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Hackney unites for Manchester vigil

posted by: John Page | on: Wednesday, 31 May 2017, 14:15


Fifty people gathered from across Hackney for a candlelit vigil to commemorate the 22 people who died and 59 who were injured in the Manchester bombing.

Organised by Hackney Unites, a borough-wide community coalition working for social justice and equality, the event drew together civic and faith leaders, along with members of the public who stood together for a two minute silence.

Revd. Cathy Bird, one of the organisers, invited everyone present to remember not only those who died in the Manchester Arena attack, but all those across the world who have died and are dying as a result of hatred and intolerance.

Mayor Philip Glanville, Speaker Cllr. Soraya Adejare, Cllr. Sade Etti, Hackney Council’s No Place for Champion, and Cllr. Caroline Selman, Hackney’s Cabinet member for Community Safety, all paid tribute to those who had lost their lives and expressed a determination to ensure that the excellent community relations which exist in Hackney were not undermined by those who might seek to foster disunion and fear.

Local residents Meg Bird and Margaret Greer sang ‘Something Inside So Strong’ and ‘Lean on Me’ as all present were encouraged to stand together in friendship and solidarity.

Rabbi Herschel Gluck said that the “H” of Hackney stood not for “Hatred” but for “Harmony,” and Shula Sheikh, representing the North London Muslim Community Centre, spoke about the need for people of all faiths and none to stand side-by-side and work together to uphold the common values of peace, justice and kindness.

Revd Bird said: “Most people who live in Hackney want to celebrate this place and know that it is a special Borough to live in. The more people of violence try to divide us the more they will simply make us stand together in unity.”

The vigil ended with Jane Holgate, chair of Hackney Unites, reading a statement of unity, which had already been signed by many local organisations and individuals.

John Page, secretary of Hackney Unites urged everyone present to support the Hackney More in Common Community event at Hackney Community College on Saturday 17 June.

Unity statement

Standing Together


Like Manchester, Hackney is a community proud of its diversity. People with heritages from all over the world live here harmoniously, respecting and celebrating our differences.

While we are all too aware that hate incidents have occurred in our community and from time to time distrust can arise, on the whole we are proud of being an inclusive community.

Hackney is a place where all are welcome - old, young, gay, straight, disabled, or not - whatever our ethnicity or religion. We believe that everyone has the opportunity to make a positive contribution.

In the words of Jo Cox MP, murdered a year ago, we have learnt that we have ‘far more in common with each other than the things that divide us’ Tragically she was killed for expressing those views.

We are deeply shocked by the atrocious murders in Manchester on 22 May and we send our solidarity, our tears, and our sympathy to the friends and families of the victims of the attack, as well as our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.

The aim of the violent extremists is to divide us, one against another, stirring up conflict, and inciting anger and hatred between innocent neighbours.

We affirm our determination to stand together against those who promote hatred and division. In particular, we pledge to speak out and act together against hate speech and hate crimes.

We commit to discovering deep and meaningful friendships that defy the artificial divisions that the killers are trying to create.

We appeal to all Hackney people to add their names to this statement, and if you can, to join us, and more than 70 community groups, for the #hackneymoreincommon event at Hackney Community College on Saturday 17 June

 Posted: 31 May 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Hackney - We Choose Hope

posted by: John Page | on: Wednesday, 24 May 2017, 16:35


On 23 May, within one day of the horrendous events in Manchester, the people of Hackney came together for a ‘we choose hope’ event.

Hosted by the local Muslim centre, over 40 people turned up, we discussed how to challenge hatred, and agreed that we would redouble our efforts to make a success of the #hackneymoreincommon events planned for the 17 June.

#Hackneymoreincommon is taking place on 17 June during the day (from 11:30am till 5pm in the grounds of Hackney Community College,). Then from 7:30pm we will be at the ‘Change of Art’ festival at the Amnesty International Action Centre for Human Rights.

