Preston’s Flag Market became a melting pot of colour and sound on Saturday, as the city hosted the fifth annual Stand Together Against Racism (STAR) event.Advertisement
As part of the Lancashire Commonwealth Celebrations 2018, the STAR event also marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and demonstrated the commitment Preston has when it comes to community cohesion and tackling racism.
Organiser, and manager of Preston Racial Equality and Diversity Council, Faruk Desai, said: “There’s around 40 organisations here today showcasing their work and showing how they are contributing in their way to promote the community relations and community cohesions and integrations in the city of Preston.
“Preston people support this event well, they interact and come and engage, and participate and enjoy themselves and learn more about each other.”
There were stalls set up by a number of community groups and organisations, including the British Red Cross, Preston Black History Group, Sisters4Sisters, Sahara, UCLan CCG, and Lancashire County Council, providing information on diversity and ethnicity, as well as giving advice on mental health, hate crimes, and wellbeing.
Read more: Spending a morning with the Sisters 4 Sisters group
Sisters4Sisters, a support group for women in Preston were there with their hijab stall.
Tasnim Desai from the group said: “We’re here to raise awareness about the hijab and to tell people that hijabs are just an item of clothing we wear to represent who we are.
“We actually find when we do this that we get so much interest because people want to know what it feels like; people want to know what they look like with one and want to try one on.
“It’s a real big punch in the face to racism really because a lot of people come along to try and integrate and see what it’s like.
“It breaks down so many barriers and has always been successful and it’s our way of saying ‘stand against racism’.”
Along with Sisters4Sisters, members of the Preston Black History Group were in attendance showing their support for the event.
Chair of the group, Clinton Smith said: “This event is all about sending a message out to the wider community to say that we are a cohesive city, not a divided city or town as some others are across England and Wales.
“We are here to highlight that Black History is an integral part of World History, and to get it out into the mainstream so people can get a true understanding of their history and where Black History has contributed to the wellbeing and development of mankind.
“We have attended every one of these STAR events in Preston since they started, that’s how important we think they are.”
Chelsea Ashton from Lancashire County Council’s Children and Wellbeing service was there to help promote standing up against racism and the effects that racism is having on people at the moment, especially with bullying, hate crimes and cyber bullying among young people.
Read more: Prestfest returns to the Flag Market
She said: “In my job at the moment I’m dealing with children who are suffering from bullying and a lot of that is related to racism.
“Some of these children are wanting to take their own lives and there’s a lot of self-harm as well; self-harming has risen because of the different types of bullying.
“A child can leave school now and still get bullied from the comfort of their own home.
“We hope to make other people aware of the signs and symptoms of bullying and bring to people’s attention that there is bullying that goes on out there which is racially motivated.”
Members of Lancashire County Council also carried out a quiz at the event, in which people were asked questions about race and racism in Europe, and it was surprising to discover that there are still 18 European countries who have not officially signed the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
With Brexit just around the corner, now more than ever, it is essential that Preston, with its diverse and mixed communities, comes together to ensure every race and ethnicity feels included and safe in the city.
And that message was certainly apparent when the city’s cultural life and long-standing reputation of combating and highlighting racism, was celebrated with entertainment from Salsa Northwest, Aspire Dance Troupe, and the Worldwide Samba Drummers; as well as performances from members of the Preston Caribbean Carnival group and Kash Bollywood Dance.
Mayor of Preston, Councillor Brian Rollo, took to the stage to make an important speech and thank everyone for turning out to the event.
Mr Rollo said: “At this STAR event we take each of the words individually; we need to Stand, we need to Stand Together, we need to Stand Together Against, and we need to Stand Together Against Racism, and I’m proud that Preston is a STAR.”