Commonwealth Games race row as Birmingham leaders sign letter condemning lack of diversity
An open letter criticising the organisers of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham about a lack of diversity has been signed by prominent figures from across the city.
Endorsed by community representatives from across Birmingham, the letter challenges officials organising the Commonwealth Games to take seriously concerns about unequal representation at the top of the planned event’s power chain.
Threatening the high-profile event with the risk of losing wide-ranging community support, the hard-hitting document has been signed by 51 public figures from the city’s media, political, arts and sporting sectors.
Although the signatories express disappointment at the committee organising the Games for their response to “institutionalised racism”, they offer to “support and assist” Birmingham 2022 to resolve the problems, demanding answers to ten key questions about fairer representation.
According to those backing the latter, primary concerns highlight the executive team and Board organising the Games not reflecting the racial diversity of either the host city or the Commonwealth.
They also want to know what percentage of jobs, contracts and procurement will be directed towards socially deprived communities and those with high Black and Asian populations.
Leading city councillors, business leaders, media representatives and race equality campaigners are among the individuals to back the public call to action.
They point out that the recent and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests have shone a much-needed light on racism and the absence of fair representation in the region’s corridors of power, noting that this renewed awareness should’ve been a wake-up call for organisations and bodies claiming to represent diverse citizens.
Letter coordinator Ammo Talwar MBE, CEO of Punch Records, said it was “shameful” that the Games had so far failed to reflect the diversity of either the host city or the Commonwealth, citing census figures identifying nearly half of Birmingham’s population as non-white.
Ammo told I Am Birmingham: “We put the power in the people through an open letter primarily because we were all tired. Tired of corporate spin, tired of broken promises around community engagement, tired of poor representation and tired blatant ignorance.
“The citizens of Birmingham, the diverse business’s and community champions are here to engage with the 2022 games with respect, equity and justice.
“The 10 point plan is a serious call to action for the Organising committee to work on, with pace, with respect, with accountability and with diversity at the core.
“No more slogans, just actions. Most of us will be around in 2023 so its legacy is essential for future generations. To put it simple, Birmingham is diverse, the OC needs to reflect its host city.
Let the collaboration and real communication begin”
Calling for change
The letter, addressed to Ian Reid and John Crabtree, states: “We, the undersigned, are writing to express our disappointment at the insubstantial 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 document goes on to remind organisers that “the 2022 Games are taking place in our name, and we all act as its ambassadors, both in person and online.”
“Following the statement released by Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid, and co-signed by John Crabtree (Chair) dated 10 July 2020, 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.
“The city-region’s diverse communities and businesses have contributed to the wealth, creativity and growth of the region for half a century.
“We feel this is the real legacy for the children of the Commonwealth; the legacy which won the Games for the region (being young, digital and diverse) is now being sidelined.
“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.”
The stern message then includes a call “on the accountable party to commit to a speedy practical process of change and intervention”, and demands answers to several questions including the following:
“1. What are your smart targets and KPIs around race, gender, disability and social inclusion representation within your workforce?
“2. Where can the public see your targets audit your progress against collected data, and more importantly; identify who is accountable?
“3. 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 our Black & minority communities of Birmingham & beyond?
“4. 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?
“5. How will you go beyond “widely advertising” roles to representationally hiring staff, and what impact will this have on regional skills and employment?
“6. How much money is going to be ring-fenced for any additional onboarding: e.g training, recruitment, and who will be responsible and accountable?
“7. Internal review is not best practice. Will a credible, external and independent equalities review with a racial equality lens take place this year?
“8. 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?
“9. 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?
“10. How will a representational number of people with Commonwealth heritage from Birmingham be involved in this process, at a senior level?”
The letter is signed by the following public figures and community representatives from across the city:
Rt Hon Jacqui Smith
Ewan Mackey Deputy Leader & The whole Conservative Group – Birmingham City Council
Anita Bhalla OBE – Combined Authority Leadership Commission Digbeth Estate
Lisa Trickett – Chair, WMCA Overview & Scrutiny Committee
Councillor Sharon Thompson – Labour Cabinet member BCC
Councillor John Cotton – Labour Cabinet, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Paulette Hamilton – Labour Cabinet member, Birmingham City Council
Councillor John O’Shea – Labour Cabinet member, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE – Labour Cabinet member, Birmingham City Council
Lincoln Moses MBE – Holdford Sports Hub
Mashkura Begum – Executive Director, Saathi House
Aftab Rahman – Director, Legacy West Midlands
Professor Monder Ram – Director, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship
Monica Coke – Community Advocate
Joy Warmington – CEO, Birmingham Race Action Partnerships
Saidul Haque – CEO, Citizens UK Birmingham
Birgit Kehrer – CEO, Change Kitchen
Shale Ahmed – CEO, Aspire and Succeed CIC
EDUCATION & TRAINING:
Noel Dunne CEO – Creative alliance
Mark Hart – Aston Business School/Enterprise Research Centre
Derrin Kent – Chair of Birmingham & Solihull Training Providers Network
SPORT & HEALTH:
Karen Creavin – CEO, The Active Well Being Society
Professor Asif Ahmed – Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Health, Aston University
Sam Porter – The Active Well Being Society Board
Ifraz Ahmed – CEO, Asian Today Newspaper
Marc Reeves – Midlands Editor-in-chief, Reach plc
Adam Yosef – Editor-in-chief, I Am Birmingham
Indi Doel – CEO, Desi Blitz Media
Bobby Friction – Radio presenter, BBC Asian Network
Denise Maxwell – Photojournalist and Director, Lensi Photography
Vimal Korpal – Radio presenter, journalist and actor
Marverine Cole – Journalist, Broadcaster & academic
Tara Tomes – Founder, East Village PR Agency
ARTS & HERITAGE:
Ammo Talwar MBE – CEO, Punch Records
Tracey Barrington – Chair, Active Arts Erdington
Mukhtar Dar – Kalaboration Arts
Antonio Aakeel – Award-winning actor
Mohammed Ali – Artist and social activist, Aerosol Arabic
Debbie Kermode – CEO of the Midlands Arts Centre (mac Birmingham)
Tru Powell – CEO, Aston Performing Arts
Garry Stewart – Director,- Recognise Black History
Joe Morgan – Regional Secretary GMB
David Broom – General Secretary of National Education Union Birmingham
Ravi Subramanian – Unison Regional Secretary
Rosie Ginday – CEO, Miss Macaroon
Kash Latiffs – CEO, Latifs Birmingham
Mike Best – Colmore Row Business Improvement District
Tyson Leon – Leon Group security
Joel Blake – President of the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce
Daina Chrouch – Special Adviser, BAME Business All Party Parliamentary Group, Federation of Small Business Lead
Andy Bailey – CEO, Enterprise Data Systems
Bob Ghosh – K4 Architects Director
Reverend David Butterworth – Interfaith Workplace Chaplain at the NEC Group
Amrick Singh – Nishkam Centre