On 7th September 2017, newly elected Rosie Duffield Labour Member for Parliament for Canterbury used her Maiden Speech in Parliament during the European Union (Withdrawal) Debate to highlight online abuse.
It is a great privilege to make my maiden speech as part of this special and important debate. Many people—especially me—were completely stunned on the morning of 9 June to wake up and find that a new red dot had appeared on the previously entirely blue political map of Kent. I am still recovering from the shock, but am also determined to bring as much positive difference as I possibly can during my time in this place.
Before I speak a little more about my constituency, I want to mention the so-called “trolling” of my, mostly female, colleagues over the summer. I have already experienced a fair amount of trolling myself. This ranges from ill-informed, badly researched articles published as fact to unpleasant personal messages late at night, and vile, vitriolic insults from a small, but persistent, handful of activists from other parties posted online.
I acknowledge the efforts being made by the inspirational women in Parliament who are working hard to raise this issue and are fighting against it even though that usually results in much more abuse being thrown their way. I want to make special mention of my friend, the Newham councillor Seyi Akiwowo, who has endured, fought back against and now campaigns against the lowest form of racial abuse; and, of course, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary, who has shown incredible dignity and remarkable strength in the face of the most unacceptable and disgusting abuse over her decades in this House.
Groups such as Glitch UK* and Reclaim the Internet, led by my colleague my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and many of my other friends and colleagues in this House, are deserving of our support. We must continue to fight against this and highlight the problem; it is entirely possible to engage in passionate political debate without resorting to name-calling, death threats and abusive language. Let us restore respect and manners to our online behaviour.
As the first woman ever to have been elected in Canterbury and as a single mother, I want to be a champion for equality not only for women, but for the disabled, people of every ethnic and racial background, the young and the old, the LGBT community and people of all faiths and none. It is a scandal that in this day and age there is still inequality in pay and discrimination in many forms. All such prejudice has no place in our society; I will challenge and fight it wherever I find it.
You can watch Rosie’s full speech on YouTube
It is quite befitting that Glitch!UK was mentioned during the European Union (Withdrawal) Debate given that it was a video of speech Seyi made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that later went viral and the online abuse started. Thank you Rosie for highlighting online abuse in your Maiden Speech, supporting Glitch!UK and name checking us in Parliament.
*Cool fact: this means Glitch!UK is now in hansard- official Parliament document forever and ever!
After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took these actions and on of them was to meet with the headteacher of St. Winiefride’s RC School.
James and I were keen to hear the school’s side of the story and put forward our view for how they could move forward to cover Black History Month in a more holistic way.
On the morning of the 31st October we arrived at St. Winefride’s and were greeted by Paul Underwood the Headteacher of the school, we were also introduced to the Deputy Headteacher, School Governors including the Chair of Governors, a parent governor and a representative from the diocese.
The meeting was cordial and we were given a background to the incident in question. During the meeting we were shown a portfolio of Black History Month activities that had been planned for this year and told about successful BHM events that had happened in previous years. There was the sense that this incident had shocked and embarrassed the school and the reputational damage would be very hard to live down despite work done in previous years. Seyi and I set out our initial reaction to what had happened and the need for us to speak up about this incident as elected representatives. We also offered advice about how this might be avoided in the future, how to embed diversity, intersectionality and black history throughout the curriculum and the year. James and I also spoke about how the school could work to become a lead in delivering quality UK Black History , working with the local community, parents and teachers. To their credit the school were very receptive to our ideas and will follow up on some of these. They are reviewing their procedures to avoid a similar incident in the future.
Although these measures could not take away from what occurred it did show consideration and understanding of the situation and a need to repair trust with parents. We cannot say what the outcome of any investigation on the teacher will be and it isn’t our place to pass judgement here. But we came away with a sense the school wants to work with us and move past this incident. They also, crucially, do not want a repeat of what happened.
Before leaving the school we were given a tour, where we met a number of students and their teachers. Like most schools in Newham, St. Winefride’s has a diverse school population and there was, on first impressions, an indication the school sought to reflect and celebrate that.
On a separate but related note please consider signing this petition to have Black History taught in schools.
