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Which way for Black Brits in 2010?

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Apr 12, 2010 - 7:41:28 PM

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( - Londoners are preparing to cast their votes in the upcoming General Elections, either for ruling Labour Party, the liberal Democrats, the conservative British National Party, or the Green Party and Black political activists say there are key issues that Black and ethnic voters must keep in front of the politicians and voters.

But they are not sitting back and waiting for the politicians to come to them. Rather, on March 22, they launched “The Price of Race Inequality—The Black Manifesto 2010,” which lays out priorities that the political parties need to focus on in order to win the Black vote.

According to reports, race equality tops that list and is followed by eradicating poverty, ending stops and searches without suspicion, and addressing economic challenges facing Black and minority ethnic communities.

“Black Britons are third-class citizens in a country that claims to have a first-class democracy,” Dave Weaver, chair of the 1990 Trust, told The Guardian recently.

The 1990 Trust was established to protect and pioneer the interests of Britain's Black communities. It is part of the coalition that designed the manifesto.

According to Black Mental Health UK, which is also involved in the document, other priorities that must be on the political agendas for the General Election include structural inequalities, discrimination and disparities in the criminal justice system, employment, education, and health and housing, all which can be objectively measured.

“In putting together the manifesto one of the most startling facts was on the DNA database. What has been striking is the number of people in the community who are concerned about it. The issue of the retention of innocent black people's DNA has come up in the areas of education, mental health and the criminal justice system,” said Karen Chouhan, director and lead researcher on the manifesto, to the Black Mental Health UK.

But youth cannot be enfranchised or equipped to reach their potential if they are criminalized and trapped in the mental health system, she added.

The Black Manifesto also calls on the political parties to address the increasing number of people from Britain's African Caribbean communities detained in psychiatric care, the mass closure of community-based mental services, and the criminalization of innocent Blacks through DNA databases.

Other organizations involved in bringing The Black Manifesto, according to the Black Mental Health UK, include: Equanomics UK, JUST West Yorkshire, OBV, The Roots Research Centre, Cambridge Union Black Students Campaign, NUS Black Students Campaign, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, Black Christian Leaders Forum, Sikhs In England, Friends of Al Aqsa, Capacity Global, the Afiya Trust, Urban Forum, JCORE, BTEG (Black Training and Enterprise Group), Society of Black Lawyers, the National Black Police Association, Bristol Development Agency, Migrant Workers North West, Steve Biko Housing Association, Apna news, and the Runnymede Trust.

Operation Black Vote (OBV), which works for greater representation of ethnic minorities in politics, argued that race has been sidelined in this election, and points to the recent debate between Chancellors for Labour, The Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats.

Instead of relegating the discussion just to politics to fiscal policy and debt, OBV wrote on its blog, they should have also tackled Black youth employment, and the divisive politics of the British National Party.

Despite the challenge ahead, Simon Woolley, founder and national co-ordinator of OBV, is optimistic that Blacks and ethnic minorities can gain from this election, primarily because the election will be decided in metropolitan areas where the Black vote is concentrated: London, the Midlands, and northern towns.

“Our role is to be prepared for this once in a generation opportunity. To fulfill this advantage political parties must see that we are registered to vote and will vote on election day,” Mr. Woolley stated in his blog post, “Looking Ahead” at