Pauline Long: Let’s support each other and help the needy

Pauline Long, founder of BEFFTA Awards, is appealing to members of the Black community to unite and support each other. “Does giving back take away from you? No it does not, it in fact increases your blessings,” she says in this exclusive interview with The AfroNews.

As part of their new initiative to support community charities, Ms. Long and her BEFFTA Awards team will host “BEFFTA This Is Love Concert” on 26th May 2012 at The Hippodrome. It will raise funds for The Stephen Lawrence Centre which risks closing down due to financial difficulties.

Pauline, why have you decided to organise the “BEFFTA This Is Love Concert”?

BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts) Awards is a special award ceremony that purely gives back by recognising and honouring amazing black and ethnic talent within music, fashion, comedy, television, poetry, spoken word, modelling, film production and art directing, acting and more.

In the spirit of continuing to give back the BEFFTA Awards has branched out to reach out to community charities and projects and support them in whatever way we can whether financially or by volunteering our services. In this case I decided to initiate an annual charity concert that would help create awareness and raise much needed funds for various community charities but most importantly “BEFFTA This Is Love Concert” is spreading a message of love and promoting anti-violence and anti-hate.

Only through love for a brother and a sister can we live peacefully in a community. This year we decided to support a very important charity which is The Stephen Lawrence Centre. The Centre is at risk of closing due to financial difficulties. The parents of Stephen Lawrence have done an amazing job by creating something very positive from something negative and I think the only thing a united community can do is offer their kindness and help keep the Centre open.

It is a community asset and a Centre of excellence offering a fantastic learning environment not only to the youth but anyone with interest in film/media, IT, art, business management and entrepreneurship.

The Centre also offers mentorship schemes to young people. The BEFFTA team visited the centre and were amazed by what the centre has to offer. We caught a glimpse of Doreen Lawrence mentoring the youth at the centre.

Who will perform at the concert?

The line-up is absolutely fantastic, the artists are all on a different level but the greatest thing about them is they are all doing it for a worthy cause. They are donating their time and skills to The Stephen Lawrence Centre. The artists performing at “BEFFTA This Is Love Concert” on 26th May 2012 are: Omar, Starboy Nathan, Don-E, Myco Chris, Stedman Pearson, Dego Ranks, 4FLAVA, ShiiKANE, David O, Dionne Reid, Cloud Silver Line, May7ven, J-Sol, Aisling O’Reilly, and many others.

What are some the main challenges you’ve encountered in organising the charity concert?

One of the main challenges is having to explain again and again that it is a charity concert raising much needed funds for a very worthy cause – The Stephen Lawrence Centre, to people that are constantly asking for free tickets.

I do not understand how people can say they are coming to support the show when they cannot reach out to part with £20 to buy a ticket, money that will all go straight to the Centre.

I would like to encourage our community to give back more to our charities, no one, absolutely no one will come to our aid if we do not come to our own aid.

Yes we can and I strongly believe that together as a community we can. The other challenge is getting businesses to sponsor the event, but that is not new. I know many if not all people organising events for the community usually have to pay from their own pockets, some have to work two or three jobs somewhere, some have to remortgage just to make it happen for the community.

I call upon community businesses whether small or big to support community based projects that give back and together we can all grow. Their growth is the community growth and if there is a growing community then the businesses will definitely receive support too from the very community they are giving back to.

It is a two way traffic that must be addressed. For “BEFFTA This Is Love Concert”, I would like to encourage businesses to auction whatever services or goods they can offer and donate funds to The Stephen Lawrence Centre. I would like to encourage as many people as possible to buy tickets either on the night of the show at The Hippodrome Golders Green or buy online in advance. We want to stand proud together at the end of the concert and announce how much we have all raised for the wonderful Stephen Lawrence Centre. I would like to see bloggers and members of the press giving the concert coverage before the big night as opposed to asking for press passes to cover the event on the night. The time is now; please offer any support that you can.

Do you think the UK has learnt anything from the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the conviction of his killers?  

Time will tell. I think the question should be why racism? Why go out of your way to be a racist when you can choose love and accept diversity?

Please share with us your experience of racism in the UK.