After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took the following actions:
- We wrote joint statement expressing our disappointment
- We wrote to Sir Robin Wales asking for an urgent meeting to discuss relaunching Newham Black History Month
- We wrote to the Headteacher of St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School asking to meet (we will be meeting tomorrow morning).
- We’ve organised an open event with Paula Perry, Co-Author of UK Black History teaching guide on Monday 13th November.
Through social media, emails and phone calls we know many, many residents are interested in this and are keen to be kept updated. We’ll do our very best to share regular updates.
On Thursday 26th October, Councillor James Beckles and I met with the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales and the Cabinet member for Equalities, Tahmina Rahman. Ahead of our meeting we prepared a PowerPoint presentation, Newham Black History Month 2018-2022 Plan with a plan for reinstating Newham Black History Month through some quick wins and long term planning. This was presented to both the Mayor and Tahmina. At the heart of our presentation was a draft set of ideas for a five year plan which if implemented would make the preparation, commissioning and delivery of Black History Month in Newham part of the Council’s work and involving the community. The Cabinet had a week before agreed to set up a working group to explore how best to celebrate Black History Month in the future. This was a positive step but to go further the group will need buy-in at both political and leadership level, both points Seyi and I raised.
We set out how best we could work with this new working group, one of many suggestions was to make it an “action group” so it would be focused and proactive with clear objectives around the delivery of a growing and sustainable model that would mean Black History Month in Newham is relevant, educational and informative.
It won’t be an easy task but me and Seyi are prepared to play our part in getting this group off the ground, developing a plan that is inclusive, informative and more importantly steers us away from the misconceptions held by some about what Black History Month is and should be about.
Two years ago a small group including myself, James, Darren Steer and Rokhsana Fiaz, held a well attended Black History Month discussion. We did that on a very limited budget with good will from UEL/Birkbeck and high profile speakers. It just took will and commitment. We are hoping for the same now going forward. Just imagine what more a local authority could achieve, not just with financial resources and leadership but via a range of partnerships.
In terms of next steps the action group has been tasked to set objectives for Newham Black History Month and we’re waiting to hear from Tahmina and the Mayor, hopefully this week. We will do our very best to ensure that Newham Black History Month is another legacy we can be proud of in our borough.
It was extremely disappointing and upsetting to read that a primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month. As local black councillors and having grown up in one of the most diverse boroughs in the UK it was surprising that a teacher had not taken the time to research appropriate and effective ways to celebrate Black History Month and educate their pupils.
Cllrs. Seyi Akiwowo and James Beckles
“This will change the way people view online abuse,” Newham Councillor Seyi Akiwowo, who was targeted by racist trolls, told BuzzFeed News.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today committed to treat online hate crime as seriously as offline offences, while taking into account the potential impact on the wider community as well as the victim.
It has published new public statements explaining how it will prosecute hate crime and support victims in England and Wales. They confirm that those who experience online abuse on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, or sexuality will be treated the same as victims of the same crimes offline.
The CPS said it was making the change “in recognition of the growth of hate crime perpetrated using social media”.
In 2015/16 it completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions, the highest number it has ever recorded.
Earlier this year, Seyi Akiwowo, a councillor in the London borough of Newham, was targeted by racist trolls after her speech on refugees went viral. She told BuzzFeed News at the time that she was shocked by the number of racist comments she received online, such as “Who’s this monkey?”, messages saying she should “lynch herself”, and messages calling her “Harambe’s cousin”.
A day after she received the abuse in February, 26-year-old Akiwowo from London created Glitch, an online community that works with young women and girls to end online violence. “This was my response to the abuse I received,” she told BuzzFeed News. She said the biggest highlight has been talking to young people at Festival of Education in June.
You can read the full article by Victoria Sansusi here
Granted local politics isn’t as sexy as national or even international politics but it is so, so, so important- yes I am a little bit bias here. But we can agree the closer something is to you the more impact and influence it will have on you right? That’s exactly the same for local politics. If we look at how far right groups increase their political power they start of with gaining as many local council seats as possible, local politics is super important. Groups like young women, particularly women of colour, the disabled are underrepresented in politics and for democracy to truly work our democracy, our parliament, our assemblies and our councils must reflect our diverse society- at the very least the other 50% of the UK population.
