Time has come for the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups to play key roles in the running of this country’s affairs. All reports clearly show that we are underrepresented in the Parliament and local governments. There is nothing new in this. The only worrying thing is that we know we are underrepresented but fail to come up with strategies to improve our involvement in active politics.
The first step, which is actually the most important thing for anyone living in a democratic society, is to recognise the power of our vote. Many of us have the right to vote but we are not even registered voters. There are many people yearning for the right to vote, even within Europe. We are lucky to have this right, let’s make good use of it. While in other parts of the world arms are used to get to power, here those who want power must convince us to vote for them. We hold the key to their ascension to power! This puts us at a better position to bargain and make politicians pay attention to what affects us and our communities.
By using our vote, we can vote in those we want and vote out those we don’t want. Vote is power. Not voting is like expecting to win the lottery without buying a ticket. If we don’t vote, we should not complain that those who have been elected don’t represent us. Whether we vote or not, someone will be elected. But the question is, will that be the best person to represent our interests?
Apart from voting, we also have the right to be voted for. But quite often we don’t exercise this right. Of course there are so many obstacles in winning the nominations, but there are those who’ve made it. All those obstacles are challenges we can and must overcome. We can’t wait to be given opportunities. We must fight for them.
It is equally important for us to team up and give full support to our community members aspiring to join active politics.
We have to support those with political ambitions, as long as they have the interests of this great country at heart. And we must never forget that black community members who become leaders don’t only become leaders of black communities but of the entire nation. This means we can’t only rely on support of black community members if we want to be elected. We need to form alliances with all people in our areas.
Election of Barack Obama as the President of US should be a perfect example for us. His election shows that anyone can make it to any position. Nothing can stop you if strongly believe in your dream and work hard towards achieving it. Obama’s victory was a result of many factors. Some of the key ones were: full integration in local community, active involvement in local activities, not limiting one’s activities within one’s own community, having organisational and fundraising skills, deeper knowledge of how the (political, party) system works (you need this knowledge to penetrate it), being a registered voter, active involvement in trade union issues, networking, awareness of the real problems affecting the people and concrete plans to solve them, plus good communication skills.
We have many in our communities with similar skills. Let’s encourage them to emerge.
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a