Despite the recent successes of seeing better representation on the honours list with 15.1% BAME award winners in the 2022 New Year’s Honour List, this special Platinum Jubilee year has sadly seen a significant drop with only 13.3% successful candidates coming from an ethnic minority background.
This decline however comes with a possible historic moment. Celebrating a Platinum Jubilee can only happen once in our lifetime and for Suleman Raza he has the extremely rare coincidence of being awarded a MBE personally at the same time as being awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is a MBE for voluntary groups. Suleman migrated to the UK from Pakistan in 2000 with just fifty pounds in his pocket. His personal MBE was awarded for being one of the country’s leading takeout’s “curry-preneur”, running a chain of Pakistani restaurants – with his flagship restaurant in Tooting, Spice Village, which is regularly visited by international figures from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London to Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood legend. This unique award is not surprising, given his voluntary group Spice Village Uplyft has feed thousands of the homeless and vulnerable communities.
The knighthood awarded to tech-entrepreneur Ron Kalifa has once again highlighted the great contribution Asian immigrants have made to the UK economy. Ron was invited to lead an independent Fintech Strategic Review for the UK at the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which was published in February 2021. The “Kalifa Review” helped to identify existing strengths in the UK and how to create a framework which would help continue innovation and support firms to scale, extending the UK’s competitive edge over other leading fintech hubs.
Miranda Lowe has been awarded a CBE for her work in the hidden and often unseen black botanists of the past. She is inspiring hundreds of young diverse people, who can identify with her and her life’s journey to have a career in science and become the future advocates for our planet. Her migrant parents were part of the backbones of our public services with her Grenadian mother a nurse, and her Barbadian father a train driver. From a young age Miranda’s parents would organise – “excursions” – coach trips for migrant Caribbean families to visit the beautiful countryside. This was extremely rare for minority families in the sixties and seventies, and it helped shape their values of the importance of the environment and the role we each must play to protect it. Inspired by her parents, Miranda went on to become a Principal Curator at the Natural History Museum and one the world’s leading scientists.
Tariq Shah’s OBE award is one of the prefect stories of migrant successes in the north of the country. With his grandfather arriving in the sixties and working on the railways, together with his father developed a thriving business while also being focused on supporting the most vulnerable in the UK and abroad. This sense of duty inspired Tariq to continue to strengthen the family business ensuring their successes were reinvesting locally in the Doncaster area through providing long term jobs and supply chains in the local community and in a voluntary role he chairs the Town Deal Board which is responsible for regeneration in Doncaster City Centre. Charity has continued to play important role in Tariq’s life, if that is as Chair of the Sleep Charity or as one of the founding board members of the Prince’s Trust Mosaic initiative which has helped thousands of the most vulnerable young Muslims raise their aspiration through mentoring.
If you are inspired by the actions of the award winners above, as well as by many of our other diverse community volunteers, help make the honours system more representative and nominate someone today at www.gov.uk/honours. Ron, Miranda, Tariq and Suleman are all fantastic examples of how migrants and children of migrant families have not only contributed to shaping our country but also shaping how the world views us. They are just a handful of the many amongst us who are coming into our country daily who will not only help strengthen our economy but also support the most vulnerable in society, and we as a country are better for it.
Harris Bokhari OBE is the founder and a trustee at the Patchwork Foundation which aims to promote and encourage the positive integration of disadvantaged and minority communities into British democracy and civil society.