JIS News

On April 3, this year, the spotlight will be turned on high achieving black businesspersons in Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom and outstanding community and youth leaders during the annual Windrush Awards.
Although only in its fourth year, the Windrush Awards have become a symbol of excellence in the Midlands. It is organized by the Windrush Employment and Training Consortium. Coordinator of the event, Stephen Brooks, said the awards grew out of a project aimed at encouraging enterprise in the Afro Caribbean Community.
“In 2000 we had a project to encourage enterprise in the Afro Caribbean community in Wolverhampton. The people who had given us this remit didn’t really understand the culture of the Afro Caribbean community and they perceived that because they could not see them (businesses) on the high streets, they felt that Afro Caribbean people were not entrepreneurial. What we decided was that we would show you where these businesses are and why they are not as visible as you would expect them to be,” he told JIS news in an interview.
According to Mr. Brooks, Windrush wanted to change the concept and the negative press where Afro Caribbean people were portrayed as consumers and not producers.
“We (Afro Caribbean people) are sometimes seen as if we come to get and yet we are giving so much to the community. So the awards are there to profile the individuals and groups who are producing, who are achieving to a wider audience, so the leaders of the community, the local authorities, Members of Parliament, business and corporate leaders and community representatives can see Afro Caribbean businesses and achievers that they did not know about,” he said.
Mr. Brooks pointed out that since the first awards in 2000, the project had been very successful with many in the wider Wolverhampton community openly admitting that they were unaware of the wealth of talent and enterprise that existed within the Afro Caribbean Community.
“What happen was that people like the Employment Services rang us after the event saying they had never seen black people portrayed this way as achievers, as educated ambitious people. This was quite an honest reflection about us. So that’s why we have, over the years, tried to show that we are achievers,” he added.
Mr. Brooks argued that because of perceived prejudices many black people preferred to stay in the background. He said that the awards’ project and the organization’s training and business development programmes, Windrush, is seeking to change these negative stereotypes.
“What we are trying to do is subtly change the mindset of people who see us in a negative light. We try to get to the leaders and the decision makers; we have tried to be very strategic,” he maintained.
The Windrush programme has been successful and the organization has become the umbrella body for more than 80 ethnic minority organizations in Wolverhampton. The Windrush Employment and Training Consortium on behalf of the ethnic minorities now sits on the Local Strategic Partnership which is the main decision making body in the city.

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