Southwark: The Poster Boy (or Girl) for Diversity

Southwark can rightly be lauded as one of the most diverse places to live in the UK.

This is a particularly compelling sentence for me considering that the city from where I hail is perhaps one of the least diverse places in the UK. To illustrate the point, until recently, among the largest group of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) residents were visiting students from China.

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Southwark couldn’t be more different – as of last year 48% of the borough’s population belonged to the BAME group, and this is only set to increase.

It’s only when you have a look at this statistic in greater detail that you can really understand how diverse and multicultural a place it really is.

Around 31% of the population is of Black ethnicity, compared to an average of 17% across London. Half of this population is of African descent which could explain why it is estimated that Southwark has the greatest concentration of African Christianity in the world outside of Africa.

In both the 2001 and 2011 censuses, Southwark had the highest percentage and number of African residents for all London Boroughs. In fact, Southwark also has the highest percentage and number of African residents of any local authority in Britain. This has given Southwark the moniker of ‘African capital of the UK.’

Southwark also has one of the largest Latin American communities in the UK. This was recognised in 2012 by Southwark council when they became the first local authority to include ‘Latin American’ in the ethnicity section of their monitoring forms.

So whether it is the Colombians or Ecuadorians living around Elephant and Castle, or Peckham’s vibrant Nigerian population, there are pockets of diversity all over the borough.

Black History Month

It is estimated that there are nearly 4500 unregistered community groups in Southwark and the array of groups and churches that have formed to represent Southwark’s various BAME populations is surprisingly vast. They provide vital help and support to individuals just arriving in the borough looking to integrate and adapt. They also strengthen communities who have taken root in Southwark in the past few years.

Have you heard about Msaada, which is a Black and Minority Ethnic Volunteering Programme at the Maudsley Hospital? Or what about the Pioneers, an African and Caribbean over 50s group based at the East Dulwich Community Centre?

There’s also Uganda Diaspora Engagement, The Southwark Somali Integration and Development Association, and the Ethnic Health Foundation to name a few: the list goes on.

These groups don’t often get the exposure or support that they need and there is ongoing work within Community Southwark and Southwark council to help and promote Southwark’s rich and diverse communities.

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One such endeavour is to help groups celebrate Black History Month, which occurs every year in October.

For the last 20 years in Southwark people, schools, libraries, groups and organisations host events and get involved with the celebration of Black History in order to:

  • Celebrate the talent, achievements and contributions of Southwark’s new and established black and ethnic minority communities
  • Provide opportunities for informal learning
  • Inspire, motivate and encourage the participation of Southwark’s diverse communities
  • Promote social cohesion by sharing histories and cultures

 

In order to support this, a number of Small (up to £500) and Large (up to £2,000) grants are available from Southwark council.

If you are interested, or know someone who might be, you can find out more about the application process and criteria by visiting the Southwark council website here.

The closing date for applications is Monday 20 June 9am and if you would like any help with your application then get in touch with us at engage@communitysouthwark.org.

Southwark continues to be the poster boy (or girl) for diversity in London and further afield, and this should be seen as a cause for celebration. While it may be argued that Black History should be celebrated all-year-round, October's celebration will only continue this tradition.

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