24 March 2017

London my London

London my London  
Where I live and shine 
Without being asked 
As to where I come from 
After all it is in London 
Where I'm never alone
So do many others
Who have made London their home
In this great city of ours
The city of cities 
The most beautiful ever
That will never be silent
Rather goes from glory
To another glory
Go on London
Keep shinning
After all you are London,
The most cosmopolitan ever
With people of every nation 
People of every creed
People of every faith 
And of course, that of non-faith 
That we have in this world
All gathered in London 
They never feel alone 
In the city called London
Either in the day or evening 
In the city that never sleeps 
Even if one is a stranger 
One would never feel alone
I'm in Love with this city 
That has welcomed me
Without any hesitation 
Gave me the opportunities 
To rebuild my life again 
London my city and home
My adorable London 
Keep shining my city 
After all you are London 
The city of cities 
The best city ever
The beacon of my hopes, 
Beacon of my liberty, 
My freedom and humanity.

Bekele Woyecha
London, March 23rd 2017

11 March 2017

Empowered Are The Organised

They were here 20 years ago. They are here 20 years after.

20 years ago there was an organiser called Neil Jameson, who had to have as many one to one face to face meetings as possible in East London. There was no hidden agenda this disciple of Civil Society and Democracy was carrying with him. He was all about getting the East End organised. “Organising was what East London needed most in those days as it does need it now” says Bishop Paul McAleenan, who was a local priest at St. Scholastica's in Clapton 20 years ago and now the Bishop of the Diocese of Westminster. Bishop Paul was there 20 years ago at the founding assembly and he has once again come back to join the 1000 strong delegates to celebrate the 20th year anniversary of The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO).

Bishop Paul McAleenan of the Diocese of Westminster addressing the assembly

The founding assembly took place at York Hall in Bethnal Green and it felt great for many including Rev Paul Regan, Fr. John Armitage, who was the co-chair of the founding assembly, Dr. Muhammad Bari, and many other veterans to go back to the same hall on Thursday 9th March 2017 to witness history unfolding.

The 20th anniversary was an opportunity to see democracy in action; opportunity to see unity in diversity; an opportunity to show case what civil society can do to address the challenges it faces in an organised way; opportunity to see civil society holding the state and the market to account; but also an opportunity to rebuild and re-energise the East End and start yet another march towards securing social justice through organising. "Divisions in our societies across West seem to be deepening. Yet we are here this evening to recognise TELCO as an organisation which has built bridges, not walls" - Rev Paul Regan.

This anniversary is a product of many months of organising, a series of meetings, a series of agreements and disagreements, a series of plotting and democratic engagements. Organising needs patience, endurance, tenacity, leadership and it is one that should be fun. That was what we saw on Thursday the 9th of March.

At the heart of this anniversary were the organisers and community leaders who had to make sure everything was in place. They won’t leave anything to chance and hence had to prepare for every eventuality. It needed meticulous planning and readiness with proper fall-back positions. That is why we had organisers like Emmanuel, Yasmin, Caitlin and Daniel who were all doing their bits to see the assembly through. That is why we had the Bernadette Harris of TELCO, the John and Naomi Cliftons of the East End, the Angus Ritchies of our world and many other veteran leaders who had to sit day in day out to plan this wonderful occasion. After all it is about organising. Organising is not about them; rather it is about US together. Neil Jameson, the Founder and Executive Director of Citizens UK paid tribute to all who made the long journey with TELCO. He said the following, "Our member institutions are our greatest asset and our leaders are the glue which hold everything together. Here is to 20 more years of power, action and justice"

Kudos to all who made the founding of TELCO a success 20 years ago. Kudos to all who have travelled the long journey together. Kudos to all who contributed their bits and made the day historical. Kudos to the kids, the young, the seniors and everybody who made it to the assembly. 

Organise, Organise and Organise. It was the call then; it is the call now. Keep organising, keep marching together and of course keep winning. Empowered Are The Organised!

10 March 2017

The refugee crisis: Three ways London could do better

Eleven years ago I lived with my young family in Ethiopia. Life was enjoyable, but the escalation of an already precarious political situation meant it got harder; eventually I had to leave Ethiopia and seek asylum in Britain.
11 years later, I’m part of the London community. I’ve given back to the city by volunteering for The 2012 Games, and through my work with Citizens UK I support other refugees who hope to make this city their home.  My story shows that refugees can start a new and successful life in Britain, but I believe the city could still do more to help people seeking refuge. Here’s just three ways we could do better:

Language is the greatest barrier

My experience has taught me the importance of welcoming refugees when they arrive in London, to support them into society, rather than shut them out. When I arrived in Britain I was immediately locked up in a detention centre as if I were a criminal, unaware of when I would be released. I was incredibly fortunate that I could speak English, because it meant I was able to communicate with the officials there, unlike many refugees.
There should be a dedicated centre to support refugees arriving in London which should be equipped with translators. This should help newly arrived asylum seekers with their applications, but also support successful applicants to integrate and become part of our society. English lessons would break down that barrier and help them to get jobs and revive their confidence. It should also be extended to other migrants. They say, "language empowers".

Recognise their potential

Highly skilled refugees are not often able to get jobs which match their skill levels. So, as a country we lose out on valuable skills. I see qualified people in different professions working totally unrelated jobs as they have been unable to get jobs they are qualified for. Many are overqualified for the jobs they are doing. I regularly hear people saying they are willing to help refugees; it is important to make practical steps to do this. The corporate world should be willing to provide refugees with opportunities for success.
London must remain open and welcoming

The mayor, Sadiq Khan, is ready to make sure that London remains a welcoming city, open to people from across the world. But if we want people arriving in London to engage in society then we need to make sure that they’re welcomed into the community and helped to get started in the city - in terms of job opportunities, homes and education. As I write this piece, there are 65.3 million people displaced; 21.3 million refugees stranded in camps across the world. Most these refugees are hosted by developing countries who are not equipped to deal with the influx. I believe that London must set an example and show the rest of the world how refugees and migrants alike should be welcomed and integrated into the city.
I know how civil wars and political unrests can strip people of their dignity as human beings, and I feel a deep concern about the current refugee crisis. I fear for the people in Ethiopia and across the world who are being persecuted for their political beliefs, religion, race, sexual orientation, and who are forced to flee their homes. 
I believe that not only do we have a humanitarian responsibility to allow refugees the freedom to seek sanctuary, we must also recognise - and celebrate - the positive contributions that they make to our society, economy and culture.

Time to Get Out and Vote – Democracy in Action

  United Kingdom goes to the polls on July 4th.  Since the election was called by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, I have had the opportu...