Over 70 community groups have signed up to be part of the daytime event, including refugee support groups, Akwaaba and Xenia, the local Volunteer Centre Hackney, London Gypsy and Traveller Unit, the Shoreditch Trust, Turkish/Kurdish organisations Halkevi and Day Mer, Caribbean organisations such as the Caribbean elderly association and Claudia Jones organisation. The local hospice, a women’s haven, the local law centre (there literally are simply too many to mention)

We will also have Hackney Pirates (it wouldn’t be Hackney without the pirates!) and a crèche.

There will be films, food stalls and our good friends from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!

Of the workshops and talks, highlights include Gus John speaking on the legacy of CLR James, and an interfaith forum; ‘faith in the community’.

Campaigning charity Bags of taste will be demonstrating how to make good healthy meals on a limited budget. There will even be two of Hackney’s museums in attendance.

The event has been put together by HOPE not hate, Hackney Unites, Hackney CVS, and a small band of volunteers.

The evening event ‘Change of Art’ aims to be the first of an annual arts festival celebrating that we do indeed have more in common than that which divides us.

It is all good, but we do need a small army of volunteers to help set up, and then to tidy up the College venue. We will be paying reasonable travel costs and buying lunch for volunteers: there are two shifts, morning and afternoon, so you get to spend plenty of time ‘off duty’. If you want to help (and we do need your help) then do drop an email to [email protected].

 Posted: 24 May 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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PROFILE: Owen Jones – Challenging the rising hate in schools

posted by: Safya Khan-Ruf | on: Thursday, 18 May 2017, 10:56


With hate incidents rising, there's a huge demand for HOPE not hate's education workshops in British schools

Banter is not just banter and racist jokes are not okay.

These are some of the issues that Owen Jones discusses with students everyday across the country. At a time when hate incidents in schools are rocketing (according to one recent survey), the head of education for HOPE not hate travels the length and breadth of the UK to teach young people about day-to-day prejudice, discriminatory language, signs of radicalisation and to discuss society’s shared values.

Discussing discrimination

Jones uses a variety of techniques in his classes to keep students’ attention. The workshops – usually taught to sets of 11 – 15-year-olds – combine games and discussions to explore topics such as inequality, explaining that it often starts at birth and can become ’embedded’ within (parts of) society.

“We challenge the class on how they could – even unwittingly – be contributing to these inequalities and prejudices without realising,” Jones says.

He adds that student replies allow him to tailor how he presents the workshop and how far he challenges issues. In one Year 7 class at King Harold Academy in Essex, students were torn on whether a discriminatory joke was fine “just between friends”. However, a Year 10 class receiving the workshop on the same day were unanimous in calling that joke unacceptable: “It’s just wrong,” one student shrugged.

Discussion points during the workshop

Discussion points during the workshop

Jones, also from Essex, says the areas he works in really impact the discussions he has with students.

“I’m less likely to have problems with racism in schools around cities but homophobia might still be a big problem there.”

In many isolated areas, people “view the outside world through the television,” according to Jones, which can exacerbate some prejudices while reducing others.

The examples he employs to tackle these issues often elicit strong responses. He uses topics close to students’ hearts, such as football, to ask why people use a phrase such as “you throw like a girl”.

Jones’ Socratic method of questioning for football led to a spirited discussion at the King Harold Academy, with one young girl demanding to know why “women got paid less in football when they can play just as well as men”.

Pyramid of Hate

Pyramid of Hate

Using the Pyramid of Hate (above), Jones teaches how certain phrases reinforce stereotypes and normalise prejudice. The students are encouraged to stop using discriminatory language but also to challenge their friends to do the same.

Complex challenge

HOPE not hate has been working with young people for many years, but its education workshops officially began last January and have received an 80% score on the net promoter, a management tool to gauge satisfaction.

In addition to teaching students, Jones’ team also trains teachers in tackling these subjects themselves and spotting fake news. Teacher-focused workshops cover the British far right, how to approach students who might have been in contact with the far right online, and recognising signs of radicalisation. Jones says most teachers are eager to learn but that some in rural areas might see the issues as less pressing.

The education team are very careful not to debate politics in the workshops. “We’re trying not to look like a PC brigade,” Jones explains wryly.

