Sunday marked one year to the day since an image of me carrying an injured Right-wing protester to safety went viral. I think about that day often — the simmering tension and the ugliness of the far-Right mobs’ racism, but also the fact it has changed my life in a way I could never have anticipated. One of the most memorable moments over the past year was chatting one-to-one with Prince Harry on Zoom. I thought it would be nerve-wracking but he’s a similar age to my son so it was like talking to him really. GQ were also kind enough to make me humanitarian of the year — the award weighs a ton so I used it to work out when the gyms were closed.
On Monday I was in meetings all day for the charity I’ve set up, United to Change and Inspire (UTCAI), which aims to tackle inequality in the education, business and justice systems. I was chatting to a community hub who have given us access to a building which we’ll be using for alternative education provision. This aims to prevent children being expelled from school and put in Pupil Referral Units, as there’s a direct pipeline from PRUs to young offender institutions and prison. About 68 per cent of inmates have been to PRUs, which are disproportionately made up of black pupils.
On Tuesday I had a slight change of pace — I was invited to Ascot. It was my first time and I expected it to be all pomp and pageantry but it wasn’t like that at all. I’m so grateful for opportunities like this but the most special thing I’ve achieved is becoming an author. I wrote a book with poet Sophia Thakur, Everyone Versus Racism: A Letter To My Children. In it I describe the realities of life as a black man today and why we must unite to inspire change for generations to come.
On Wednesday I worked on my online coaching, where I mentor clients on their fitness journey. Sport and fitness are a big part of my life, and so I was disappointed to see some so-called England fans booing their own side last week. To me it’s a disgrace. Gareth Southgate has made it clear that taking the knee represents support for the sentiment that black lives matter, and is not a show of support for any particular organisation. Footballing bodies need to implement proper fines and bans for countries and clubs who fail to control racist fans, and have people of colour in positions of authority. The Government were quick to support a cricketer removed from the England team for past racist and sexist tweets but had little to say about the booing. This doesn’t surprise me.
I was at a school on Thursday to give a talk about being the change you want to see in the world. I also read a few paragraphs of my book to them. Some boys don’t think it’s cool to read, so I go in there looking as hip as I can in my Jordans, and sit down and read to these kids so they see me, a big, strong man, reading a book.
When I think about what has changed in terms of race relations over the past year, we have so far to go but at least now the conversations are here and are being had. But we need tangible change from the top down, strong moral leadership, and a government that takes this issue seriously.
If you would like to make a donation to the UTCAI Organisation, click here.