Unfortunately racism is something inevitable for any black person here in the UK. I have experienced it. My children, friends and family have experienced it. One of the many experiences that still lingers on my mind is when I was spat at and called the forbidden N word just randomly on a packed moving train. No one came to my aid, everyone in the carriage just carried on like it was normal. For one to do that to another human being there must be some deep-rooted hate towards the black race that we will never understand. It is rather sad.

There are so many organisations doing or claiming to be doing charity work in African countries. What’s your view on their work?

What we need in Africa more than anything else is the opportunity to trade with the global village. We need the chance to be allowed to explore beyond the territories of our beautiful continent. Doing charity work is not a bad thing, it is amazing. Giving back where you took from is awesome, giving back and sharing with people that gave you is fantastic but when the spirit of giving back becomes a mockery where people have been asked to sit and wait for the basket to arrive, then it is wrong. As a result Africa’s visible image is only that of a begging bowl. As an African when you are seen giving back to fellow Africans people will always tend to raise brows but if a European or an American is doing the same, they are hailed as heroes. Why is that so when we know clearly that most of the big charities’ funds get lost in administration and management, very little if nothing reaches the people on the ground.

You’ve been seeking support for different charities. Please describe the reaction you’ve received from the Black community in the UK.

I have always been and I am a fun of giving back, it is my calling. It is what I live for, however I cannot do it on my own. I often seek help from some amazing people in the community because together we can achieve a lot but I have to point out that it takes a lot of convincing to get people to join you in giving back.

Does giving back take away from you? No it does not, it in fact increases your blessings. There is a misconception that only the rich can give back and hence the misconception that I’m wealthy. Well, far from it.

Actually let me re-tract my comment, I am wealthy because I have a roof on my head, I have had a meal, I’m healthy and I have had an education. Some may not agree with me and say being wealthy is driving a Lamborghini, living in a mansion and jetting off on Holiday in Dubai. I think it is wrong to assume that only one that has the latter lifestyle is wealthy and therefore is the only one that should give back.

I have done several events of Mr and Miss East Africa UK, none of them ever made money, I paid for the venues, I gave cash to the winners and at the same time donated money to the charities all from doing second jobs.  It then becomes even a huge challenge to continue supporting the charities publicly through events, you shift and start supporting them privately without creating mass awareness for them. It is more affordable this way. So for now I’m personally supporting three charities with the little I have as I continue to run Mr and Miss East Africa UK to help open doors for the youth and lead them to the path of entrepreneurship.

Many Africans normally complain when others do things on their behalf, but they are hardly ready to take leading roles. Have you had a similar experience?

Of course I have had similar experiences, I have even had hostility when I started BEFFTA Awards. Some personalities who go round calling themselves community leaders refused to lend their support and some even went as far as sending hate mails.

I wonder who appointed these people as leaders. But as a self-motivated individual I saw no point taking their actions to heart as it is easy for me to turn a negative into a positive.  Four years on BEFFTA is going strong fully funded by me and my husband and doing exactly what it was created to do.

BEFFTA Awards is a unique award ceremony that runs in the UK, USA and very soon in Africa and the Caribbean. It is the award ceremony where everybody is somebody, where everyone who has worked hard whether for a year, a month, a decade in the entertainment, film, fashion, television and arts is honoured. It is an award ceremony where we expect the A list celebrities and well known celebrities to mix equally with the unknown and unsung talent under one roof. It is where they are expected to share the same stage and sit on the same row because at BEFFTA Awards your contribution to the above industries whether small or big is valued. We are about encouraging personalities to achieve at the highest level no matter what the critics say. At BEFFTA Awards we encourage personalities to swap business cards and work together and I’m proud to say that throughout the years the award ceremony has created unity amongst the community and plenty of collaborations have been born as a result.

I’ve learnt that you are running a studio in London. Please share with us about it.

East End Studio is one of London’s largest blacked out  film and Television studios where we also work with the youth who are studying film and media. The studio is giving them opportunity to have the real exposure in the film industry. It is my day and night job that requires a lot of dedication. We have shot several music videos with major bands and artists from rock bands to hip-hop, RnB, Reggae, pop, Christian. We shoot commercials, movies, fashion shows, theatre and dance rehearsals, dance classes, auditions and more.  

Any other comment?

My plea to the community is to rise up above anything that brings division and unite to support each other if not for our benefit, for the benefit of our children and the generations to come. Let us give back, let us build our dynasties together and be our own support pillars for all the foundations we set. Remember our children are watching!

By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a