Staying away from politics is especially important to Jones, as his focus is on tackling discrimination, rather than (for example) debating Brexit in areas with bitterly different political views.

His balancing act in addressing sensitive topics is complicated by some parents’ politics and casual hate speech students can hear at home. “We’re not just dealing with students, it’s also coming from parents,” he says.

King Harold Academy, in Waltham Abbey, Essex

King Harold Academy, in Waltham Abbey, Essex

Rising issue

Despite the challenges, Jones is determined to sensitise children to prejudice and discrimination before it’s too late. Hate crimes in classrooms have risen sharply across England according to police figures.

Data obtained by the Times Educational Supplement from 30 police forces under Freedom of Information laws revealed that hate incidents increased by 89% in May 2016 compared to May 2015.

There have also been warnings of rising bigoted behaviour among pupils by the National Union of Teachers and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) last month.

A survey of ATL members showed that more than 20% of teachers had noticed hate crime or hate speech incidents during the past academic year and 17% believed it was a growing trend among students.

Some have attributed the rise of hate incidents in schools to the normalisation of racist speech by politicians during the EU referendum and Donald Trump’s election.

Jones does not seem daunted by these issues. In fact, he says that there’s a big demand for the workshops and sensitising students to these issues has to happen as early and fast as possible.

“We know this is vital work and very relevant to the pressures of our times. We’re funded until the end of this year, but are hoping we can extend that and take the project forwards to its true potential.”

To find out more about HOPE not hate’s education work, or to book Jones’ team, email [email protected]

 Posted: 18 May 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Who will decide Britain’s future?

posted by: Elisabeth Pop | on: Wednesday, 3 May 2017, 15:00


Who will decide Britain’s future? Students, young people and ethnic minorities at risk of under-representation on 8 June

  • Students are the group most at risk of being under-represent at this GE2017
  • Towns with big student populations are struggling: Cambridge still has 15,000, or minus -15%, fewer electors compared with May 2015
  • Across London there are over 162,000 fewer electors compared with GE2015, with Hackney (23,000 / -12%), Kingston (24,000 / -20%) and Redbridge (15,900 / -7%) suffering the most
  • Despite the huge awareness campaign around the EU Referendum, constituencies in urban areas / inner cities have seen a decrease in their electorate – Manchester Withington has lost 4,909 (– 6.6%) of electors and Manchester Gorton 3,354 (– 4.5%).

 

With the General Election 2017 only five weeks away and the future of our country hanging in the balance, it is more important than ever that every voice gets heard.

But HOPE not hate can reveal that traditionally under-represented communities, and social groups, remain at risk of not being heard on 8 June. In fact, with only 19 days left to the voter registration (VR) deadline on 22 May, they are more at risk than ever of losing their chance of a voice.

While the total number of UK local government electors has increased by just over 1.1 million (+2.5%) between December 2015 and December 2016 [1], HOPE not hate’s research shows that local authorities that are home to large numbers of students – or which include urban areas that experience high levels of ‘population churn’ – continue to struggle with lower numbers of registered voters when compared to May 2015.

Now, more than ever there is a need for a concentrated VR effort, and HOPE not hate and Bite the Ballot have joined forces to lead on it. And news of our latest Voter Registration campaign has already made it in the Huffington Post (read here -- http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/general-election-2017-thousands-students-vote-hope-not-hate_uk_5909a4aae4b02655f8424c3d )

This is particularly important, given that:

  • The General Election (GE 2017) is a snap election and will not have the benefit of a long preparation for the run-up (as before, at GE 2015)
  • The EU Referendum was a ‘once in a generation’ election, hence came with a huge public awareness campaign that drove VR
  • GE2017 falls in the middle of the exams period, with students left wondering whether they should register at their university address or at home
  • The election takes place during the Muslim month of Ramadan, raising legitimate questions about a further potential barrier for ethnic and faith minorities who are already under-registered.

For over three years, HOPE not hate has been running VR campaigns with, and in, the very communities which are most in need of a political voice and which are most likely not to be registered to vote.

