Original article published on 12 June 2019
This year’s Queen’s birthday honours list had a small drop in the number of people from ethnic minorities included on it. But there was a lot to celebrate. Many Londoners who have campaigned for change were recognised.
Simon Woolley, for instance, newly made a knight of the realm, founded Operation Black Vote (OBV) more than 20 years ago. Through OBV, he provided a system of mentoring and support that led not only to the first Muslim woman to serve in Cabinet but also the first turban-wearing Sikh MP. His impact has been far greater than just increasing the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic MPs, though — he showed that true power lies with the people, by convincing minorities that positive change could be won through the ballot box.
Whether through hard-hitting campaigning, or through soft power and influence in campaigning against the indiscriminate targeting of young black men through racial profiling via stop and search, Simon’s genius has been in using disruptive methods.
His knighthood is also symbolic on a deeper level: it is encouraging to see the Government recognising the contributions of those who have disagreed with them in the past and those who are currently campaigning to create positive change in society, often at odds with the Government itself.
Look no further than the inspirational Nimco Ali being awarded an OBE. One of our country’s leading feminist and social activists, Nimco has used her no-nonsense title of “chief fanny defender” to change the way the Government tackles female genital mutilation , and has kept the pressure on by calling for further action by policymakers — actions that are required to protect our most vulnerable young women in the UK and abroad.
Colleen Amos, a member of the Windrush generation, was awarded an OBE for her campaign to tackle the under-achievement of young men of African-Caribbean heritage. By founding the Amos Bursary, she has transformed the lives of countless young people by helping them secure professional careers and developing them into our country’s future leaders.