Monday, 6 July 2020

The Sussexes Join Powerful QCT Conversation: "Know When to Lead and Know When to Listen"

Last Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in their roles as President and Vice-President of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, joined a conversation with young leaders on equality, justice and fairness. In a twenty-minute video, the discussion focused on the roles of Commonwealth youth moving forward, and the incredible efforts they are currently supporting. During the discussion Meghan spoke about unconscious bias: "It’s not just in the big moments, it’s in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and thrives. It makes it confusing for a lot of people to understand the role that they play in that, both passively and actively." Touching on her own experiences the Duchess continued: "Having had personal experience with it as well, in people's complacency they're complicit. That, I think, is the shift that we’re seeing...it’s not enough to just be a bystander and say well it wasn’t me...that is what I think has very much manifested in what you’re feeling from people’s outpouring surrounding the murder of George Floyd. It wasn’t that this wasn’t always happening, it’s that it’s come to a head at a time when people have just said "enough".


More from the QCT:

'In response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, QCT has been running a weekly discussion with young people looking at various forms of injustice on the experiences of young people today. This is part of the Trust’s wider work on considering historic injustice, which started in late 2019. QCT exists to champion, fund and connect young leaders around the world; this work is being driven by young people in its network and is helping to inform the Trust’s future direction.
In the special session last week, QCT was joined by The Duke and Duchess alongside Chrisann Jarrett, QCT Trustee and co-founder and co-CEO of We Belong; Alicia Wallace, director of Equality Bahamas; Mike Omoniyi, founder and CEO of The Common Sense Network; and Abdullahi Alim who leads the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers network of emerging young leaders in Africa and the Middle East.'

Prince Harry sharing his views added: "We can’t deny or ignore the fact that all of us have been educated to see the world differently. However, once you start to realise that there is that bias there, then you need to acknowledge it, you need to do the work to become more aware...so that you can help stand up for something that is so wrong and should not be acceptable in our society today."


In their roles with the trust - which is by all accounts a fledgling organisation - Harry and Meghan have central roles in shaping their work and mission. Given the diversity across member nations, the prevalence of racism and inequality, it sends a powerful message to see the trust leading this discussion. Indeed, Harry acknowledged the Commonwealth's past: "When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past...and guess what - everybody benefits." The Duchess added: "We're going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now, because it's only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this and find the place where a high tide raises all ships. Equality does not put anyone on the back foot, it puts us all on the same footing - which is a fundamental human right."


The QCT continued:

'The conversation focused on why these issues matter for us all today, the opportunity to come together to make a difference and the role young people play in driving systemic change for the better.
The group talked about how vital the young people of the Commonwealth are in forging an exciting future. The Duchess of Sussex described the conversation as ‘energising’ and ‘inspiring’.
The Duke and Duchess shared their collective hope and optimism for a better future driven by young people and acknowledged the energy and commitment stemming from the rising generation of leaders.
The Duke observed: “You are the next generation of leadership which this world so desperately needs as it goes through this healing process.”

The QCT shared the following background on the other participants: "Chrisann Jarrett (UK) - Chrisann is a Trustee of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and founder and co-CEO of youth-led charity We Belong. Born in Jamaica, Chrisann has lived in the UK since the age of 8; she founded the project Let Us Learn in 2014 to call for equal access to higher education for young migrants like herself in the UK, leading to a change in policy after a Supreme Court win. Since them, Chrisann has worked as Policy Advisor for Social Integration at the Greater London Authorities and through We Belong, advocates for barriers to equal and fair treatment of young migrants to be removed so they can contribute fully in society."


Mike Omoniyi (UK) - "Mike is Founder and CEO of The Common Sense Network (TCS Network), a UK based bi-partisan news network for and by millennials. TCS Network is dedicated to finding ‘common sense’ in an increasingly divided and polarised world. TCS shares stories from across the political spectrum, local stories, stories that hold power to account and uncover wrongdoing and stories that empower the forgotten and the unheard. In 2018, Mike was recognized by the Financial Times as one of the 100 most influential leaders in Tech in the UK. As well as founding several initiatives and organisations, Mike consults for various charities and organisations."


Abdullahi Alim (Australia)- "Abdullahi Alim leads the World Economic Forum’s network of emerging young leaders, formally known as the Global Shapers across Africa and the Middle East. He works with thousands of young changemakers at the front lines of tackling systemic injustices and reimagining a truly equitable post-covid world order. He is widely cited as a thought leader on the role of young people in systemic reform and his essays have been published by the likes of Foreign Policy, Forbes, CNBC and The Huffington Post. Abdullahi is a Queen’s Young Leader and was also the WA Young Australian of the Year."


Alicia Wallace (Bahamas) - "Alicia is a Black feminist, women's human rights defender, and writer dedicated to creating community-driven change. She is passionate about social justice with a focus on gender, race, and sexuality. She is a public educator and movement builder, working to increase civic participation and engage people in democracy-building, and sparking dialogue through commentary on political events and pop culture. Her recent projects include hurricane relief for people displaced by Hurricane Dorian and the Out Da Box challenge to the electoral system in the Bahamas. Alicia is the director of Equality Bahamas, writes a weekly column in The Tribune, and produces The Culture RUSH monthly newsletter. She prioritizes education and engagement, understanding them as the foundation of community, challenge, and change."