One of the first groups always at risk, and particularly with this snap election, is students. Time and time again students tell us that (following the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration) they are not registered at either their university or college address, that they don’t know they can register at both and that they don’t know where they will be on election day.

Furthermore, while there was an increase in student registration numbers in the run-up to the EU Referendum, it is not clear that students still live at those addresses or that they have re-registered when they moved. In fact, most of the constituencies that host significant student populations have seen a continuous decrease in the size of their register since December 2014.

Towns with significant student populations still have lower electoral registration levels compared with GE2015

 

EC figures (Aug 2015)

ONS figures (Mar 2017)

Number

Percentage

Local Authority (UK)

Local Gov Dec14

Local Gov May15

Local Gov Dec15

Local Gov Dec16

Dec16 vs May15

Dec16 vs May15

Birmingham

728,732

738,661

707,819

711,761

-26,900

-3.64%

Brighton and Hove

192,060

213,173

191,916

195,276

-17,897

-8.40%

Bristol

318,957

335,063

315,067

323,095

-11,968

-3.57%

Cambridge

91,173

100,783

80,415

85,546

-15,237

-15.12%

Edinburgh

371,805

383,556

354,153

364,346

-19,210

-5.01%

Glasgow

479,260

492,774

462,561

460,563

-32,211

-6.54%

Norwick

98,853

104,189

97,719

98,678

-5,511

-5.29%

Oxford

99,730

108,259

95,879

100,148

-8,111

-7.49%

Southampton

164,907

173,218

158,851

163,015

-10,203

-5.89%

Stoke-on-Trent

185,994

189,466

183,732

180,543

-8,923

-4.71%

Swansea

174,925

181,901

169,069

173,300

-8,601

-4.73%

York

146,322

157,836

149,932

147,099

-10,737

-6.80%

 

Other groups and communities at risk are:

  • Young vs Old: 70% of 18-to-24 year-olds were registered to vote at GE 2015 compared to 95% of those over retirement age (vInspired, 2015 [2]), but only 43% voted compared with 78% of 65+ year olds (IPSOS Mori, 2015 [3])
  • Some Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups: 85.9% of White British people are on the electoral register, 83.7% of British Asians, but for Black people it is just 76%. For people of mixed ethnicity it is 73.4%, and for those whose ethnicity falls into the ‘Other’ category it is 62.9% (EC, 2014 [4])
  • Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK are eligible to vote in all UK elections, but just 61.8% are registered here. This compares with 86.5% for all British citizens in the UK (EC, 2014)
  • 56% of voters living in private rented accommodation were registered compared with 88% of homeowners (EC, 2011) [5].

Despite the huge push for VR in the run-up to the EU Referendum and the full transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER), the General Election electorate of the following constituencies has fallen:

  • Manchester, Withington :  2015 = 74,616 ; 2016 = 69,707 - 4,909 = - 6.6%
  • Manchester, Gorton :         2015 = 74,227 ; 2016 = 70,873 - 3,354 = - 4.5%
  • Glasgow South :                 2015 = 70,642 ; 2016 = 67,896 - 2,746 = - 3.9%

London, as one of the cities with the biggest population ‘churns’ in the UK, also has 162,000 less people on the (last) December 2016 register compared with May 2015 one, with some London boroughs particularly at risk of seeing their residents disenfranchised come 8 June.

Two thirds of London boroughs have lower electoral registration levels compared with GE2015

 

EC figures (Aug 2015)

ONS figures (Mar 2017)

Number

Percentage

Local Authority (LONDON)

