2021 is finally here! I prefer to rejoice that we are still together for another year. A national lockdown, schools closed, further outbreaks and an American attack on democracy means just turning the calendar page does not wash away past ills.
In 2020 unequal societal fissures societies turned into chasms. Racial, health and economic issues became global pandemics. This now sits painfully alongside the environmental pandemic. Here are some of my dreams, hopes and fears for 2021 covering the local, national and international issues ahead.
To get to the new normal, vaccine awareness campaigns must be a priority. We must have clear messages especially to Black and Asian Communities who have historical suspicions with health authorities. The first steps are to provide clear guidance on the vaccines merits and not impose or condemn those who are fearful.
It has been ten months since the first lockdown and few lessons appear to have been learned. Lack of laptops for school-children and poor Broadband still remain unresolved issues. Marcus Rashford’s work highlighted the national disgrace of hungry children is real and not just in a Dickens tale. We will need to continue to support the work of Trussell Trust and others to keep the Food Banks supplied.
In Bristol, the postponed Bristol and West of England Mayoral elections will deliver the democratic will of the people some have taken for granted. Census information will need to be collected so that vital resources can be delivered to those who need it.
I’m hoping the devil finally delivers some detail on what Brexit really means for ordinary people beyond a yearning for sovereignty from bygone eras. One of the culture wars of 2020 concerned the non-playing of Rule Britannia at The Last Night of the Proms. I hope it does not herald the last days of a United Kingdom.
Speaking of Europe I will miss Angela Merkel’s leadership when she leaves her role as German Chancellor. She can be proud of trying to accept refugees. We should not forget how her humble beginnings from the east of a divided Germany and two world wars forged her compassion. I also hope for more of the successful female leadership models that have shone around the globe.
Exactly twelve months ago I returned from a research trip to the USA. I was already making plans to return to perform Best Man duties at my brother’s wedding in Florida and the November US elections. Instead I could only watch with horror as coronavirus spread like wildfire. My tattered plans were a tiny price to play for the global lives and livelihoods lost. I could only weep further at the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Black Lives Matter campaigns galvanised the world into protest and that tidal wave of reaction led to a racial reckoning. I welcome more action to deconstruct structural racism leading to its final demise.
I’ve always maintained that Trump’s behaved like a King in a republic and his incompetence would prove why he was never fit for office. Trumpism will continue to cast a dark shadow and with its violence unleashed its citizens must move to a point where they can state the words; Never Again. Black America still stands proud as its voter campaigns, social justice models and culture continue to inspire across the global diaspora.
The Biden-Harris presidency offers hope for stability but their in-tray is unenviable. China’s human rights abuses must be challenged alongside its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025 with Cop 26 taking place in Edinburgh. This is the tenth year of Black and Green programme taken forward by the Black and Green Ambassadors of Ujima Radio and Bristol Green Capital and our Black Seeds Network for environmentalists of colour.
Not seeing live performance with friends and the decimation of the creative industry has been tough. So the return of in-person arts is eagerly anticipated. Fingers crossed my first play Dreams Of My Fathers about the life and presidency of Barack Obama will reach the stage. I also aim to bring a several projects to fruition. This includes a digital community learning project called Windrush Generations with UWE Bristol.
We have proved that we can work together and put aside differences in a crisis. The homeless housed, hospitals built and essential workers valued were achievements. Even that statue of a slave trader came down in Bristol! Institutions and organisations will be vital to rebuild what we all missed most, human connections. The challenge are to have resources and inclusive strategies ready before emergencies occur.
Here’s to a wonderful 2021 and that we heed the painful warning from nature, politics, health and well-being for rest a better future.
Roger Griffith MBE is a UWE Bristol Lecturer, the CEO of his consultancy Creative Connex, author and an Arts Council England supported artist.