I was delighted to be asked by Race Council Cymru to host its Black History Month launch event in Gwent last week.
It was an honour to publicly recognise and celebrate the contributions of individuals from our local communities who have become ‘Icons of Black Wales’.
This year commemorates the dawn of modern multicultural Britain and 70 years since the arrival of the first Windrush pioneers - young adventurers hoping for an economically bright future for themselves and their families.
Their experiences and achievements reflect and symbolise shared cultural characteristics such as resilience, hard work, community and spiritedness. Their positive pioneering outlook helped to re-build the country and create the Wales we see today.
Black History Month gives us an opportunity to remember and celebrate not only those important people from the past, but also those who are contributing to our society today.
The publication of the ‘Brilliant, Black and Welsh’ list by Wales Online is a defining moment in recognising the positive impact of our brilliant, black Welsh people.
Gwent is no stranger to multiculturalism, enriched as it is with the history and diversity of all those that have called it home across the centuries.
In more modern times, Newport docks and the healthcare, coal and steel industries attracted people from across the globe.
Many settled in Newport, establishing their families there and introducing a wide range of traditions and culture that continue to contribute to the social and ethnic diversity we see today.
This has had a positive effect on tolerance and community cohesion, and helped to bring forth better opportunities for later generations.
However, racism and discrimination still occur, so we must continue to promote and safeguard our principles of tolerance, inclusivity and equality.
Working with organisations such as Race Council Cymru is key to better understanding the challenges faced by many of our black and ethnic minority residents and to engage with them to help address their negative experiences.
Black History Month is important as it allows us to challenge misconceptions and misinformation that promote and proliferate hostility and discrimination towards these communities. It recognises a shared Welsh identity and shared values allowing us to learn the lessons of the past and create a better future for those that follow.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, part of my role is to hold the Chief Constable to account for the way that policing services are delivered in Gwent. This includes ensuring that anyone who has dealings with the Police is treated equitably and with fairness and respect.
Here in Gwent, our policing challenges vary dramatically across a relatively small geographic area, and our communities are changing rapidly.
The priorities set out in my Office and Gwent Police’s Joint Strategic Equality Plan are more important than ever, as they contribute to improved community cohesion. However, it is equally about the way my office and Gwent Police recruit, train, manage and develop the people who work for us.
It is also important our workforces visibly reflect the communities we serve. Community engagement is an essential part of this.
October also marks Hate Crime Awareness Week.
It is remarkable that, at the same time as we are celebrating the achievements and contributions of our black and ethnic minority citizens across Wales, we are also talking about the heinous impact that hate crime has on the very same communities.
Hate crime is a horrible, complex offence that is totally unacceptable behaviour in the 21st century. Policing has a major part to play in ending hate crime and providing support to people who experience hate incidents.
Reporting hate crime is essential if we are to tackle the issue successfully. People can report incidents in many ways, not just to the Police on 101, or 999, but also to other organisations, community groups or to Victim Support and True Vision using their third party reporting systems, and together, we encourage anyone who experiences a hate-related incident to report it.
However, some of the issues are not policing related.
To help challenge these, I would encourage a greater regional take up of black history events and activities, not only during October but also throughout the year, to raise the profile of black history across Wales as it forms an intrinsic part of our shared Welsh history.
History is what we do today to shape the future, and our young people are central to this.
I was very pleased to have sponsored Race Council Cymru’s recent black History Wales Youth Awards. These young people have demonstrated a commitment to social, civic and community matters.
And, who knows, one day we may be celebrating their admittance to the ranks of our ‘Icons of Black Wales’.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent