North Lanarkshire Council hosts its first Black Lives Matter conference

North Lanarkshire Council recently hosted its first Black Lives Matter conference.

Building on the work of the council’s cross-party BLM working group, the conference was chaired by Councilor Heather Brannan-McVey who is the council’s equalities champion.

Councilors Paul Kelly and Junaid Ashraf, both also members of the BLM working group, also participated as did the council’s chief executive Des Murray.

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Keynote speakers included Scotland’s first black professor Sir Geoff Palmer and Bushra Iqbal MBE, founder of the North Lanarkshire Muslim Women’s Alliance.

Representing young people at the conference were guests from Cumbernauld Academy who spoke about their experience of racism and racial tolerance in North Lanarkshire and introduced a short film featuring fellow pupils sharing their experience and the effect of the BLM movement.

Co-chair of the group, Councilor Junaid Ashraf, said: “Our aim is to tackle all forms of racial injustice and discrimination across North Lanarkshire.

“We started by carrying out research into the experiences of the area’s BAME people across different areas of life including employment, housing, discrimination, hate crime and wellbeing.

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“Our priorities are promoting diversity and challenging discrimination through the school curriculum, and proactively improving equality in employment for current and potential council employees.

“We’re encouraging everyone – especially representatives from minority ethnic communities, to ensure we meet their needs in future policy and services.”

Another aspect of the council’s work to support BLM is the development of support materials and learning resources for schools which looks at the history of slavery and its connections to North Lanarkshire.

In August 2020 councillors unanimously endorsed a motion supporting BLM, becoming one of the first local authorities in the UK to formally back the movement.

The motion reads: “The council recognizes the objectives of the BLM movement; further understands the racial tensions which have been heightened – and brought sharply into focus – by the horrific death of George Floyd in the United States, resulting in the protests across the world .”

The motion also reaffirmed the stance that there is no place for racism cannot be tolerated while acknowledging that many residents of North Lanarkshire continue to suffer racism and racial inequality every day.

The full conference is available to view on the council’s YouTube channel.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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