For this post, I wanted to acknowledge British activist Paul Stephenson OBE who should be an inspiration to us all.
Paul Stephenson was a black man who was born and raised in Britain. He is most famous for being the organiser of the Bristol Omnibus Company boycotts in 1963 which saw thousands of people refrain from using the service for 60 days. The refusal of the company to hire Black and Asian people struck a chord with the public and Paul gained masses of support. As a result of his activism, the company changed their policy to allow ethnic minorities to be hired in public facing roles.
While I am also of the opinion that slavery and racial inequality should not be the sole focus of black history taught in schools, there does need to be more on historical British racism. Stories like those of Paul Stephenson should be well known to all, not only to highlight Britain’s racism, but also to highlight the activism of many black individuals through generations. I don’t remember being taught in school about the severe racism that past generations, like that of my parents, faced during their younger years in Britain and this lack of accountability is worrying. While we all know Britain is not innocent, there is a culture here that promotes the idea that we are somewhat better than other places. Phrases like ‘Britain is one of the least racist countries’, which was plastered around the news, are extremely problematic and only highlight these feelings.
Hearing stories of activism so close to home can only inspire future generations to believe in their cause and this is becoming more and more relevant. Like Paul, we have to be the change that we want to see, however big or small the action you take may be. But there also needs to be more acknowledgment and accountability on Britain’s part as otherwise, all efforts seem to go to waste.
A lot of change still needs to come and people like Paul Stephenson laid the foundations for us to further make these changes in Britain. I don’t know about you but I think he, and many others, deserve a lot more acknowledgement.