Many people say they want to get involved in local politics but are unsure how to. So here are 10 easy ways you can. Let me know how you get on.
1) Go on to your local council website (Google is your helpful friend).
2) Find out which ward you live in. You can usually find out by entering your postcode on the Council’s website.
3) Find out which councillors represent you. In Newham and in most wards in London there are three councillors representing a ward.
4) Follow your local councillors and Member of Parliament (MP) on social media, get clued up on what they are doing. Do they have a blog or Facebook page communicating what they are up to?
5) Email your local councillor and MP and introduce yourself – network, get on their radar and go meet them. Councillors have drop in surgeries or you can email them and ask to meet with them for coffee. I would ask them what they have been doing on the council over the last few years and what their priorities are.
6) What’s one local policy topic you are interested in or would like to know more about? If you’re a young person and you’re concerned about the closure of libraries and youth clubs ask your councillors what their opinion on this is and what they are going to do about it. If you’re concerned about the environment, ask your councillors what your council is doing to reduce fly-tipping and littering. If you’re concerned about health services such as mental health, ask your councillors how they are going to ensure the Conservative Government funding cuts will not impact on local mental health services.
Also ask your councillors about community forum meetings that you can attend so you can stay plugged into what’s happening locally, meet your neighbours and stay in the loop with what your representatives are doing.
7) Send this challenge to one friend to do.
8) Submit a question on a topic important to you to your council leader/ Mayor to be answered at a full council meeting.
9) Register to vote. As soon as you turn 18, register to vote. Encourage family members over the age of 18 to register to vote. If you don’t register to vote you’re not on local political parties’ radar so many political activists/ councillors/ MPs won’t bother to knock on your door to ask our things are going in your area.
10) Explore the top 3 political parties website, what their policy priorities, do you agree? Why? Be brave to share on your thoughts online.
Fiona Asiedu is an Oxford University graduate in Experimental Psychology. Fiona dreamed of doing her Masters in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University. In order to fulfil this dream, she set up a crowdfunding page, which she shared on social media. A friend of Fiona’s quote tweeted Stormzy in Fiona’s tweet asking for Stormzy to help with her campaign. This is when Fiona’s dream became true, Master Stormzy donated £9,000 to her crowdfunding page to reach her target.
Stormzy donating the money can inspire others to helpful towards others. As for Fiona’s she is now using the extra money to set up a foundation to help others from a low- income background who have secure a place in the top universities. This gives other students like Fiona to have to support to find their university fees .Stormzy and Fiona both used their platform to demonstrate positivity.
Finally someone political cares for young people. Jeremy Corbyn (the leader of the Labour Party), partners up with one of the most influential grime artists JME to educate young people on the importance of registering to vote. JME is someone that young people look up to; he has been an integral member within the grime scene for many years and for Jeremy Corbyn to take interest is a good sign of hope for the United Kingdom. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t only team up with JME, but he also had a genuine conversation about the reasons why young people are less likely to vote. This already shows a leader who is concerned about the youth and is using his platform positively to create solutions to encourage the youth to register to vote in order for the youth’s voice to be heard. It is inspiring to see Labour’s political leader taking such an interest in young people. It shows that change is about to happen for young people. Both using their platform positively to educate the young and inspire the political leaders to connect with young people.
Artist Akon is known for his musical talents and his hit songs ‘lonely’, ‘belly dancer’ and ‘smack that’. Besides his musical talent, Akon started a charity in 2014 called ‘Akon Lighting Africa’.
In Africa approximately, there are 600 million people still living without electricity. As a child, Akon knew the realities of not be able to access power this is why this project is important so other people don’t go through what he went through. To tackle this problem this charity aims to provide solar powers in African communities that lack electricity. Also, Akon and his two co-founders have opened a solar academy to help train and educate engineers to produce solar energy in Africa. This charity gives opportunities for Africans to devise new innovative and technical solutions for their local community. Akon Lighting Africa gives hope to Africa, that change is coming and Akon using his platform positively allows the world to see the good work he is doing.