Black History Month 2023

20th October 2023

This October we celebrate Black History Month and recognise the contributions that Black people have made to the UK over many generations.

In Wales it also marks the launch of Race Council Cymru’s Black History Cymru 365, a year-long celebration of the rich cultural history and heritage, as well as the modern-day triumphs, of Black people in Wales.

I am proud to have joined with Wales’s other Police and Crime Commissioners to sponsor Black History Cymru 365 and you can find out more about this on Race Council Cymru’s website.

This includes sponsoring the ‘Public Services to Wales’ prize at the Black History Wales National Youth and Community Awards. I must congratulate the winner, Edith Melendez, for all the hard work she has done for the community. Edith came to this country as an asylum seeker and now, working as a trained translator with the African Community Centre, she works with refugees and asylum seekers to ensure they have access to critical help and support.

This week my team attended Race Council Cymru’s lecture on Black history at the Senedd, delivered by historian, Professor Olivette Otele. A Newport resident, Professor Otele delivered an educational presentation on ‘Foremothers’, looking at the impact that Black women have made to society. She explored the lives of many inspirational Black women, including the academic and activist Professor Wangari Maathai, astronaut Dr Mae Carol Jemison, and anti-slavery campaigner Mary Ann Shadd, to name just a few.

Attendees also heard impactful speeches from the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt. They spoke about the importance of creating an anti-racist Wales. It was pleasing to again hear senior leaders in Wales reinforce their commitment to working proactively with partners towards our shared goal of an anti-racist Wales.

I was also pleased to see that some of our partners from Cwmbran Centre for Young People (CCYP) were at the event. We fund CCYP to provide an evening youth club during the week and, as part of these sessions, they are running a month of activities centred around Black history. I look forwarding to finding out more about this work over the coming weeks.

Black History Month is also time for reflection.

We sponsored the National Black Police Association conference in Cardiff this week, hosted by South Wales Police. It was an opportunity to listen and learn from policing colleagues and speakers from across the UK, including Dr Stuart Lawrence who spoke movingly on the life and legacy of his brother Stephen.

In truth, we need to have uncomfortable conversations to reinforce the importance of and work required to understand and recognise the experiences of our communities.

Our staff networks are crucial to this, providing support and a safe space for officers and staff to talk about their experiences and concerns. The networks here at Gwent Police play a crucial role in challenging discrimination, promoting equality and inclusion, and driving culture change where it is needed. They are visible, viable voices within the organisation that enable people to speak up and be heard.

Gwent Police has several staff networks, all with a different focus, but all with the same goal of enabling people to be the best that they can be. I am fortunate enough to have been invited to meet with the networks personally and I can attest to the professionalism of those involved, and the dedication they display in support of their colleagues.

The social and political upheavals over the last few years have put clear pressures and demands on all our communities, but our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities have been disproportionally affected by this.

Community tensions are high. Trust in policing has been damaged.

It is our job to rebuild that trust. I am committed to rebuilding that trust.

As part of this commitment we are working with our partners in Criminal Justice Wales to develop and implement a dedicated and transparent anti-racism action plan. 

The plan was developed with members of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities across Wales. It outlines the actions that we will take over the next three years as part of our commitment to achieving an anti-racist criminal justice system.

I want to reassure our communities that anyone dealing with the police in Gwent will be treated equally, fairly and with respect. I am confident that, by working together, will create a fairer criminal justice system for all.

Read the Criminal Justice Anti-Racist Action Plan for Wales