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The power of movements

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Ade Sawyerr: The power of movements


A parallel must be drawn between the Barack Obama and Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party. When Barack Obama set out to campaign for the Democratic Party nomination very few people gave him a chance, they all thought that it would fizzle out especially since Obama’s brief foray into the national arena was his speech at the previous democratic convention. Obama went on to win the democratic nomination and against all odds become the first black president of America.
In like fashion Jeremy Corbyn whose nomination was meant only to stir the debate managed to energise the campaign and won the sweetest of victory by the largest margin ever in the Labour Party, and this was despite, everything and the kitchen sink, being thrown at him by all the grandees in the Labour Party. Both Obama and Corbyn had opposed the Iraq war with Obama calling it a dumb war and warning of the continued dangers of fighting the war on terror in an uncoordinated way without a worldwide consensus about the weapons of mass destruction.
But the similarities do not end there. Both were straight talking in their campaign questioning the neoconservative orthodoxy about war; both did not feel the need for austerity as a way of reducing the deficit and believed that economic growth was dependent on creation of jobs.
The salient issue however was that both won their nominations on the back attracting new voters, people who were disinterested in the same old same old politics and who wanted a new form of governance where the voice of the people must be heard. The built campaigns around their convictions and showed all that despite what the right wing press think, despite what the party grandees think about a cozy political accommodation, the people have the power to change things only if they allow their voice to be heard.
The lesson for all of us is that OBV has been shouting at the roof tops, for all who want to hear, that black people in this country have the power to change things by having their voices heard through the ballot box. With the victory of of Sadiq Khan at the labour Mayoral election the black vote may have found its voice, the fact that there were three black candidates in a six horse race ensured that he probably benefited from the second vote of the other candidates as they were knocked out.
The responsibility therefore is on all of us to listen to what OBV has been saying for years, we have the power to change things by registering to vote, we have the power to influence an election by voting, and we have the power to determine who will run this country by rallying around the movement that OBV has started to bring to the fore the things that are important to us.
Activism need not be on the fringes any longer, activism is now mainstream and much in the same way that most of the things that Obama said in his campaign were not seen as mainstream, they are mainstream now and much of the causes that Corbyn has been championing for years would now become mainstream because he has that power of a movement behind him now.
We want a fairer less austere society in Britain, we want immigrants to be respected and not derided because we know the contribution that they have made to the growth and development of Britain, we want better schools for our children in the school system and a curriculum that would instil pride in their being a part of this British society, we want better outcomes for their children in the school system so that they will go on to better jobs and an end to discrimination in the work place and an equalisation of the ethnic penalty in pay scales, we want a more open society where young black people are not criminalised by police when they try to express themselves artistically.
But we can only get what we want if our young are energised and encouraged to become active citizens who will then go on and vote and in time be motivated to increase the political representation in this country.
I am confident the Corbyn victory must represent a good omen that the exemplary work by OBV will yet yield plentiful fruits because it has shown that the power to change things in a democracy still belongs to the people.
Ade Sawyerr
Ade Sawyerr is a partner at Equinox Consulting, a management consultancy that works on social and economic issues affecting disadvantaged communities in Britain. He passes comment on and social cultural and political issues of African heritage people in the Diaspora. He can be followed @adesawyerr or at

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The Matters Arising blog is a collection of thought-provoking, thought-leadership pieces sprinkled with some blue-sky thinking on pertinent issues affecting African communities both in the diaspora and at home. It includes articles on culture, politics, social and economic advancement, diversity and inclusion, community cohesion topics. It is also a repository of the political history of Ghana, traditions of the Gadagme people of Ghana, and the Pan-African politics of Kwame Nkrumah. Read, enjoy, like, share, and join!


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