BLM group aims to promote equality across Cheshire
The Black Lives Matters group in Sandbach has taken the next step in its drive to promote equality.
After a handful of campaigners first gathered in the town centre during the summer on the back of international outrage following the death of black man George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis, USA, Sandbach BLM group, which said it now has 900 members, has announced that it has been officially constituted as a non profit organisation which wants to spread its equality message further afield.
Organisers have now established an executive committee called the Cheshire Voices for Equality Association so the group can be held accountable and “get things done properly”.
While still highlighting race issues it also wants to promote inclusivity relating to the LGBTQ+ community, support the disabled, empower women and help the Traveller and Gypsy community.
To show that it is more than a group focusing on issues of race, the new association is planning to organise lunchpacks for local foodbanks in the wake of the Government's decision not to support Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign for an extension of free school meals into school holidays.
It would also like to set up local soup kitchens.
Sandbach BLM founder Katie Unnithan said: “We are really excited to announce that we are officially constituted and now a non-profit, unincorporated association.
“Myself, Keelie Grindley and Mia Sykes are now the executive committee of Cheshire Voices for Equality Association (CVEA).
“This means that we can now start working in more of an official capacity and broaden our scope across Cheshire to promote equality.
“The constitution will enable us to efficiently delegate tasks and work in an organised way to have as big of an impact as we possibly can across Cheshire.
We will encourage others and continue to move through the world with compassion and intersectionality at the forefront of our work.”
Miss Unnithan added: “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone putting time and energy into incredible anti-racism work in Sandbach, across a broad range of areas.”
At the end of August, BLM supporters filled the cobbles in Sandbach town centre for a day of protest featuring speakers and entertainers from cities including Stoke and Liverpool.
Looking ahead Miss Unnithan said: “Social justice has a lot of different elements and we want to form a group that focuses on each element. We want to focus on education, create resources and raise money to help the community and create a positive environment. We have lots of amazing people helping us to facilitate working in a wider capacity.”
The association will also be working with women's empowerment groups including Motherwell Cheshire, a service provided for women by women, which has bases in Crewe and Winsford and which promotes positive health and wellbeing, by offering a range of educational services, holistic therapies and mental health support.
It also plans to work with the Children's University, a charity that operates in partnership with schools to develop a love of learning in children and which is committed to creating a level playing field of opportunity and opening up access to children of all backgrounds.
Miss Unithan said the association “will bring much more organisation to what we do”.
“There was a perception that we were very exclusive but that cannot be further from the truth as we are not doing it right if we are not intersectional,” she explained.
“We are here for all marginal groups whether it's LGBTQ+, the disabled or eastern Europeans, who face a lot of hate.
“We are trying to foster a feeling of inclusivity and to act as an advocate for those who may feel they do not have enough support.”
She added: “In general, creating safe and inclusive spaces definitely includes the Gypsy and Traveller community.”
Miss Sykes said the group was planning to work with Sandbach and Middlewich foodbanks on the back of Mr Rashford's campaign for the extension of free school meals into school holidays, a move which was voted down in the House of Commons last week.
She said: “We are not just about race issues but about gender and disability. We want to broaden our outlook. We don't think there is another group in Cheshire like this. We will hopefully be going into schools and organising workshops.”
The association is hoping to appoint other members and hold its first annual meeting in November.
Helen Boyle, previous chair of Birmingham LGBT, will be the association's official fund-raiser while Talia Sykes, Mia's sister, is the secretary. The group is still looking for a treasurer.
Miss Grindley said: “The group has really grown quickly. A small minority do not agree with what we are doing but there are so many people that want to make sure Sandbach is more inclusive.
“It was heartbreaking because Katie felt on her own to begin with. But the Black Lives Matters group has grown and grown, which gives us so much hope.”
She added: “We are really excited that we've been constituted, it makes things a lot more professional and official.”
Anyone interested in taking on the role as treasurer can email CVEAcontact@gmail.com