Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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National black role model launch - Hazel Blears

National black role model launch - Hazel Blears

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (295) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 3 December 2008

Top business men, journalists, servicemen, a fire-fighter, lawyers and media experts are amongst the twenty individuals being named in the first-ever national role model programme for Black boys and young Black men by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears today.

Following a nationwide recruitment campaign, well over 200 applications from successful Black men across the country were received. The REACH panel comprising fashion designer and businessman Ozwald Boateng, entrepreneur and winner of the Apprentice Tim Campbell, founder and Director of Operation Black Vote Simon Woolley and Metropolitan Police Superintendent and founder of the Black Police association Leroy Logan selected the final twenty role models to form the first national group of its kind - to help raise the aspirations and attainment of Black boys.

The role models from a wide range of occupations and many different parts of the country include an army officer, a barrister, a TV weatherman, a fire fighter, a royal navy engineer, top business consultants and entrepreneurs, a teacher, local council leaders, a probation officer, accountants and finance experts, a civil servant and a TV presenter and were selected because of their outstanding abilities to inspire, lead and connect with young black boys.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears said:

"The election of Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton's recent success is a powerful signal to young people that they can achieve. But for many they will still be the men on the telly, removed from their day to day to lives, whose achievements exist in a world beyond theirs. "

"The REACH role modelling programme was about finding a way of making a more relevant connection. Nurturing ambitious, realistic aspirations by showing young Black men that they can achieve in any and every walk of life they can imagine. "

"That is why I am delighted by the calibre and diversity of the role models that have put themselves forward. Each of these men has faced challenges and barriers, but through skill, determination and hard work they have succeeded. Now they have a chance to tell their stories and show that success and recognition are there for the taking - if only young people reach for them. "

"We know that different people find inspiration in different things and this was never about pretending to second guess or prescribe models of success. What this programme is about is increasing the pool of positive people that our young Black men see and lifting their sights. The twenty men that are stepping up for this challenge are more than capable of doing just that. "

Speaking on behalf of the REACH Panel, Entrepreneur and winner of the BBC's Apprentice Tim Campbell said:

"The successfully appointed national role models were all individually selected by young black men initially so we had a really hard job selecting just 20 from the many who applied. However, the personal achievements and inspirational experiences of the final twenty were clearly evident and we now have an extremely powerful group who will not only inspire the next generation across the country to have limitless aspirations but they will also encourage other role models to come forward to work with young people on a local level. Now that the first strand of the REACH recommendations has been completed emphasis can focus on the remaining four areas."

The twenty role models being announced today are: Michael Barrington Hibbert, 29, Director, financial services - Odgers, Ray and Berndtson, Northampton

Alexander Beresford, 28, TV Weather Presenter, Bristol

Lieutenant Commander Neville Bryce MBE, 49, Royal Navy Engineer, Isle of Wight

Junior Crawford-Brown, 38, Probation Officer, Wolverhampton

Karl George, 40, Runs his own consultancy, Birmingham

Dorian Leatham, 59, Independent Chair, Nottingham City Council, Brixton

Clive Lewis, 37, TV reporter/presenter & army officer, Norfolk

Piers Linney, 37, Corporate Financier & Company Director, The North and London

Aleck Matambo, 33, Manager, Ernst & Young, London

Rob Neil, 44, Civil Servant, Harrow

Obi Nwofor, 32, London Underground Project Manager, Hornchurch, Essex.

Buchi Onwugbonu, 37, Financial Management Expert, Global Management Consultancy Practice, Hayes, Middlesex

Richard Reid, 30, Fire Fighter, Herne Hill, London

Kevin Reynolds, 42, CEO Artist Management Company, West London.

Adrian Rollins, 36, Teacher, Romford

Matthew Ryder, 41, Barrister, Brixton

Karl Sewell, 49, Local Authority Senior Manager, Sidcup, Kent

Lanre Sulola, 25, Accountant, Newham, London

Mark Sutherland, 37, Head of Property: One Stop (Tesco Group), Birmingham

Phillip Thompson, 27, Design Consultant, Wolverhampton

Hazel Blears will also announce today that the role model group and REACH project overall will benefit from an additional £1 million investment, meaning funding for the work to raise the aspirations of Black boys will now total £2 million.

