Blog Archive

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Race Equality Groups Demand Hate Crime Strategy

Race equality groups demand hate crime strategy


National and local race equality groups have come together to show solidarity with all of those minorities who have been subject to unprecedented levels of racial abuse over the last few months. We have also sought to show leadership including demanding that Government urgently produce a National Hate Crime strategy that both offers protection and sets a standard for the whole of society, including MPs to adhere to.
If your organisation would like to put your name to this statement please let us know, and we’ll do so. Our unity is our strength.
Rise in racial hatred and xenophobia demands a national hate strategy
Britain is a modern multicultural democracy that has benefited tremendously from the historic contributions of citizens from formerly colonised countries and, more recently, the contributions of contemporary migrant labourers. Frighteningly, less than two weeks post-EU referendum, Britain has returned to a level of racism, violence and fear not seen since Enoch Powell delivered his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham in 1968.
A key element of the Brexiters campaign negatively targeted immigration and migrants, thereby legitimising the racial abuse and violence we are now seeing on a daily basis.
The British political class and media have - with a few exceptions – pandered to racism, xenophobia and religious hatred, to the extent that many members of settled black communities and migrants, both black and white, are now living in fear. The failures of those in power to show real leadership is a stain on our democracy.
In the last week alone, according to Sarah Thornton of the National Police Chiefs Council, there has been a reported 5 fold increase -500%-in the incidence of Hate Crime. We believe this widely reported increase merely represent the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of these crimes go unreported to statutory authorities.
Whilst we note the Government's announcement that there will be a renewed focus to tackle racial hatred, we believe there is much more that needs to be done. We hereby call upon politicians and the media to firmly reject racism and positively reinforce the fact that Britain is today, and will always be, an inclusive, democratic, multicultural society. Equally, we call on all communities to publically support and stand in solidarity with those communities under attack.
We also demand our Government urgently commit to the development of a comprehensive national hate crime strategy which can both offer protection and provide public confidence and reassurance. It must be made clear that as a Government, and as a nation, we have zero tolerance for all forms race hate.
Despite the racism and xenophobia that has accompanied the referendum we believe the silent majority in Britain still oppose racism and bigotry.
Runnymede Trust
Operation Black Vote
Race On The Agenda
Race Equality Foundation
Society of Black Lawyers
Black South West Network
Croydon BME Forum
Gypsy-Traveller organisation Friends Families and Travellers
The National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education
Peter Tatchell Foundation.
East European Advice Centre
(South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group)
UK Race and Europe Network (UKREN)
Left Unity is a radical left party in Britain, affiliated to the European
Left Party
Unison South West Black members committee
BAME Labour

In the Wake of Brexit it's Vital We Stand United Against Racism and Xenophobia

Feature written for the Morning Star by Co-Chair BARAC UK, Zita Holbourne 

Also read Bracist Britain, a British Black Perspective written by Co-Chair of BARAC UK, Lee Jasper 

