The date of the declaration is purposeful, marking one year since the murder of George Floyd, a black man who died during arrest by four Minneapolis police officers, one of which knelt on his neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
George Floyd’s death sparked protests against systemic racism and police brutality, which quickly spread across the US, the UK and the rest of the world with the Black Lives Matter movement.
St Helens Borough is home to people from many diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Council leadership, representatives from the borough’s community safety partnership, and members of the council’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff network gathered safely at St Helens Town Hall to sign ‘racism stops with us’ pledges, supporting Black Lives Matter and the council’s long-standing #BetterThanThat equality campaign.
The staff BAME network provides advice and feedback on the council’s approach to supporting its staff from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Layla Davies, the council’s Lead Resettlement Officer and Chair of the BAME staff network, said:
“I established the BAME staff network to help drive progress and to create a more inclusive culture. An environment where all individuals are able to thrive irrespective of race or ethnicity.
“The commitment of our Chief Executive and Council Leader demonstrates a desire to confront the challenges that currently exist. As a group we offer peer support between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff across the council, and a learning environment in which all staff feel comfortable, respected, and valued. Membership of the group is open to any Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic member of staff and staff who support the aims of the group.”
The council recognises that it must:
- As a major employer, ensure that the organisation is representative of the population we serve, welcoming, safe and inclusive, and that BAME staff have equality of opportunity to develop and succeed.
- As a lead organisation within the community, ensure services are accessible to all residents.
- As a partner in the Liverpool City Region Race Equality Programme, use its commitment to race equality to help identify and adopt best practice, and encourage other organisations and stakeholders to follow.
Aside from the declaration and the continuation of the #BetterThanThat campaign, council services are coordinating a range of other events to mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyds’ death, flying the No Place For Hate flag at half-mast above St Helens Town Hall on the day.
St Helens Libraries will be recommending a number of books from BAME authors, and the council will be premiering the work of local creative artist and performer Alexis Maxwell, which utilises the voices and stories of some of the borough’s black community, commissioned by St Helens Borough Council’s Library Service as part of their award-winning Cultural Hubs: Arts in Libraries programme.
“It’s been an amazing experience to share and document stories from Black members of our community. I’ve heard about the history of diversity in the borough, and it warms me to know how far we’ve come. Inspired by the participants’ words, I’ve made something that captures our hopes for St Helens moving forward. Welcome to St Helens is a film that celebrates the obstacles we’ve overcome and what we hope will be a bright future for the generations that come after us.”
The project – announced during Black History Month – forms part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund-backed ‘St Helens Oral History Project’ which will see more than 100 oral and video history interviews conducted with a wide range and diverse mix of individuals to reflect and represent the different communities that call St Helens Borough home.
If you’re interested in getting involved, or have any questions, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. No commitment is required to express interest, and requests for anonymity can be facilitated.
Council Leader, Councillor David Baines said:
“The importance of creating an inclusive place where all people are treated fairly cannot be overstated.
“As a council we believe it is important to lead by example which is why we are on this momentous day announcing our Race Equality Declaration Of Intent, supporting and embodying the vision of our Borough Strategy of working together for a better borough, with people at the heart of everything we do.
“This declaration will guide us as we look to develop the strengths and skills of our workforce and members, enable them to communicate, listen, engage, and work in positive partnership with our residents, communities, local organisations, and partners, recognising the strengths and skills in our community, helping us to meet the diverse needs of our communities by delivering accessible and responsive services for everyone.”
Councillor Jeanie Bell, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, and the council’s Member Champion for Equalities, said:
“We have an important role to play in tackling race injustice and inequality and driving forward positive change. Put simply, we must do the right thing for our BAME employees and residents and encourage the partners we work with to do the same.
“The strength of our borough lies in our communities coming together and no one should feel left out or have opportunities taken away from them because of their race. We would encourage everyone, whether you’re a business or an individual, to make the promise to support our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the borough. Make the pledge that racism will stop with us – now is the time to act.”
For more information and to sign the pledge, visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/stopracism.
If you’ve been affected by racial hate crime visit www.stophateuk.org.uk to find support and learn how and where to report it.