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MU Member Chairs the STUC Black Workers’ Conference

MU Executive Committee member Diljeet Bhachu is now the first MU member to chair an STUC Black Workers Conference, which ran this weekend. The conference also saw two motions – “An Inclusive Curriculum,” and “Afghan Musicians,” – submitted and moved by MU delegates.

Published: 04 October 2021 | 4:29 PM
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“Anti-racist activism, across education, workplaces and society, has never been more important.” Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Black Workers’ Conference ran over the weekend commencing 2 October 2021, and was chaired by MU Executive Committee member Diljeet Bhachu.

Bhachu described what chairing the conference meant to her:

“I’m delighted to be representing the Musicians’ Union as the first person from the MU to sit on the STUC Black Workers’ Committee, and subsequently chair conference.

“Having not had a conference last year, and after the hardship endured by so many over the past 18 months, it is especially important that we come together this year to mark 25 years of the STUC Black Workers’ Committee and Conference.

“Our theme – Looking Back, Moving Forward – reflects this opportunity to learn from the past, and energise future generations to keep doing the work, amidst everything that has happened in the past two years. Anti-racist activism, across education, workplaces and society, has never been more important.”

We’ve also published Bhachu’s speech to conference, which you can read here.

Motion for an inclusive curriculum

The main motion submitted by MU delegates to the conference, and moved by MU member Graham Campbell, called on the STUC to lobby the Government on a number of points to move forward with a more inclusive curriculum.

It was passed unanimously by conference.

Conference notes that education is a critical tool in dismantling systemic racism and improving social cohesion.

Including Black and ethnically diverse histories in curricula, in a consistent and nuanced way, would give every young person in the UK the opportunity to see themselves reflected in syllabuses that create a sense of belonging and identity.

Schools and teachers must be supported to ensure a more balanced account of Black and ethnically diverse histories are taught in a confident and substantial way.

The Windrush Review and The Macpherson Report both recommended that Black histories should form a more integral role in the curriculum, yet so far little changes have been made. A more inclusive curriculum has never been more urgent.

Conference asks the STUC to lobby Government to:

  • Review the curriculum to ensure it reflects that Britain is rooted in Black and ethnically diverse global history, achievement, and culture
  • Implement the recommendations made by the The Windrush Review and The Macpherson Report in full
  • Provide all teachers with training to improve racial literacy
  • Adopt a measurable strategy to ensure a significantly more diverse teaching profession

Motion to protect Afghan musicians

MU delegates also submitted an emergency motion – which was also passed unanimously by conference – relating to the urgent situation for musicians in Afghanistan. This motion was also moved by MU member Graham Campbell.

Conference notes that the United Kingdom has given sanctuary to many refugee musicians, who in turn have significantly enriched and enhanced our musical life.

Afghan musicians constitute members of a particular social group that is being specifically targeted for persecution. The Taliban do not discriminate: they are ideologically opposed to all music as morally corrupting. All musicians are regarded and treated as members of a morally “degenerate” group who must be silenced.

The Taliban banned all music in 1996–2001, and the evidence is mounting that they have not changed on this. Over the past six weeks, the Taliban have:

  • Carried out attempted and confirmed assassinations of traditional musicians
  • Brutally beaten performers
  • Banned music on radio stations and in public places
  • Destroyed instruments in several institutions.

Afghan musicians are now in hiding, moving from house to house, terrified for their lives. They are at imminent and extreme risk.

All of these musicians embody a vision of Afghanistan’s future in which freedom of expression and ethnic harmony can flourish.

Conference asks the STUC to lobby Government to:

  • Specifically name musicians among the priority candidates for resettlement under the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme
  • Offer urgent humanitarian visas to Afghan musicians so that the UK plays our part in ensuring they and their invaluable cultural heritage are not lost forever.

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