THE Brexit campaign was toxic, built on fear, hatred and othering, wrongly blaming migrants for the effects of austerity and cuts.
So is it any wonder that it bred an explosion of racist and xenophobic hate crimes immediately after Friday’s referendum result?
Racism is not something new. It has always been there — no amount of race equality legislation or policies have made it disappear.
We hear phrases like “Britain is a very tolerant society” and “We’re living in a post-racial society.”
Well, I don’t want to be simply tolerated — I want to be treated as an equal with equal chances and opportunities for me, my family and communities.
As for a post-racial society, over the past six years austerity has amplified racism. It has deepened, not gone away.
We’ve seen the deeply racist Immigration Act introduced that sets us back several decades.
We’ve seen the rise of the far right and the shift to the right of mainstream political parties.
Black and anti-racist campaigners received death threats during the referendum campaign from fascists and the week before the vote we witnessed the brutal murder of Jo Cox MP because of her stand against xenophobia and for migrant rights.
In the hours after she was murdered, there was an attempt to play down the reason she was killed and many of us thought that this horrific act might change some minds — but it didn’t.
I and many of my friends awoke to the news of the referendum result on Friday morning and our hearts sank.
I wept — for our children’s futures, knowing that their struggle against racism was just about to get harder.
My son said: “You’ve spent decades dedicating your life to campaigning for race equality and against racism and in one day that work has been undone.”
I spoke to several friends that day and they all said the same thing — they were looking to leave Britain and go to the homelands of their parents. Most of them were born in Britain, but it now seems an unwelcome place and we know that our lives are about to get even harder because hate won.
That’s not to say I believe that everybody who voted Leave is racist — far from it.
I know that people of all races and politics voted to leave for a wide range of reasons, but it would seem that everybody who holds racist views voted to exit and the overwhelming message coming out of the Brexit campaign was that if Britain left the EU it would stop migrants coming here.
The campaign scapegoated migrants and gave no consideration to the impact on migrant, black and Muslim communities and the consequences of an exit on us.
Our fears during the campaign have now been realised before our eyes on our streets across Britain in the past few days.
As horrified and upset as I was on Friday morning, it was still a shock to witness an explosion of racist, xenophobic hateful displays and acts played out on our streets.
In quick succession I saw reports in the news and on social media of children in schools, people going about their everyday business being targeted and abused and of people out on the streets displaying racist signs and slogans.
In the lead-up to voting day, we increasingly heard the phrase “I want my country back” from those who supported the Brexit campaign.
This was not restricted to private conversations between friends. People boldly declared this in vox pops, in open conversations and even in our workplaces, black trade union reps were told this by their members.
People felt emboldened and with the result they became empowered — not just adults but small children at schools told by fellow pupils that they needed to pack their bags and leave, black and Muslim people told: “You’re next.” People punched in the street, taxis refusing to take black people, cars driven by African and Muslim people smashed, a Muslim woman told by a bus driver: “This is my country so I make the rules.” And this is just a small sample during the first 48 hours from Friday morning.
At the weekend I attended a trade union equality seminar in Birmingham where Polish people described how they had received hate mail through their letter boxes.
A Polish worker at the hotel told me that he was scared. He has lived in Birmingham 15 years and always felt safe and welcome, now he feels very unwelcome. This fear was repeated in conversations all week.
By the end of one week I feel as though I am running a racist incident helpline myself because of the number of people who have contacted me for support and advice due to racist abuse and attacks they have experienced, attacks on public transport, a mother beaten up by another mother on the school run because she challenged the xenophobic comments made about Romanian people — “I hope they [the Romanian mothers] and their children and babies all die on the way home,” an Asian worker in a grocery store verbally abused by a customer, a young black man physically attacked by his manager, a Muslim woman racially abused by a bus driver — I could go on.
Given that so many race monitoring organisations and race equality councils have been forced to shut their doors due to cuts, we know that the support for people in their communities that used to exist is no longer there.
So we are inviting people to contact Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac UK) if they need advice and support.
Nobody should have to suffer in silence and not everybody will feel able to go to the police for a number of reasons.
It’s essential that these incidents are reported. While the police have stated that reports of hate crime have increased by 57 per cent we know that hate crimes are grossly underreported and that the real figure is likely to be much higher.
If this is just week one, I dread to think what is to come. But it is for all these reasons that this week, national black organisations, migrant groups, black trade unionists and the wider trade union movement have held emergency meetings to discuss how we respond.
On Thursday, national black organisations including my own Barac UK came together in an emergency meeting also attended by Operation Black Vote, Runnymede, Race on the Agenda, NUS Black Students Campaign, Voice 4 Change, The Monitoring Group, Blak Sox and Media Diversified.
The meeting agreed to issue a statement on how to respond with a message about mobilising in our local areas and communities, communities working together and taking action to support those under attack.
In addition to these meetings the TUC general council also met this week and agreed on a new campaign against racism.
It is essential for any such campaign to not just involve trade union and anti-fascist organisations but communities too.
The PCS union executive, to which I am elected, also held an emergency meeting this week on the EU result and our political campaigning and at that meeting agreed a campaign against racism.
The NEC agreed that we would work with the TUC to launch a new targeted and sustained anti-racism campaign in light of the EU referendum result.
Such a campaign must focus centrally on the need for an end to cuts in public services and investment in our communities, including an education campaign on immigration. We will review and expand our own anti-racism and equality campaigning on that basis.
And we also confirmed our support for Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy and John McDonnell have both provided unwavering support to PCS campaigns over many years, whether it be raising our members’ issues in Parliament or standing with us on picket lines, even when the Labour Party leadership of the day was not willing to do the same.
In particular, they have supported our central campaign for an alternative to austerity and an end to the cuts in pay, jobs and pensions inflicted on our members by all governments in recent years.
Barac UK also stands in solidarity with Corbyn against the attempted coup by Labour politicians and is deeply disappointed to see MPs and councillors campaigning against him.
Corbyn and McDonnell have provided solid and consistent support for Barac UK and black communities and for our work campaigning against racism and injustice, providing solidarity, practical and political support and a strong presence and voice against racism and xenophobia.
In the face of growing hatred, we need political leaders who are totally committed to standing up to racism and Jeremy and John have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to doing this.
Next week the TUC race relations committee will also meet to discuss the new TUC campaign against racism and how this is taken forward in conjunction with communities impacted.
But we all have a collective responsibility to stand up to these attacks and to stand up and support people who are attacked and abused, reporting hate crimes and documenting them and building a strong united campaign.
It is not enough to state we are anti-racist or anti-fascist, we need to stand up to all forms of racism and xenophobia and offer practical support as well as political activity to tackle the root causes and effects that lead to a climate of fear, division and hatred.
  • Zita Holbourne is co-founder and national co-chair of Barac UK and elected to the PCS national executive committee and the TUC race relations committee. She is also an author, poet, artist and curator.

