Original article published on 7th July 2019
By Harris Bokhari
It was only last month that we finally had the first black women appointed to lead an Oxbridge college. It has taken over nine hundreds years for these elite institutions to elect Sonita Alleyne as the next master of Jesus College, Cambridge. This has taken far too long.
The need for change was highlighted days before this announcement, by the University of Oxford promising a “sea-change” in admissions, with plans for a quarter of their students to come from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2023, many who will be made up from BAME communities.
Therefore, there is no better time for us to celebrate the great work that has been done to reform another former stronghold of elitism, the Honours list, and proudly highlight some of the great contributions made by our BAME communities who have been recognised.
There is no-one more noteworthy in this year’s list, who has transformed the lives of hundreds of young men of British African Caribbean heritage who have the academic ability to attend university but are held back by other factors, than Colleen Amos.
Awarded an OBE, Colleen is a member of the Windrush generation who turned her passion for education and tackling underachievement by founding the Amos Bursary. Through her expert skills of bringing together elite universities and our leading international firms, providing internships and personal development programmes, she has transformed the live of countless young men to secure professional careers and by developing them into our country’s future leaders.
It is also heartwarming for me to see the number of young members of our BAME communities, especially women, who are making an impact not only in this country but across the world. Look no further than the inspirational Nimco Ali being awarded an OBE. One of our country’s leading feminist and social activists who co-founded the Daughters of Eve, a survivor-led organisation that has helped transform the approach to ending FGM by offering holistic support to survivors of the practice.
However we can only have a truly reflective and inclusive honours list when our central BAME reformers receive the highest level of awards; and this year that was reflected by awarding of a knighthood to Sir Simon Woolley. Awarded the GG2 Pride of Britain Award in 2013, Simon is one of our country’s leading civil rights campaigners, founding Operation Black Vote over 20 years ago, he has transformed the way BAME communities engage in our democratic progress.
The recognition of Sir Simon, Colleen and Nimco sends a strong message about how diverse and inclusive our honour list has become and as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan highlighted recently: “diversity make us stronger” as a nation.
But there is also so much more we can and should do and we can only do this together, so remember to keep on nominating our BAME heroes at http://www.gov.uk/honours and ensure our representation doesn’t become something to highlight but simply the true reflection of the great contributions BAME communities make in the UK.