On Thursday 30 July, representatives from the Stroud Against Racism group held a first meeting with council leaders from the Labour, Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat groups, to discuss actions to address various forms of racism in Stroud.
The Black Lives Matter protests, which were attended by hundreds within Stroud town at the start of June brought vital attention to the experiences of People of Colour in Stroud. Along with sparking discussions of various forms of racism at play on a local, national, and international level and what action can be taken at a local level.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour’s Stroud District Council leader, Doina Cornell, said: “We agreed to work together on addressing the question of racism in our district – whether overt, or structural – and we especially focussed on practical steps the council can do.”
“We agreed that more will need to be done on this, and a powerful way to address this will be by sharing the lived experience of people of colour in our communities – raising awareness amongst councillors and officers.”
This comes in the wake of controversy over the racist tweets and retweets of Councilor Debbie Young and the highly problematic initial response of the council’s monitoring officer to complaints about these from local residents, which since been concurred with by an independent reviewer.
In July, a statement issued by a group of People of Colour from Stroud, linked to the Stroud Against Racism Group, asserted that;
“Our lived experiences must be heard in order to inform future council policy, anti-racism resourcing and education on what it is to live in a town like Stroud and experience both conscious and unconscious racism.
“Our demands surround issues of training, education, funding and, additionally, for an anti-racism working group to be set up – with representatives of our community involved – in order to tackle these issues head on.”
The group also issued a list of demands of the council in an open letter, focusing upon the accountability and accountability procedures of the council and councilors, and the active work of the council regarding equalities training and local anti-racism educational initiatives within the Stroud community.
Councillors have since voted unanimously to approve a motion to update and strengthen the members code of conduct and have set up mandatory training and tests on unconscious bias for all councilors, with this being carried out by The Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion this month.
While this is clearly just the beginning, this proactive action and centring of the voices and perspectives of People of Colour is encouraging initial steps from the council leaders. However, as the media and social media noise around Black Lives Matter, it is essential that these commitments are honoured and normalised in order to overcome the racist structures and systems we find ourselves living within.
In their statement, the group also stressed that they want to offer support and connection to as many People of Colour in Stroud as they can, and if you want to connect with them, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.