Meghan touched on the importance of "Know when to lead and know when to listen". Hannah Furness writes in the Telegraph:

'On the importance of also tackling racism on a "micro level, individually", the Duchess  said: "What have we done in our past that we put our hand up? I think this is a moment of reckoning, I think, where people go, 'you know what, I need to own that, maybe I didn't do the right thing there. I knew what I knew but how it's time to reset in a different way'."
A spokesman for the Sussexes said: "In response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, The Queens Commonwealth Trust has been running a weekly discussion with young people looking at various forms of injustice on the experiences of young people today. "As President and Vice President, The Duke and Duchess felt it was important to be part of it."

There was a very sweet moment (at 17 minutes 30 seconds in the video) when Harry joked: "I'm aging guys. I'm 35 already." Meghan laughed and replied: "That's not aging!"


Toward the end of the conversation, Mike Omoniyi word's were particularly apt and summed up so eloquently how much the participation of the Duke and Duchess means: "I just want to say that humility that I spoke about being the impetus - I think you both demonstrated that so beautifully. I think this conversation even happening sends messages around that folks who have power are willing to listen. It means a lot and I thank you for that." Harry closed with the message that: "This change is needed and it’s coming!"

Before I hit publish, I was just scrolling through Twitter and noticed a great deal of "outrage" over Harry and Meghan's comments on the history of the Commonwealth. Without doubt, we must collectively acknowledge the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future. No, this is not an intended snub or dig in the direction of the Royal family. It's an important step in moving toward a more equal, fair path ahead and acknowledging injustices those in the Commonwealth have endured. Only two years ago, Prince Charles, in a landmark speech from Ghana, described Britain's involvement in the "abject horror" of the transatlantic slave trade as an "appalling atrocity" that left an "indelible stain" on the world. So, in short, no - Harry and Meghan have not shocked or disrespected the Queen. Steering the QCT in this direction is something they should both be commended for, in addition to their commitment to shaping its work to the needs of Commonwealth youth whilst projecting their voices.

Indeed Jack Royston revealed in a piece for Newsweek "Buckingham Palace knew about it so it's not a surprise or anything like that. The Queen's Commonwealth Trust was set up by Her Majesty as part of the relevance of giving young people an opportunity. Part of the work it's doing is looking at the history of the commonwealth. It's what they're there for and it's important for young people to look into it."

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Diversity Award Given to Forces for Change & Powerful Words from Harry During Diana Award Ceremony

The Duchess of Sussex has revealed she is "honoured" following the fantastic news the issue of British Vogue she guest edited, Forces for Change, has won a diversity award. The issue won the Diversity Initiative of the Year Award at the PPA Awards which celebrates the "inspiring and tireless" efforts of publishers, editors and others involved in the industry. One judge described the issue as a "genuine media ground-breaking moment". I think there was a collective feeling the September issue Meghan and Edward Enninful created was a significant moment for the publication. That significance was confirmed when the magazine revealed it was the fastest-selling issue in British Vogue's century-old history.


In response to the excellent news, the Duchess said:

'I'm honored to have this very special issue recognized. Creating Forces for Change with Edward was an opportunity to have the September Issue of Vogue reflect the world as we see it—beautiful and strong in its diversity.
"Huge congratulations to Edward who helped bring this to light, and for his additional honor of being awarded 'best editor' by PPA.'

It was wonderful to hear Edward Enninful was awarded Best Editor. The judges said they were "blown away by how Edward has transformed British Vogue to represent a new generation in fashion and celebrity world. He continues to change and challenge the cultural conversation, championing diversity in both fashion and the arts in general. Judges described him as a true mover and shaker, a key player on the British scene with a magic touch. A true editorial mastermind".


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In our last post, we discussed Harry and Meghan's work and behind-the-scenes meetings with Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County President and CEO Michael Johnson who put Meghan in touch with Althea Bernstein, who was the victim of a horrific attack in Wisconsin. Today, Michael revealed he received another call from the Duchess.

 Describing her as the "real deal", he also revealed they discussed plans for the future. 

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On what would have been his mother's 59th birthday, Prince Harry shared a powerful message for recipients of the Diana Award. In a video message filmed in Los Angeles, he made a pledge he and Meghan will do their part to tackle racism. "Institutional racism has no place in our societies, yet it is still endemic. My wife said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven’t done enough to wipe the wrongs of the past. I, too, am sorry. Sorry that we haven’t got the world to the place where you deserve it to be. I want you to know that we are committed to being part of the solution and to being part of the change that you are all leading. Now is the time and we know that you can do it."


He praised the courage and determination of students telling them about Diana: "Like many of you, she never took the easy route, or the popular one, or the comfortable one, but she stood for something and she stood up for people who needed it." Harry continued: "I see the greatest hope in people like you and I’m confident about the world's future and its ability to heal because it's in your hands."


More from the Telegraph:

'The Duke highlighted the work of a number of recipients including 24-year-old James Frater from London.  
Mr Frater, as a young Black Caribbean boy, had 300 detentions and exclusions from school, but his life was turned around after he was mentored by four teachers. He is now training to become a doctor and has focused on creating initiatives to increase the representation of black students at university, particularly at Russell Group ones.  
Mr Frater was one of the 184 people - children and young adults - presented with a Diana Award accolade this year for social action or humanitarian efforts. The charity was set up in memory of the princess who was killed in a car crash in 1997 when Harry was just 12 and William 15.'