Local Gov Dec14

Local Gov May15

Local Gov Dec15

Local Gov Dec16

Dec16 vs May15

Dec16 vs May15

Barnet

238,348

249,030

229,184

239,924

-9,106

-3.66%

Bexley

176,168

179,221

170,141

173,983

-5,238

-2.92%

Enfield

213,322

217,537

207,914

211,949

-5,588

-2.57%

Hackney

174,257

191,474

162,718

168,006

-23,468

-12.26%

Hillingdon

207,589

209,239

195,938

202,194

-7,045

-3.37%

Kingston upon Thames

113,162

118,114

92,471

93,460

-24,654

-20.87%

Lambeth

221,441

239,826

211,425

221,042

-18,784

-7.83%

Lewisham

189,978

197,988

181,775

192,803

-5,185

-2.62%

Redbridge

208,754

218,435

190,562

202,501

-15,934

-7.29%

Southwark

201,324

212,807

205,705

204,659

-8,148

-3.83%

Tower Hamlets

173,024

185,841

176,128

179,450

-6,391

-3.44%

Waltham Forest

179,102

186,710

176,128

179,450

-7,260

-3.89%

Wandsworth

223,228

241,701

223,471

224,397

-17,304

-7.16%

 

Building on from the success of the TurnUP VR campaign run in partnership with Bite the Ballot in the run-up to the EU Referendum, and years of experience working at the grassroots level in marginalised or vulnerable communities, HOPE not hate is announcing a new VR campaign and asking for national and local partners to join us.

For more info, get in touch with our Voter Registration Campaign Manager – Elisabeth Pop – at [email protected]

Other Data Sources

State of May 2015 register and comparison with December 2014, data supplied in August 2015 by Electoral Commission for the HOPE not hate Report "Britain’s Missing Voters" (September 2015) ➠
https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/elisabeth-pop/fears-about-voter-drop-off-confirmed


 Posted: 3 May 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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The Secret to Having Difficult Conversations

posted by: Arun Devasia | on: Wednesday, 3 May 2017, 12:06


I once had a conversation with a friend of mine who was adamant that “the moon landings were faked”. I hadn’t given the topic too much thought but did acknowledge that there were a minority of people who held this view. When I asked what exactly had led them to believe this, I was given an introduction into the wide world of conspiracies, move studios, government cover-ups and brain washing.

We have all encountered people with these types of unusual, deeply-held beliefs. We all know of that person who insists that Queens Park Rangers are the greatest football club in the world or that Ringo was the greatest drummer ever (let alone the greatest drummer in the Beatles).

We also all have that one person, that one distant relative that makes us feel a little uncomfortable with their views on sexism/religion/politics/immigration. That person who often leaves us raging internally after pleasantries are exchanged.

When this happens, two things usually occur: we implore this person to see logic and tell them all the reasons they are wrong or, we stay silent, think of emotional self-preservation and don’t bother with engaging.

As a community organiser for the anti-fascism/anti-racism organisation ‘HOPE not hate’, I strongly believe that neither of those two things should happen. If we give up and fail to confront these views then we risk letting this group of people drift further and further to the right; allowing them to continue to absorb their information from the likes of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sun and the popular-right fringe parties.

We cannot allow this to happen!

I am always reminded of my time at university, drifting in and out of various socialist groups, wanting to learn about politics and the philosophies that underpin social justice. I remember the long discussions I would have with my class mates about the rights and wrongs of the Spanish Civil War or who was at fault during the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Amongst these decadent debates within a very closed circle of the privileged few would be demonstrations against education cuts or the Iraq war. The same people month in and month out would be there. A closed circle was precisely that, an echo chamber that was inconsequential to the wider debates happening in the community.

What I learnt then and what I argue is necessary now to build our movement is to go out and organise the middle ground. To not abandon them but take the opportunity to build our base so that the anti-refugee and anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed almost daily no longer has traction.

To do this we will need to go out and have the difficult conversations with people who have deeply held views on race and immigration but seldom the opportunity to express them. How exactly do we do this?

Arun workshop 2

Arun workshop 2

HOPE not hate has been proactive in trying to learn new approaches on how to have effective conversations to persuade people. What became clear in both our reading of the academic literature and in our actual experiences of having these conversations was that myth-busting had its limits and confirmation bias was common. In brief: people who had formed irrational views based on emotive factors were unlikely to shift their thinking when presented with rational arguments.

It’s why sentiments like “migrants are a drain on resources,” persist. We know that this isn’t the case, that migrants contribute more to the UK economy than they take out, that even the smallest bit of scrutiny can dispel this misconception and yet we still encounter this emotive argument.