All twenty of the successful role models have an inspiring story to tell and come from many different backgrounds - from growing up in socially and economically deprived areas across the UK, to growing up in Nigeria. Some have experienced racism. Some have experienced trying times in their younger years, seeing friends go down the wrong route and getting into trouble with police and experiencing pressure to join gangs. But all, with drive and determination have gone on to achieve despite the challenges that many young Black men can face.

A number of the role models are eminent business men, achieving places in the Black power list. The twenty men range in age from 25 to 59 years of age, and bring with them a wealth of experience that they will use to galvanise Black boys and young Black men across the country. They will share their stories with Black boys who may face similar challenges today. It is these men who will help to provide the most powerful antidote to a culture of low aspiration that is seeing too many of our young Black men fail.

One of the role models, Clive Lewis, who is a TV reporter/presenter and army officer in the Territorial Army said:

"I know only too well how difficult it can be to make your way as a Black man through the pitfalls life throws up in front of you. Fortunately I had a father to help guide me. Not everybody is as fortunate and maybe that's where I can help."

In the New Year the role models will each be helping to devise an individual action plan - designing a programme of activities with Black boys playing to each of the role models strengths and skills. The role models will also work together on group activities targeting different regions of the country where they are most needed. They will go into schools and colleges, youth projects and also young offender institutions and they will talk about their personal journeys. They will encourage young people to set their sights high and offer advice and support through workshops aimed at boosting confidence and building resilience to enable young Black boys to turn their back on some of the negative paths they could go down. As well as these specific visits the messages and stories from the role models will be amplified through use of blogs and podcasts, as well as web chats and wider media activity.

The role models will also act as regional leads for many other mentors and volunteers across the country - these mentors are those men that applied for the role model programme but who despite their skills and experience missed out in the final selection process. The mentors will provide an invaluable one to one service for Black boys in their area and will be a port of call for the boys when they are needed.

A report to Government last year highlighted the barriers that are preventing some Black boys from fulfilling their full potential, and stressed that too often the only images of successful Black men were those of rap artists - who can glamorise crime, guns and gangs. They said that Black boys and young Black men needed a much wider set of images and examples to follow to show them that Black men can be, and are, successful in a wide range of fields. The creation of the role model group is one part of the Governments package of measures to help raise the aspirations and attainment of young Black men and it specifically aims to boost the number of positive Black role models for our young Black men to aspire to.

The REACH report highlighted a number of barriers preventing some Black boys from fulfilling their full potential and recommended that these be tackled together to bring about the changes that are needed. The Government is currently taking action to:

* Improve engagement between schools and Black parents - Government and community leaders are currently looking into establishing home school partnership agreements to take place in schools across the country. These and other programmes are to engage parents with schools and will be looking at how best to meet the needs of Black families.

* Strengthen the reporting and monitoring of race equality and schools - Ofsted has reviewed, revised and published new guidance for inspectors which will strengthen the way that it reports on race equality issues including drawing attention to good practice and highlighting inequalities.

* Supporting Black led Voluntary and Community Sector organisations - These are often the organisations working most closely with young Black men at risk of dropping out.

The role model group is being launched tonight at an event on London, and alongside Communities secretary Hazel Blears the event will be hosted by Kwame Kwei Armah and Baroness Scotland, and Minister for Higher Education David Lammy will also be attending. They will speak to an audience made up of the role models, the wider mentoring group, Parliamentarians, and many from the recently launched Black Power list.

Notes to Editors

1. Biographical details of the twenty role models can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/nationalrolemodels

2. The role models will now be managed by the Windsor fellowship who have been awarded a Government grant to manage the role model group, and in the first few weeks will be supported by the Government so that the role models activities can begin in full in the New Year.

3. A national Black role modelling programme was one of the recommendations made by the REACH group in their report entitled An Independent Report to Government on Raising the Aspirations and Attainment of Black boys and Young Black Men http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/reachreport

4. The REACH group was set-up by Government in 2006 and had 22 members drawn from a variety of sectors, including the voluntary and community sector, education, academia and law enforcement.

5. The Government response to that report can be viewed at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/reachresponse

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