggressor, whether an individual or an institution. These things have to change. Racialised people should not have to consider the fall-out when claiming and providing evidence of racism in their workplace. Racialised people should be believed and supported to contribute to discussions and actions that will lead to positive changes for their future and the future of every racialised person that enters that space after them.