On May 25 2020 George Floyd became one of the disproportionate number of Black men who have been killed by the unjust force of the police. The murder took place in Minneapolis, US, yet has ignited the world in a global demand for action. 

Here in Hackney both in the Council and the community, we felt Minneapolis’ and the world’s grief and anger. Again we were reminded of similar incidents in Hackney and that racism remains a corrosive and destructive force and we must respond in a meaningful way that prevents and tackles it in all its forms. 

Hackney has a long history of activism and we’ve been moved by the responses of local people as we and they joined a global chorus of protest over the last 12 months. From the 400 people who attended our online vigil in June, the summer vigils in our parks, engaging with our new Review, Rename, Reclaim activity, or signing up to our new Black Curriculum – we felt the empathy and solidarity of Hackney shine in a myriad of ways.

As a Council, we hold ourselves accountable for standing up to racism and reject the Government’s recent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report that dangerously plays down the problem of racism in Britain today. 

The report overlooks the role racism plays in the hindrance of educational success, health and wellbeing and socio-economic opportunities, using faulty arguments that can easily be dismantled. We find this to be a needless and reprehensible attack on vital anti-racism work that will set us back in the progress we need to make. 

The report undermines the terms ‘structural inequality’ and ‘systemic racism’. We have been very clear about our definitions, setting these out in our own submission to the commission. The commission could have adopted these definitions. Instead, the report places blame on individuals while detaching the government from their own responsibility in improving the outcomes of communities within our society. 

Over the last 12 months, we have revitalised our anti-racism work. In June we launched Review, Rename Reclaim to tackle public spaces named after slave and plantation owners. As a first direct action, and with the inclusion of our residents, the name of Sir John Cass has been removed from Cassland Road Gardens with more names currently under review. 

In July, we wrote and passed our comprehensive Black Lives Matter anti-racisim motion which commits us to being an anti-racist organisation. It is no longer enough for the Council to just tackle inequalities – it must be actively anti-racist and our Motion sets out some of the steps to help us achieve that.

Another direct result is the launch of Hackney’s Diverse Curriculum – The Black Contribution which saw a groundbreaking change in how we teach Black history and culture. We are proud in the knowledge that over 1,500 schools worldwide have now signed up suggesting a need to be better equipped to implement anti-racism work. 

In December 2020, we responded to the Mayor of London’s Action Plan, which aims to rebuild trust and confidence in the Police and tackle the use of disproportionate policing affecting Black Londoners. We worked with youth-led research group Hackney Account to implement the recommendations from Account’s review into policing in the borough. 

Most recently in March 2021, work began on devising our Anti Racism Plan which builds upon our long history of fighting racism and updates it in light of the work above. It will underpin everything we do in Hackney in our commitment to being an anti-racist borough. 

The plan covers five main areas: Institutional change, Community engagement, Culture and leadership, Accountability, and Influence. It will see us lead from the inside out by investigating how inclusive we are within the Council, to how we tackle all forms of racism. This plan also ensures that we are maximising the wider work to tackle poverty, shape a local economy that works for everyone and has a positive impact on diverse, and specifically Black, communities. 

We will not let George Floyd’s murder, a life cruely taken to pass in vain. His legacy will remind us of the work we must do as politicians and members of the community to be active in the fight for equality and justice. Today we unite with those around the world who continue to demand that all Black Lives Matter.

We hope you will join us for an online vigil on our Instagram account page at 12.00 pm, 25 May as we reflect on the tragedy of Geroge Floyd’s murder which, one year on, still feels just as raw, unjust and shocking. 

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources

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