I am fortunate to work as a community organiser for HOPE not hate, Britain’s largest campaign against the far-right and extremism. We have always placed a high value on the need to speak with people based on where they are rather than based on where we would like them to be. In short, speaking to people rather than at them.

I return to the example I made about having an uncomfortable discussion with our distant relative who has objectionable views. If we don’t decide to avoid the conversation all together, we often rely on myth busting or rational arguments based on facts to slowly break down someone’s opinion.

This video of an interaction between Dr Brian Cox and Australian senator Malcolm Roberts about climate change is an excellent example of this:

Do you think the senator changed his mind after this exchange?

So if this traditional approach doesn’t work, how do we persuade people that purple isn’t the best colour, or that QPR aren’t the greatest team in the world, or that immigrants don’t steal all our jobs?

We have adopted an approach that draws upon the experience of LGBT+ campaigners in the USA trying to persuade voters who were less sympathetic to transgender rights. What they call “Deep Canvassing”, a combination of empathetic listening and Socratic questioning, is particularly effective in persuading people to change their thinking.

Here is an excellent example of this type of conversation taking place:

The simple act of listening to people and empathising with their experiences rather than focusing on their objectionable views creates a space built on mutual respect. Directing this conversation with some well-placed open questions allows people to reflect on their own views and hopefully reshape them for the better.

It also makes for a conversation that is unlikely to descend into a row.

HOPE not hate has been training activists around the country in this approach to having difficult conversations and encouraging campaigners to build our movement by using this simple technique of listening and questioning.

I will still likely encounter these unusual beliefs and have interesting conversations about how Elvis is still in the building or why Kanye West is the greatest artist in the world, but I will be more prepared than ever to challenge these ideas.

Equally, after adopting these simple discussion techniques, I feel so much more confident handling my troublesome distant relative who insists that there are no “genuine” refugees.

Will you join us? Are you interested in being involved?

There is no doubt that as the national narrative on immigration and refugees lurches increasingly to the right, particularly in the wake of Brexit, it is imperative that we counter this rise in hate crime and popular racism by not shying away from difficult conversations.

Take a look at the following resources to learn more:

Arun is a Community Organiser at HOPE not hate. Arun’s blog first appeared on www.refugeeweek.org.uk

 Posted: 3 May 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Arts festival to celebrate life of Jo Cox

posted by: Safya Khan-Ruf | on: Wednesday, 3 May 2017, 10:42


Festival inspired by Jo Cox’s maiden speech to Parliament – “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Jo Cox’s life has inspired a group of artists and producers to launch a unique arts festival commemorating the life of the Labour MP next month.

The Change of Art festival will pilot in London on 17 June at the Human Rights Action Centre Performance space in Shoreditch. It will take place during the Great Get Together, marking the first anniversary of Cox’s murder.

According to the organisers:

“Jo’s legacy transcends politics and reaches into the heart of our communities; our aim for the festival is to bring people together from all over London, in a shared event, to honour Jo and to share our love for this multicultural city.”

The inspiration came from Jo Cox’s maiden speech to Parliament, when she spoke the words: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Sarah Sigal, festival co-founder and an independent writer and producer, says the idea for the festival came after meeting others also involved in the arts, via HOPE not hate’s grassroots movement. HOPE not hate’s More in Common weekend last year was a key piece of inspiration, too.

“We saw we could use our skills to create something to honour Jo Cox’s legacy and so that something positive could come out of something tragic,” she said.

The festival theme will be More in Common. “We want to bring people together, and have a wide range of art – singing, dancing, theatre – from a range of different backgrounds,” Sigal said.

Sigal is hoping this event will turn into a weekend festival across the UK in the coming years. The pilot is being organised by 10 art enthusiasts and the aim is to get 250 people to attend. Tickets will be free, with a pay-as-you-wish system in place.

Comedian Bridget Christie will be performing, and Sigal says they’ve received around 40 applications to perform in the 10-minute acts.

 Posted: 3 May 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments