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Make sure you vote, say black stars

Published 15/04/2015

A poster featuring David Harewood, one of four black British stars appearing with white faces in a hard-hitting new campaign to encourage minorities to register to vote (Rankin/Operation Black Vote/Saatchi & Saatchi/PA)
A poster featuring David Harewood, one of four black British stars appearing with white faces in a hard-hitting new campaign to encourage minorities to register to vote (Rankin/Operation Black Vote/Saatchi & Saatchi/PA)
A poster featuring Sol Campbell, one of four black British stars appearing with white faces in a new campaign to encourage minorities to register to vote

Black British stars appear with white faces in a hard-hitting new campaign to encourage minorities to register to vote ahead of the general election.

Homeland actor David Harewood, musician Tinie Tempah, ex-footballer Sol Campbell and Paralympic medallist and television presenter Ade Adepitan were photographed for Operation Black Vote.

The campaign features four posters with photos taken by leading photographer Rankin and an online 60-second advert starring Harewood, made by ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi.

Harewood, 49, who played CIA chief David Estes in the American spy drama Homeland, helped launch the campaign in London today, saying voting was the only way to change institutions such as Westminster and make them more representative of a multicultural Britain.

He said: "What it brilliantly illustrates is that if you don't register to vote, you are quite literally taking all the vibrancy we have in our community off the table.

"If you don't register to vote, politicians don't really care about you, politicians aren't really caring about what you have to say, what you have to do, anything.

"The only way they talk to you is if you register to vote. That is when you become an important part of the electorate."

He said he had been inspired by seeing the queues of black people voting in the first free elections in post-apartheid South Africa and for President Barack Obama in the US.

He added: "The only way, as a part of the populace, we are going to change these often very foreign institutions - whether it be police force, Westminster, business - the only way we are going to effect any change is if we register to vote and vote for it.

"We become part of the process and we give ourselves a voice. It is simply no good to sit on the sidelines and say it has nothing to do with me, because politics has to do with all of us and the only way all of us are going to benefit from politics is if we are all registered to vote."

Operation Black Vote (OBV) also launched a 2015 general election manifesto with the aim of "reclaiming democracy, empowering citizens and fighting race equalities".

It says that in the past black and minority ethnic (BME) groups presented a broad range of "key policy demands" to all parties, but adds: "Our experience shows that whilst all parties express interest in our proposals during elections, this interest soon evaporates once in power."

Instead OBV has created a list of manifesto points of its own, including automatic voter registration linked to the National Insurance system, the introduction of e-voting and proportional representation, voting from the age of 16, state funding of parties and a "minister for race equality" in the Cabinet.

The deadline for registering to vote in the general election is next Monday.

Campaign director Simon Woolley, the OBV director, said it sought to "encourage and inspire a generation of black people" to register and, equally importantly, to then vote.

He said BME groups had the power to affect the outcome in 168 marginal seats across Britain, adding: "We are not asking for change, we are demanding it."

He said: "It is about reclaiming democracy. The cynicism amongst all communities, black and white, is palpable, and that is times 10 if you like within the black community. So what we are saying is that by reclaiming democracy and then reforming it, it can be more effective to confront the challenges within minority communities.

"The disproportionate levels of unemployment amongst young black youths is truly shocking, criminal justice system that often sees young black men incarcerated and at a higher level, that glass ceiling where boards in this country are virtually all white. That all has to change. Shake up the system, unleash talent, everybody benefits."

He cited the NHS as an area where BME communities make a massive contribution to society, and said it was time that was acknowledged and spread to other fields.

"I think there is a great deal of cynicism out there amongst black and minority ethnic communities that we feel we are powerless.

"We have demonstrated that with those marginal seats we are far from powerless, we are powerful, we can decide who had the keys to Downing Street. With that power we have to make demands: if you want our vote - and we will be voting - we need to see your plans to unleash our talent, from which everybody benefits, let's not forget that."

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