Wednesday 28 August 2013

I Have a Dream: 50 years on

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech.

It has to be one of the most famous and iconic speeches of modern times and represents one of the key moments of the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 60s.

One theory on why the speech has had such a lasting impact is that it made a difference, it helped change things. It contributed to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Nobody remembers great speeches that make no difference or have no lasting effect.

Like many people, I've been wondering this week how close America has come in the last 50 years to realising Dr King's dream.

Is America are more racially tolerant and equal society? Are people judged in Dr King's words by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin?

Clearly America has come a long way since 1963. Could there be any more obvious example then Barack Obama, the first black President?

Along with the President, African Americans occupy positions of power and influence in areas like politics, business, media, entertainment and sport that were unimaginable 50 years ago.

As a black person growing up and living in the UK, America has always been an inspiration in terms of what black people can achieve in so many different areas of society.

The problem I see is that although America may offer more opportunities individually for African Americans, it's hard to argue that collectively African Americans are in a better position now than 50 years ago.

When it comes to jobs, housing, education, health, and the criminal justice system, African Americans experience greater levels of inequality and disadvantage than white Americans.

I can't help but think that America is still an institutionally racist country; where being black means your life chances and opportunities are not equal to whites.

This is why Dr King's dream hasn't been realised and will continue to act as a reminder that the Civil Rights struggle is ongoing and has much to achieve.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Is Mo Farah our greatest ever athlete?

This is the question being asked after Mo won the 5,000m yesterday at the World Championships in Moscow.

He's now the double Olympic and World Champion at 5 and 10,000m. There's no question he's a true legend of the sport. One of the greatest long distance runners in history and one of this country's greatest ever athletes.

But is he Britain's greatest ever athlete? According to former distance runner and BBC commentator Brendan Foster he is.

He's in the top three for me. I think there's only two British athletes you could argue have a greater case and that's Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson.

Before orgainising London 2012, Coe was a brilliant athlete; double Olympic 1500m Champion and one of the greatest 800m runners athletics has ever seen.

I'd put Mo just ahead of Coe which feels such a significant thing to say, I almost feel guilty but he is.

As for Daley Thompson, as an 80s child he was a true legend. I don't believe there was a bigger sports start in British sport when Thompson was at his best.

I'm going to say that for now Thompson remains Britain's greatest ever athlete, purely for the reason that he was a Decathlete.

He did 10 events and was brilliant at most of them. He was a double Olympic Champion in 1980 and 1984, the first World Champion in 1983 and a former world record holder.

All this could change though depending on how Farah's career develops over the next few years. By the time Mo retires there's a strong chance that I'd place him as the very best athlete Britain has ever produced.

What does he need to do?

There's a number of things he can do to become our greatest athlete. Firstly, Mo wins titles he doesn't run fast times. There's the target of breaking the world record in the 5 and 10,000m.

Secondly, it's widely known he will attempt more marathons, possibly the Marathon at the Rio Olympics in 2016, winning this would be a significant achievement.

Finally, and more intriguingly Mo could drop down to 1500m now that he holds the British record after breaking Steve Cram's record which stood for 28 years! This is something I'd love to see, as we've struggled to recapture the glory days of British middle distance running.

Why I love Mo

I have to say Mo is one of my favourite sports stars. What I love about him is that with all due respect he was a bit middling for many years. He was always our best long distance runner but you never felt he could truly challenge the very best Kenyans and Ethiopians.

It all began to change when he did the 5,000 and 10,000m double at the Barcelona European Championships in 2010. That was the starting point.

Ok the standard wasn't as high, but it was the first steps on the journey that's taken him to being one of the greats of track and field.

It continued in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu when he won the 5,000m and came second in the 10,000, before going on to triumph at last year's Olympics.

There's been a gradual progression with Mo, he knew he wasn't good enough and went to Kenya to train with the Kenyans, did altitude training in the Pyrenees, teamed up with his coach Alberto Salazar and relocated to the States.

Mo's put the work in and made the sacrifices to reach the top and this is what I love and respect about him.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Where is Bongo Bongo land?

You might have a better idea after UKIP's Godfrey Bloom's made reference to the 'country' in a speech given last month.

Bloom was criticising the government's foreign aid policy and used the term Bongo Bongo land to describe the type of countries that receive aid from the government.

It's a perfectly legitimate debate to discuss whether the country should continue to giving aid to some overseas countries when so many cuts are taking place here in the UK.

You also want to be confident that the money going to these countries is being spent on those who truly need it and not being wasted by corrupt government officials.

But when you start referring to these countries as 'Bongo Bongo land' you can't seriously expect to get away with that.

Is 'Bongo Bongo' land a racist term? Mildly at a low level - but really it's a derogatory term to describe some nondescript country most likely in Africa.

Does anyone under the age of 50 ever use this term? I'd like to think not, but it doesn't surprise me that a member of UKIP would come out with such a term.

This is the problem UKIP have. They want to position themselves as being outsiders to the mainstream political establishment.

They want to be this no nonsense, tell it how it is, plain speaking Party ordinary people can relate to. That would be fine if we were living in the year 1955, unfortunately we're now well into the 21st Century.

UKIP have gained a lot of success in recent months but with that success comes greater scrutiny and analysis of the Party and its members.

Bloom's comments might never have been reported a couple of years ago but things are changing for UKIP and they need to mind their language.