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Greens of Colour at Autumn Conference 2021

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By Paul Beswick, 2021-22 Co-Secretary, Greens of Colour 

To suggest barely catching my train, finding a seat and then arriving at Birmingham New Street on Friday 22nd October with barely enough time to find my (terrifyingly expensive) hotel and the (far from Covid-secure) Conference Venue before the ‘Greens of Colour Speech’ was stressful, is to understate the situation many of us found ourselves in, trying to help make this Hybrid Green Party Autumn Conference a success: but it’s no exaggeration to state that Dzaier Neil’s truly groundbreaking, intersectional and inspiring presentation, to a standing room only conference hall – she followed straight after our new Leaders, Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay – reminded me why I’d made the effort, and why so many of us give so much to the liberating, progressive and compassionate organization that is the Green Party.  I won’t even attempt to do that fantastic speech justice – but please watch it (it’s on the Autumn Conference page of Green Spaces), and I’m sure you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Conference Saturday was a phenomenally busy day for me personally, with a 5am start (to re-write a speech), but being at the Plenary when the motion for Free Social Care and Support for Disabled Adults was passed (and to a standing ovation), and the motions to add disability to our Philosophical Basis, to enable a Policy Working Group to review and update our Rights and Responsibilities Chapter, and the related motions to define Gypsy, Roma and Travellerism (and to update the relevant areas of the same chapter) were ‘fast-tracked’ was another personal Conference highlight. Dzaier’s asking Greens of Colour to do all we can now to help take the Free Social Care and Support for Disabled Adults initiative forward in particular, because of the “massive implications” social care has for so many of us and for all our communities, and especially for the disabled amongst us, who often cannot access even the basic care and support they and their families need under a profit-driven and system. 

The first ever ‘hybrid’ Greens of Colour meeting a little later meant that probably more people were able to join us than had ever done before; and Azzees Minott, our Chair, used her depth of experience as a meeting facilitator to ensure everyone got the opportunity to explore ways to make the Green Party more inclusive, representative and ethnically diverse in future, by breaking the meeting up into smaller groups to help make sure everyone was able to be heard. 

Early evening saw another Greens of Colour event, again chaired by Azzees, on Climate Justice and Reparations, which featured presentations by Kofi Mawuli Klu of the ‘Stop the Maangamizi, We Charge Genocide/Ecocide’ campaign, and Stephen Corry, the former CEO of Survival International.

stopthemaangamizi.com | Stop the harm as the first step to repairing the damage!

The carbon offsetting plans of western governments, planting trees in the Global South to ‘make up for’ current emissions here, and the proposal from the big environmental NGO’s to designate up to 30% of the world’s land as ‘protected areas’ (a proposal that’s actually likely to be adopted by COP26) were highlighted by both speakers as the new ‘front lines’ in the struggle against colonialism. 

Kofi Mawuli Klu made it clear that reparations were what was actually needed instead – not just financial compensation for the atrocities of enslavement and colonialism, but also practical support for the people in the many countries affected by slavery and colonialism in particular , as a way to ensure the Black empowerment of Afrikans and their subsequent role in galvanizing the revolutionary transformation of the present unjust order of the world. A packed meeting gave all these ideas their full and optimistic support.

Saturday ended with a joint Greens of Colour/LGBTQIA+ Greens/Young Greens social at the Warehouse Café, a radical vegan workers cooperative a short walk from the Conference venue; by joining forces we three groups could fill the whole place, which meant we had a truly Green takeover for the evening!? 

Although I could only stay for just over an hour myself, it was such a good humored, convivial and peaceful gathering that it was crystal clear that most of us can recognize our shared hopes, dreams and ideals, and that we Greens truly have so much more in common than can sometimes divide us; that’s what we were all celebrating.

As Kefentse Dennis - the incoming Greens of Colour Chair,  GPEW Trade Union Liaison Officer (TULO) on the Green Party of England  and Wales Executive (GPEx), and the self-proclaimed ‘hardest working Black man in the Midlands’  said when asked to sum up Autumn Conference this year:

“Although we lacked in numbers, we did not lack in voices.  Our mindset was clear, as was our determination to work on the tandem that is racial justice and climate justice.  We’ve had amazing speeches, meetings and workshops at this Conference, and heard from so many people who amplified our concerns and offered us their solutions. Today I can move on, more energized and focused than before."

And it really was good to be back at Conference again, in spite of the very real risks of coronavirus this time, the expense, and all the other associated stresses and difficulties.

This Conference, many ‘Greens of Colour’ made a real difference; and not just for our own communities and interest groups, but also towards creating the inclusive, compassionate society that we Greens sincerely want to see.

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