How Wales will ensure 2021 will be a full ‘Year of support’ for BAME individuals

The Welsh Government is collaborating with race equality action groups to create a brighter future for the people of Wales

Protestors call for equality for all BAME people in Wales
Since the Black Lives Matter protest in Cardiff on June 14 the Welsh Government have emphasised race equality throughout policy

Thousands of protestors gathered on Cooper’s Field in Bute park on the 14 of June 2020. Socially distanced and masked up, the roar of the masses could be heard from Central Station. They were all shouting the same thing, ‘Black Lives Matter!’.

In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death back in May, Governments around the globe found themselves facing an influx of outraged protestors storming their capital cities. The outpouring of grief for individuals such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery spoke volumes for the mood of the moment, the mood for change.

The Welsh Government has been one of the fastest in responding to these public outcries and has shown they are ready to embrace change. Not only are they embracing it, they are revolutionising their policy making process. For the first time, minority groups are leading the conversations on equality in Wales.

Finding the voice

Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt says, “It will no longer be a case of politicians and officials thinking they know what’s best.” Policy making will now focus on the lived experience of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals living in Wales.”

On November 27 the Government committed £115,580 to BAME communities across Wales. This will be distributed across 25 groups in the next year, the Deputy Minister says this funding will ensure the groups engage with their own representatives across Wales and contribute to decision making.

Key players, from left Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt, Black Lives Matter Wales Campaign Manager Cindy Ikie, and Founder of Race Council Cymru Uzo Iwobi, a few members of the task force brought in by the government to advise on policy

The Government has also been working with larger communities on all equality initiatives they’ve introduced since the summer. Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign manager for Wales, Cindy Ikie says BLM is heavily involved in the work the Government is doing. She says, ”Black Lives Matter Wales is very often, if not always invited to a forum of sorts, in relation to this matter.” Black Lives Matter Wales has over 12 regional leaders across Wales and has grown in force since summer, launching their manifesto on Twitter earlier this week.

The Government has also been supporting grassroots groups like Race Council Cymru. Representing over 200 ethnic groups across Wales the group has led Welsh Black History Month for the last 20 years. This year the government has committed £40,000 to support the group launching Black History Cymru 365. Making 2021 a year-long celebration of black history.

The group’s founder Uzo Iwobi (OBE) speaking on behalf of the community says, “We shouldn’t be wheeled out like a jack in the box one month of the year.” The founder believes black history is welsh history and it should be black history life, 365 days of the year, every year.

We shouldn’t be wheeled out like a jack in the box one month of the year

Uzo Iwobi OBE

Whats happened since June? Here’s a break down of all policies implemented and initiatives launched since Summer

Why now?

Making a link between the public outcry of justice for black lives in the summer and the recent emphasis from the Welsh Government on equality in Wales isn’t hard. However, it is not just the social zeitgeist we find ourselves in that had led to such drastic policy reinvention.

The Deputy Minister points towards the work of Professor Ogbonna of Cardiff University Business school in the COVID-19 BAME Socio-economic Sub Group Report for the answer. The report released in June states, “Members of BAME communities are disproportionately contracting and dying from the Covid-19 disease.” The report links the socio-economic circumstances BAME individuals living in Wales find themselves in, with a higher chance of contracting the virus.

Cindy Ikie of BLM Wales says the report made the impact of Covid-19 all the more personal. She says, “Once you started putting the statistics together with the actual lived experience it all became too real.” She says as the movement progressed she realised the one thing they were shouting the loudest for was in that very moment, playing out before their eyes.

The Deputy Minister says, this showed exactly where structural and institutional inequalities are found in Wales, the minister believes the report feeds into the governments Race Equality Action plan. “The work in the report highlighted these inequalities found in our housing, our education and our jobs, which is what the Race Equality Action plan will target most.” Uzo Iwobi (OBE) of Race Council Cymru called the Welsh Government’s response, “Courageous, breath-taking and honest.”

To the future

Deputy Minister Jane Hutt noted there are still challenges to be faced when it comes to racism’s presence on social media and populist views growing in some areas of Wales. However, the current Government wants to build a policy infrastructure on equality that is built to last. Looking towards the election next year she says, “We want it to be very difficult for anyone who tries to dismantle it.”

2021 looks like real prospects for change in Wales

Deputy Minister Jane Hutt

Cindy Ikie says the work and investments made by the Government since the summer give her faith that “2021 will look like a year of support for the BAME community.”

The voices calling out for black liberty on Cooper’s Field back in June now echo through the halls of the Senedd. These voices are heard on Zoom calls, in committee meetings and, in action as the Government continues to take unprecedented steps towards a more equal and just Wales.

Alt Cardiff explain the realities faced by BAME individuals at the start of the pandemic here