Norfolk’s PCC and Chief Constable speak at Norfolk Black History Month’s 20th anniversary
This week sees the start of Norfolk Black History Month and, as part of their 20th anniversary event, held at The Forum in Norwich on Saturday, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie, and Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, were invited to speak at a presentation hosted by Norfolk Racism and Youth Justice.
Giles Orpen-Smellie said: “This was a continuation of the talking circle that took place earlier this year in April to mark Stephen Lawrence Day. My office helped to set up this event with Norfolk Black History Month and, through that safe space to speak about lived experiences, my office and Norfolk Constabulary have developed a dialogue that I am really keen to continue.
“I would like to thank Khushi and Heidi from Norfolk Racism and Youth Justice for reaching out to continue these conversations. Opportunities to engage with all our communities in Norfolk are so important.”
Talking at the event, Giles explained that we must work together to achieve change: “I can’t tell you what to do, I can’t be a talking head and tell you what you must do because that goes back to the question of what was asked earlier about white bias in the first place. We must do it together, you must challenge me, what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, in exactly the way you have done on this floor this afternoon. And together, we will take this forward. Together we will make the progress that Heidi and Khushi have talked about.”
Norfolk Constabulary’s Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, said: “Every October, Black History Month gives us the chance to look back at the sometimes troubled relationship between policing and black communities. Many of those troubles come as a direct result of misplaced policing, where we've used our powers in the wrong way or excessively and where we haven't given due regard to the long history between policing and the black community. It’s really important people feel confident to talk about and share their experiences because by learning from the past, we can improve our services for the future."
The founders of Norfolk Racism and Youth Justice, Heidi Bryant and Khuselwa Antonio, are both mothers of children who are currently in the Youth Justice System. Their decision to set up a support network was an outcome of their own experience of finding a lack of help for their own families with pathways through this challenging situation. Their aim is to make change, educate schools in supporting children from minority groups, support students that have experienced trauma and who are neurodiverse. They also want to change the police perceptions of black children and to support children and families going through the Youth Justice System.
Founder of Norfolk Racism and Youth Justice, Heidi Bryant, said: “It is important that we keep conversations open and that the experiences and voices from the black community are heard and that concerns are listened to and acted upon. Children are the future, we must ensure that they are given the same opportunities and treatment that their white peers experience. Professionals need to confront their own unconscious bias and educate themselves. It’s going to take time, but as an organisation we won’t give up. It will benefit us all in the long run.”
Co-founder of Norfolk Racism and Youth Justice, Khuselwa Antonio, said: “The work we do is to look at the disparities that our children experience. It is to look at the unfair treatment they experience in all the different institutions that society deems as upstanding and fair, yet as an organisation and a community we have experienced differential treatment because of our race and that is the sad reality we still have to deal with, even 30 years after the death of Stephen Lawrence.”
For more information about Norfolk Racism and Youth Justice, please email: Racismyouthjustice@outlook.com
Photograph: copyright Honey Oliver.