Sheffield councillors celebrate city’s diversity and welcome MOBO Awards show news
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A motion proposed to a meeting of Sheffield City Council yesterday (December 6) by Coun Barbara Masters, seconded by LibDem colleague Coun Sophie Thornton, highlighted the city’s cultural and religious diversity, with more than 120 languages spoken.
The motion said: “Our diversity is part of what makes Sheffield such an amazing place.”
It said that in shaping the City Goals, which the council will use to drive future change, it is clear that the majority of Sheffielders value that diversity. It added that a new Cohesion Framework will emerge from that, to give people a “shared approach for respecting and supporting each other now and for the long term”.
Coun Masters said: “I’m an in-comer as anyone can tell by listening to me. I was brought up in a community which did not tolerate outsiders, something I was perceived to be.
“When I first came to live in Sheffield you can’t imagine the surprise I felt, tinged with suspicion on living in a place where people were invariably friendly and helpful. There was sympathy and laughter, not at, but with, someoneunused to Sheffield ways – and the fishcake.
“We pride ourselves on being welcoming, friendly to strangers and rightly so. To being the first City of Sanctuary and where we led others have followed. A city with a rich cultural heritage drawing on our diversity. A city whose immigrants helped build our industrial base reliant on quality and innovation.
She added: “We take for granted that community cohesion, developed over years, is a given. It’s not. It’s easily destroyed in an age where ‘a lie can travel round the globe faster than the truth has left the starting gate’ in a time of social media.
“We have seen the results. Fear of difference, suspicion, intolerance rising, the stoking of a victim culture where no one has individual agency. We’ve seen worse. It happens to individuals and communities, in schools, the workplace and in public spaces.
“What we have has been hard won, building on the work of successive generations but easily destroyed. There is still a lot more to do. That is why we held the Race Equality Commission, we have the Strategic Equality andInclusion Board. And are now developing the Cohesion Framework taking its lead from the City Goals to which all of Sheffield’s residents can contribute.”
Coun Thornton described Sheffield as “a really beautiful place where people do come together”, helping each other when problems arise, such as during the Stannington gas flood last year.
A Labour amendment, moved by Coun Laura Moynahan and seconded by Coun Karen McGowan, stressed equality, diversity and inclusion as key features for council plans.
It added the city is delighted to welcome the MOBO Awards, the UK’s biggest celebration of Black music and culture, to Sheffield in February 2024. Genres include hip hop, grime, UK Drill, R&B, soul, reggae, jazz, gospel, and African music.
Coun Moynahan stressed the city’s long history of accepting refugees from war zones worldwide. She said that people with protected characteristics must be brought into all aspects of city decision-making, as it guarantees better outcomes.
They said the arrival of the Mobo Awards at the Utiita Arena on February 7 “shows that we’re seen as a diverse city that embraces black music and culture”.
A Green amendment, moved by Coun Alexi Dimond and seconded by Coun Henry Nottage, called for action to tackle the homelessness crisis facing an estimated 750 asylum seekers going through a streamlined asylum process up to December 15. Asylum seekers given legal status to remain often have only seven days’ notice to leave their accommodation.
It also called on the council to apologise for flying the Israeli flag “which caused hurt and division” in Sheffield and encouraged all councillors to attend the launch of the local Lift the Ban campaign in the Town Hall on December 15.
The campaign is calling for asylum seekers to have a legal right to work, which is currently denied to them.
Coun Dimond said: “Sheffield truly is a City of Sanctuary, a beacon of solidarity, union and hope, and it has been heartening to see Sheffielders of all faiths and none, including almost every member of this council, coming together to demand a ceasefire in Gaza, the most dangerous place in the world to be a child, where children have been killed at a rate far higher than any other conflict this century, including even the Syrian civil war.
“Residents have been demonstrating and fundraising week in and week out, seeking to stop the bloodshed, even as our two biggest national parties and media do their utmost to manufacture consent for genocide, and the UK government refuses to answer questions on whether it is materially supporting the carpet bombing of the largest concentration camp the world has ever seen.
“I truly hope this LibDem motion will ensure that there will be no more support for racist and misogynist comedians, opportunist campaigning against traveller families or posing for photos outside the offices of weapons manufacturers who create the refugees in this world.”
Coun Dimond also said he had seen a moving performance by the One World choir, made up of Sheffield refugees. He said that highlights will be shown on the BBC’s One Show next Wednesday, December 13.
The LibDem motion was passed unanimously and the Labour amendment was unopposed.
The Green amendment was carried, except for the paragraph apologising for flying the Israeli flag at the town hall, which Labour and the LibDems opposed. Both parties also abstained on a paragraph in the Green amendment that said “every Sheffield resident should have equal democratic rights and be able to vote in our local elections” but this was carried.