Debate on black and ethnic minority community leaders

We asked how can black and ethnic minority people be
enabled to become leaders of their communities.

These are the responses we received:

Shouldn’t we be enabling BME people to become
the leaders of communities not just “their own

Garry Chadwick
MHA care group Derby

The idea of blacks and ethnic minorities
becoming leaders of ‘their own communities’ would appear to be
incompatible with equal opportunities and colour-blind appointment
on merit.


This question of enablement, who is doing the
enabling? Does this not smack of meddling in something that belongs
to the ethnic group? Are they not capable or allowed to pick their
own leaders without help?

Nick Savage

I am surprised that it has taken this long as
well as the unfortunate racial tension/disturbances in England, to
notify the masses that community leaders do not represent the local
communities. Communities are currently represented by individuals
identifying their own needs for the collective whereas in reality
it should be the collective needs identified by the appointed

A leader is someone who inspires and enthuses individuals or
groups to take action, for betterment of the situation for all
equally. Equal opportunities for all (that those who are
disadvantaged can have an additional step-up for an equal
footing). Today’s progression includes diversity (the appreciation
of the uniqueness of the individual). A community leader therefore
should inspire individuals or groups to work for the betterment of
a local community, society as a whole whilst appreciating
the individual enabling each person to be counted. A very good
example would be the Lawrences and their perseverance to highlight
the inadequate and failing legal system for ALL black and ethnic

It is a very small step that training is offered within and for
identified community groups to engage key stakeholders; but even
then the most active groups at the forefront are not necessarily
the most representative. The ‘hippopotamuses’ still encourage and
create gulfs between empowering
motivational leaders and the unrepresentative self-serving
leaders. The hippo in this case is the person who has taken the
right to lead a community due to:
* Being an elder (age apparently means wisdom)
* Usually male (women still know their place as homemakers)
* The cultural group is being categorised via religion (yes all
Indians are either Muslim, Hindu or Sikh aren’t they!)
* Inarticulate or uneducated to real opportunities (not necessarily
the political systems as for some reason they are well versed in
These hippo leaders still dominate the voluntary sector as in order
to fund projects or to apply for funding, these persons have to be
involved for the project to progress as politically the so-called
leader is working with and for the alleged community.

Having worked in the voluntary sector and regeneration for over
a decade and now in policy and performance, quality assurance as
well as equalities, it never ceases to amaze me how youth groups
are given encouragement to develop into carbon copies of a lagging
behind the times community.  The youth schemes and projects that
initially set-up as brilliantly formulated concepts to enrich the
lives of the young are further hindered. They are expected to
follow the strategy or structure of the community whilst the
original idea is curtailed and kept on a leash, therefore working
within the
confining parameters of the expected BME community led by

In essence the community’s seed is potted as a seedling in a
tiny pot rather than a field.  Cynically one-off innovative schemes
and training to try and create a change perpetuates this
problem. Once the project develops it will need backing and
donations from the restrictive leaders because the funding regimes
do not give continuation support. This will need to change in the
first instance if any alteration within community thinking and its
make-up is to occur. Then the fruits of such a policy will take
years to be known.

Cultural change and community involvement must never be confused
with political involvement. If equalities and diversity are to be
effective, communities need to be able to identify with all those
living in the local area. Politics is the next progressive stage
that once the community is collectively united; then any strategic
changes will be effective and long-term as political parties will
not dictate or influence the community needs and true motivational

The true community leaders may not develop for many years, but
real foundations need to be laid now. Community work needs to piece
the individual into a giant jigsaw puzzle of commitment and the
dreaded words – financial investment into the individual will need
to be applied. The local
strategic partnerships and New Deals will work when the hippos
* Not blocking future budding leaders with real community interests
from taking a truly elected role, or
* The so-called partners giving the hippos a puppet voice with
limited information. 
Too many individual interests have forgotten the COMMUNITY. It is
time to change and move forward together.
How can the youth or inspirational leaders take forward a community
when in all intent and purposes the local area is made up of

Herparkash Pascha Bhumbra
Policy and Performance Review Officer
Social Services

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