HONOURED: Diversity UK founder Mrs Lopa Patel MBE (left) and Helen Grant MP (right) join, Mrs Joyce Stephenson and Paul Stephenson OBE at the Diversity UK Lifetime Achievement Award event, at the House of Commons.
WORKERS’ RIGHTS activist Paul Stephenson OBE, who led a 60-day bus boycott in Bristol in 1963, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Wednesday, November 23 by Helen Grant MP for Maidstone and The Weald as she gave the annual lecture marking the fourth anniversary of Diversity UK which was held in Westminster.
In her speech Mrs Grant discussed Race and Diversity in a post-Brexit Britain, an issue that has sparked worry and division throughout the nation. She pointed to divisive events amidst the UK referendum campaign as well as issues across the pond that have incited racist hostility.
The Conservatives’ first and so-far only black female MP and Minister then presented Mr Stephenson with a Lifetime Achievement Award. It was for his commitment to fighting for equality and civil rights, both in his home town of Bristol and around the world.
Appointed as Bristol’s first black social worker, Paul led a 60 day boycott against a bus company in Bristol who refused to employ Black or Asian people as drivers and conductors. His 1963 campaign directly resulted in the company revoking their ‘colour bar’. Stephenson went on to achieve nationwide fame for refusing to leave a public house until he was served - in the face of their ‘no blacks’ policy. His resultant arrest and trial helped pave the way for the first Race Relations Act, in 1965.
Mrs Grant said: “I was delighted and honoured to present this Lifetime Achievement Award to Paul Stephenson OBE, an accolade truly deserved. I commend him for his bravery and courage, for helping to shape a fairer and more just society and for inspiring me in the fight against discrimination and inequality”.
“I also congratulate Diversity UK and the Ethnic Minority Foundation for their achievements. They are at the vanguard of a long tough journey but together, united, we will get there”.
In accepting his award Paul Stephenson’s own words resonated deeply with the packed audience in the Speaker’s Apartment at the House of Commons. He expressed deep concern about the ‘emboldenment of racisists’ arising from recent elections and said ‘we may not have much time, and it is our duty to fight discrimination for our children, and theirs.’
Diversity UK was established in 2012 with the objective of making a positive difference to Britain’s diverse economies. It is a think tank to research, advocate and promote ideas for improving diversity and inclusion in Britain. It is also an evidence-based initiative that seeks to influence policy, enhance civic engagement and improve the perception of the minority ethnic community in Britain.