Thursday, 30 June 2016


 On Monday this week an emergency demo called with just 24 hours notice  was attended by thousands of people showing support and solidarity for Jeremy Corbyn in response to the attempted coup against him by Labour MPs.

BARAC UK was proud to be in Parliament Square with our banner in solidarity.

Since BARAC was established Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have supported our campaigns against austerity, cuts, racism and injustice, from hosting campaign meetings in Parliament, speaking at our events, joining us at marches, demonstrations and on picket lines, putting their names and adding their voices to our campaigns their support has been  solid and consistent.

They have always stood by us and we will continue to stand by them.  We need a  Labour leadership that understands our struggle, that will speak out on  the issues that effect us and work with us standing shoulder to shoulder,  to campaign against race discrimination and for race equality.

We need a Labour leadership that will stand up with us and for us and we give our full support and solidarity.

Elected by the people because he represents the people, Jeremy Corbyn, unlike many politicians is in touch with our reality.

We stand with Jeremy Corbyn.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Brixton Honours Muhammed Ali on the day he was laid to rest

BARAC UK Co-Chairs Zita Holbourne & Lee Jasper had the honour to be knocked with organising & hosting a night to remember The Greatest Muhammad Ali on the day he was laid to rest, together with Green Party Politician Rashid Nichols , Community & Social Justice Activist Viv Ahmun and Director of the Black Cultural Archives, Paul Reid who provided his venue for the evening.

Ali was no stranger to Brixton so it was fitting that this London Memorial event to honour his life was held at the BCA in the heart of Brixton.

The event was a mixture of speeches, memories, poetry & song and speakers of all ages , among them BARAC officers, talked about the powerful positive impact Ali had on their life.

Zita Co-hosted / compered the event & read a tribute poem to Ali  ,  Donna Guthrie , BARAC Women's Officer spoke with Lee who had the pleasure of spending as few days in Ali's company in London gave the final speech. 

Thank you Muhammad Ali for inspiring and uplifting us to rise up,  walk tall, , be unapologetically black and proud  even in the face of adversity,racism & injustice.

World Champion, Poet,  Civil Rights and Humanitarian Campaigner and so much more, thank you,  Rest in Power with the ancestors.

Monday, 2 May 2016


Activists send open letter to David Lammy


Press Release: Embargo -Thursday, April 28th 2016 00.01 am
An Open Letter to the Rt. Honourable David Lammy MP concerning the Parliamentary Review of racial bias and BAME representation in Criminal Justice system
On 31st January 2016, The Prime Minister, David Cameron asked David Lammy MP to lead a Review to investigate evidence of possible bias and disproportionate sentencing of African, Caribbean and Asian defendants in the Criminal Justice System. As part of the Equality and Criminal Justice reform. David Lammy MP is to report back in spring of 2017.
The Prime Minister said:
We need to ask the difficult questions about whether the system treats people differently based on race. Charges, courts, prisons and rehabilitation to be scrutinised."
The Rt Hon David Lammy, MP, said:
I've been working in this area for almost 2 decades and am very pleased to accept the Prime Minister's invitation to lead this comprehensive, independent review across our criminal justice system. With over a quarter of the prison population coming from BAME background the urgency is clear. I look forward to leading a team that will evaluate what works in the UK, draw on lessons from abroad and listen to a broad range of voices from the justice system and our BAME communities."
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, said:
An effective justice system depends on procedural fairness. Equality of treatment at every stage in the criminal justice process is essential. I am very pleased that David, a politician whose intellectual honesty I have long admired, and who is not afraid to confront uncomfortable truths, is pursuing this important work."
There is a need for such a review, as a report entitled Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2012, produced by the Ministry of Justice found that almost 20% per cent of black and Asian defendants were more likely to be jailed than white defendants for similar offences. The average sentence given to an African Caribbean defendant is seven times longer than that for an average white defendant.
Stop and search figures revealed a similar pattern of over representation, a black person aged ten or older in 2011/ 2012, was 6 times more likely than a white person to be stopped and searched and nearly three times more likely to be arrested.
The same report found that only 26 per cent of white defendants were handed immediate custodial sentences compared to 31 per cent for black defendants and 32 per cent for Asian defendants. Again this differential treatment can be seen in the average custodial sentence for black prisoners was 23.4 months compared to 15.9 months for white prisoners.
Speaking as the Chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, the former Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and part time Judge, D Peter Herbert OBE said:
the figures showed 'institutional racism' within the system."
We understand that there will be separate but simultaneous meetings of BAME Judges and magistrates to discuss judicial racism and bias.
We as BAME legal groups and the wider BAME organisations and all our various communities would like to collectively express a view and put forward written and oral evidence of anecdotal cases that we know of, and a joint position on solutions, as a way forward. To this end we will be holding a series of meetings to discuss racism and bias in the Criminal Justice System and within our judicial system generally.
We know that there is significant overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system.
Please see the attached letter to David Lammy MP. Please confirm whether you would be willing to attend such meetings by contacting the numbers shown below.

