BME Organisations – Then And Now

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) organisations, in some shape of form, have been apart of the UK landscape since the eighteenth century (if not earlier).  Post WWII, the number of BME communities grew as the UK was needed of labour to help rebuild the war-torn country.  The government actively recruited individuals from the former colonies to assist in this rebuilding.  Many stayed in the country and brought over their families, creating new pockets of BME communities throughout the country.

Passengers on the Windrush waiting to depart (taken from http://www.bristolreads.com/small_island_read/read_more/empire_windrush.htm)

The increase in the number of BME immigrants into the country caused a backlash from mainstream society starting in the 1950s, and many racial and ethnic minority individuals and communities faced discrimination in employment and housing.   During the 1950s, with limited avenues to address grievances and obtain basic needs like housing, credit, or employment, some BME communities established their own local voluntary organisations to meet the needs of their communities with little to no public funding.

Political and social rhetoric on black immigration in the 1950s had two effects: immigration and immigrants were equated with blacks, thus  mainstream society defined those groups as outsiders, and politicians and the media were concerned about the impact black immigration could have on the character of British identity.  Therefore, the government saw state intervention as the primary means to deal with issues of racism and racial discrimination (Goulbourne 1998).  The Labour government passed the Race Relations Acts (RRA) of 1965 and 1968.  These Acts set up bodies that would deal with issues of discrimination, social adjustment and welfare faced by immigrants and aimed to educate the public about race relations.

Prior to the RRA in 1962 the government established the National Advisory Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants (NACCI) in conjunction with the 1962 Immigration Act.  In 1965 the RRA established the Race Relations Board.  The NACCI was supposed to coordinate all local multi-racial organizations and lend support to those organisations while the Race Relations Board, and subsequent Community Relations Commission, was supposed to enforce the RRA (Afridi and Warmington 2010; Solomos 2003; Kushner 1994).

Between 1964 and 1965 the NACCI toured the country, encouraging local authorities and others to support existing local BME community organisations, and helped form other organisations where they did not exist.   According to Afridi and Warmington (2010) by the middle of 1965 thirty such committees existed, with one-third of them having full time officers and funding from local authorities or social services departments.  These initial organisations over time were able to provide more welfare services for the communities they served.  The start of an independent voluntary sector provision had begun, paving the way for the future of the Black and Minority Ethnic  (BME) Voluntary and Community Third Sector that emerged in the 1990s.

Historically, BME organisations formed to help combat the racism many communities faced (Afridi and Warmington 2010).  Again, this was done by creating a group solidarity around racial and ethnic identity, and through providing needed services to these communities, along with challenging and protesting policies that were detrimental to these communities.  Since the mid-1990s Government, under New Labour and now the Coalition, has placed an emphasis on civil society organisations (formerly known as the third sector) to help delivery needed services to local communities, regenerate neighbourhoods, and create a solidified and vibrant civil society.  Within this space BME civil society organisations (CSOs) are now playing an even more pivotal role in their communities.

In the following sub-pages are the history, development and current activities for a number of different BME organisations in the Southwest.  Have a look and uncover the history of some of the areas more influential BME community organisations.

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