Representatives from the Black, Asian and White community across Birmingham has challenged leaders organising the 2022 Commonwealth Games to take their concerns about lack of diversity or risk losing community support.
An open letter, signed by prominent figures across the city, offers to “support and assist” Birmingham 2022 to resolve the issue, and poses ten questions they want answered.
They say they are concerned the executive team and Board organising the Games does not reflect the racial diversity of either the host city or the Commonwealth – and rather than address those concerns head-on, the leadership has, they say, produced an “insubstantial response” that is “disappointing.”
Among their questions, the signatories ask which of the current Games board members are prepared to “stand down voluntarily” to make way for Black representatives.
They also ask what percentage of jobs, contracts and procurement will go to Black, Asian and socially deprived communities, and how this will be achieved.
Leading city councillors, race campaigners, business leaders and media representatives are among the signatories to publicly express their disappointment at the response so far from Birmingham 2022 to the issue.
Letter coordinator Ammo Talwar who chairs a schools trust and record label in the city, said it was “shameful” that the Games did not reflect the diversity of either the host city (nearly half of the population is Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic) or the Commonwealth – and that when this was highlighted by activists, communities and BirminghamLive, little positive action resulted.
The letter starts: “We are writing to express our disappointment at the responses from the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee 2022 towards the issues of perceived institutionalised racism and representational parity.
“We are also offering our support and assistance in dealing with these issues, as they affect businesses, communities and athletes alike.
“The 2022 Games are taking place in our name, and we all act as its ambassadors.”
Their retort comes after the Games’ cheif executive Ian Reid and chairman John Crabtree wrote their open letter to the city to outline their plans on diversity and inclusivity, and to quell criticism about appointments to top positions.
In response to our article, Mr Reid and Mr Crabtree wrote they intended to review the organisational structure and decision making governance of Birmingham 2022 to “ensure it is more reflective of the people in our region” and pledged the jobs recruitment process over the coming two years “represents and reflects the world we live in.”
They also pledged to bring on board new talent at all levels of management and deliver an “organisation-wide action plan” on inclusivity.
The signatories of the response say the Birmingham 2022 letter showed “it is clear that those driving the Games need urgent support to engage with communities and businesses, to make the Games truly inclusive and set a benchmark for future events.”
They say they feel the region’s diverse, young and digital communities “which won the Games” are now being “sidelined.”
The letter states: “The Games team must assess their involvement and complicity with systemic issues and privilege, and commit to transparency and action, with speed and a sense of civic mission.
“Words count for little if they are not followed by actions, to which named officers are held accountable. We call on the accountable party to commit to a speedy practical process of change and intervention.”
Mr Talwar, who coordinated the action, said: “Growing up in Birmingham, I expected it to be a city of fairness and equality, and that everyone could have a fair shot when opportunity knocks.
“What’s happening to the citizens of Birmingham, it’s business community and diverse local communities with regards to the Commonwealth Games is shameful.
“We need action at a pace, with clear accountability, but also conducted with respect.
“This is really simple – Birmingham is diverse, the Birmingham Games urgently needs to ensure its diversity.”
The challenging letter asks for answers to ten specific questions, which are shared in full below.
- What are your smart targets and KPIs around race, gender, disability and social inclusion representation within your workforce?
- Where can the public see your targets, audit your progress against collected data, and identify who is accountable?
- Considering the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, and reflection on public policy, opinion and justice here in the UK, which board members will stand down voluntarily, to make way for new voices from the Black communities of Birmingham & beyond?
- What percentage of jobs, contracts and procurement will go to our region’s Black, Asian and socially deprived communities, and how will you achieve this?
- How will you go beyond “widely advertising” roles to representationally hiring staff, and what impact will this have on regional skills and employment?
- How much money is going to be ring-fenced for any additional onboarding: e.g training, recruitment, and who will be responsible and accountable?
- Internal review is not best practice. Will a credible, external and independent equalities review with a racial equality lens take place?
- Will you confirm this review will be given authority to inform and reform recruitment, training and policymaking, prioritising inclusive leadership programmes to ensure this is never repeated in our city-region?
- What actions will be taken to win back public confidence, and how can the city-region’s diverse communities be involved now and in the future?
- How will a representational number of people with Commonwealth heritage be involved in this process, at a senior level?
The letter is signed by the following representatives and individuals:
Former MP Jacqui Smith, who chairs University Hospitals Birmingham, Sandwell Children’s Trust and the Jo Cox Foundation; Mark Hart, of Aston Business School and Enterprise Research Centre; Marc Reeves, Midlands editor in chief, Reach plc
Nicola Fleet-Milne, chair, and Millie Wilby, chief executive of Colmore BID
Debbie Kermode – CEO of the MAC
Joel Blake – President of the commonwealth chamber of commerce
Joe Morgan, regional secretary, GMB union; Ewan Mackey, deputy leader of the city’s Conservatives, and the whole Conservative Group, Birmingham City Council; Kash Latif, chief executive, Latifs & Sons
Lincoln Moses MBE; Ifraz Ahmed, chief executive, Asian Today; Lisa Trickett, councillor and chair of West Midlands Combined Authority overview and scrutiny committee
Bobby Friction, radio presenter; David Broom, general secretary of National Education Union, Birmingham; Tracey Barrington, chair, Active Arts Erdington
Maverine Cole, journalist broadcaster and academic; Rev David Butterworth, interfaith workplace chaplain at the NEC Group; Mukhtar Dar, artistic director, Kalaboration Arts
Denise Maxwell, photojournalist; Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety & Equalities; Tyson Leon, of Leon Group security
Aftab Rahman, director Legacy West Midlands;Tru Powell, chief executive, Aston Performing Arts; Amrick Singh, of Nishkam Centre
Noel Dunne, chief executive, Creative Alliance; Karen Creavin, chief executive, The Active Wellbeing Society
Prof Monder Ram, director, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship; Daina Chrouch, special adviser to the BAME Business All Party Parliamentary Group, Federation of Small Businesses lead; Councillor Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet member for Homes and Neighbourhoods
Adam Yousef, chief executive, I Am Birmingham; Ravi Subramanian, Unison Regional Secretary; Mohammed Ali, artist and social activist; Andy Bailey, chief executive, Enterprise Data Systems; Derrin Kent, chair of Birmingham and Solihull Training Providers Network
Mashkura Begum, executive director, Saathi House; Monica Coke, community advocate; Rosie Ginday, chief executive, Miss Macaroons
Garry Stewart, director, Recognise Black History; Anita Bhalla OBE, West Midlands Combined Authority leadership commission; Digbeth Estate
Antonio Aakeel, actor; Joy Warmington, chief executive, Birmingham Race Action Partnerships; Ammo Talwar MBE, chief executive, Punch Records
Saidul Haque, of Citizens UK Birmingham; Cllr Paulette Hamilton, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for Health and Social Care; Birgit Kehrer, chief executive, Change Kitchen
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for transport and environment; Prof Asif Ahmed, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Health, Aston University; Indi Doel, chief executive, Desi Blitz media
Cllr John O’Shea, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for street scene and parks; Shale Ahmed, of Aspire and Suceed
Earlier this month David Grevemberg, cheif executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and a Board member of Birmingham 2022, said there was “definitely a long way to go on systemic issues.”
He added: “The state of urgency and awareness brought forward by the Black Lives Matter movement is a real call to action…we as a movement are very supportive of that.
“This has shone a light on people’s sentiment and the way people feel about the situation, but also getting the organisation to look very closely within itself to be fully representative.
“This is not a surprising conversation, it’s a necessary conversation and one that needs action. I would hope people will judge us on the ability to take action now.”