Note to editors and other interested parties:
D Peter Herbert OBE - Society of Black Lawyers: 07973 794 946
Viv Ahmun - Blaksox: 07985 395 166
Ashlee Gomes - NBPA: 07887 635 375
Earl Smith - ABPO: 07810 854 258

Report on BARAC Humanitarian Aid April distribution in Calais ; Thank you for your support

BARAC's most recent humanitarian aid and solidarity visit to Calais took place last weekend.

Just a few weeks after our March distribution even more of the 'camp' had been bulldozed and cleared. An area near the art school which we had visited in March which was full of tents and structures and families living was beyond recognition.

Our transport and travel in April was sponsored by ASLEF the Train Drivers union to whom we are very grateful.

ASLEF has also donated to our Go Fund Me also towards aid.

We have just received sponsorship for our next distribution travel and transport by Global Justice Now. Our thanks to Director Nick Deardon. 

We are delighted that this year's TUC Black Workers Conference raised £1500 for BARAC Humanitarian Aid through its annual fundraising dance and a motion at the conference moved by the Public and Commercial Services Union called on affiliates and the TUC to support humanitarian aid efforts such as BARAC's,  The motion was carried unanimously. 

Our travel across the channel was not without the usual racial profiling and scrutiny by border authorities.  In the past we have been stopped and searched, delayed, detained, police checked, asked if we are the same people coming back as went out, told that if we are let into France we could get to Turkey and cross the border to Syria.

On this occasion we were asked if we had any 'knives or weapons'. When we responded that we did not, our vehicle was searched with particular scrutiny and attention given to sanitary towels we were taking for women in the camp.  Presumably this is where they thought we kept the knives and weapons. 

As if that was not bad enough, our driver, Hector Wesley, the only black man in our team on this occasion was body scanned. 

No other vehicles received such scrutiny and nobody else was body scanned.

On the way back our vehicle was searched and the authorities searched under my legs to see if I had hidden somebody there.

Police barriers surrounded all entrances to the camp.

As we entered the Eritrean church was like an oasis in a desert. The  burned out frameworks of  structures and items scattered across the earth that were there just a few weeks ago were now gone. 

Despite there being very few tents around, we  decided to distribute some food to the people staying near to the church and there was soon a line. Some young boys asked us for footballs and biscuits.

We distributed at two points, near the church and near the art school. We took food for communities in the camp in bulk form and also made up packs of essential items, toiletries and food.  We had packs for children with books, toys and snacks and baby and women's products. 

After our first distribution, we visited the school where English and French lessons for adults were taking place. We met with some people who were volunteering at the school and gave them the children's packs to distribute for  when children attended during the week.

We then visited the art school and took some supplies and met with some artists based in the camp and looked at the art they had produced.  

We distributed our second lot of aid and then went to the Women's Centre to take feminine hygiene products.

After that we visited with some young Sudanese brothers who welcomed us with kind hospitality, bringing us chairs  and making us coffee. We spoke with them at length about their experiences, their journeys to get to France through several countries and for some the journey had taken years,  some had lost their parents and  when we told them about the work of BARAC in the UK in campaigning against injustice and racism they told us that they would like to join us when they got to the UK which of course we very much welcomed.  Ironically for one of the young brothers we spoke with,  before leaving his home, his job had been supporting refugees,  not expecting that he himself would become a refugee.  One young man told me that my headwrap was the exact same print his mother wore and that she even tied hers the same way.  Most of the  people we have met over the past several months in Calais are young enough to be our children and myself and other women in our team have reminded them of their mothers. 

Over the past few months we have distributed our aid with our sisters and brothers stuck in the 'camp' , the lead brother

coordinating from the camp is Samer who ran the library and other community projects.  Each time I leave I say to him see you next time but next time I really hope you are no longer here and it was too our joy to discover a few days before from Samer that he was now in the UK. We wish Samer all the luck in the world and a positive new start and look forward to meeting up with him in more positive circumstances. We thank him for his community spirit in supporting and helping others. 

To support our humanitarian aid work you can donate here  or directly to BARAC. We are also seeking sponsors for transport and travel and you can take items to our drop off point at PCS HQ.

Contact us at for further info.

Thank you to all who have supported our sisters and brothers stuck in limbo to date.

Zita Holbourne

National Co-Chair BARAC UK