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National launch of black voting registration campaign

TOGETHER AS ONE: Bishop Dr Joe Aldred (left) with Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote

AS THE crusade mounts to encourage African Caribbeans to take politics more seriously, church leaders are urging pastors across the UK to take personal responsibility for making sure their congregations are registered to vote.

Every church should have a voting registration ‘champion’ and politics should be included more in church life, say campaigners behind a national voter registration scheme, run in partnership with Operation Black Vote (OBV)
Black-led churches remain vibrant in Britain while other congregations dwindle. They are seen as ‘sleeping giants’ with immense power – something that members of the National Church Leaders Forum (NCLF) want to harness in their quest to register more black voters.

Simon Woolley, OBV director, who was speaking at the campaign’s national launch at the New Testament Church of God in Ladywood, Birmingham, which is also known as ‘The Rock’ said: “We need warriors to challenge the racial and social issues and get the black community involved in politics. We need to serve notice on the political elite.”

He was backed by Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, who is secretary of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (MECA) and Desmond Jaddoo, of the Birmingham Empowerment Forum.

Their combined mission is to mobilise the UK’s one-million strong black community and make sure they are registered to vote by the next General Election in two and a half years time.

REGION

But before then, next month people will be voting for Police and Crime Commissioners across the UK. Former West Midlands Police Authority chair Bishop Dr Derek Webley, a long-time leading member of Birmingham’s black community is standing as an independent candidate for the region.

Up to 25 church and community leaders met at the Rock the night before the launch to thrash out why up to 50 per cent of Africans and 25 per cent of Caribbeans in the UK are not registered to vote.


INDEPENDENT: Desmond Jaddoo, of Birmingham Empowerment Forum

Aldred said it made depressing reading that 55 per cent of young black people between 18 and 25 were unemployed and were over-represented in prisons and mental institutions.

He said he wanted to see more politicians talking to congregations, adding: “I am asking pastors to take personal responsibility for making sure people are registered to vote. If they need help – call me.”

Birmingham first black Lord Mayor Councillor Sybil Spence, who has been a Birmingham city councillor for more than two decades, said some people in the community didn’t want to register as they were living in the UK illegally.

While Ben Cunningham, who chairs the Jamaican Diaspora UK said he felt the declining African Caribbean population in Britain was a reason, coupled with the fact that many still felt it was “cool to be non-political.”

Desmond Jaddoo, who stood as an independent candidate in Birmingham’s elected mayor campaign earlier this year, told the congregation at The Rock: “You’ll be seeing a lot more of me. I want to make sure every black person in Birmingham is on the voting register.

“I’m not telling you who to vote for, but to engage in the political process.”

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