Together with special guests David Lammy, Diane Abbot and Keith Vaz, I spoke at a moving memorial commemorating the political life of Bernie Grant, former MP of Tottenham and one of the first black people to sit in the House of Commons. I spoke about how inspiring it was to see a renegade fight for his local constituency, but also how Bernie's struggle for the marginalised is still as important today as it was in the 1980s.
The late Bernie Grant, the Labour MP who represented Tottenham between 1987 and 2000, made history when he became one of the first black politicians to run a local authority at Haringey Council, in north London.
Grant was also one of the ‘famous four’ – the name given to him, Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz when they broke barriers to become the first elected black MPs.
When parliament was dissolved on March 30, there were 79 black, Asian and other minority ethnic (BAME) MPs and peers across all political parties. However, analysis from pressure group Operation Black Vote (OBV) estimates it will take another century before parliament proportionally reflects multicultural Britain. Bernie began that struggle, and as a member of the BAME community, I felt it important to honour him. Living under Norman Tebbitt as my MP was quite the stark contrast.
Today, under this ideologically driven-Tory government, we risk many members of society not just marginalised because of race, but for their religion, wealth and social background. There is always a great struggle ahead, but I fear we have gone backwards and not forwards in over the past five years.
Speaking there was an honour, but a stark reminder of those who have come before me, and how much work there is to be done.