Pioneering UK civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson honoured in Westminster
Helen Grant MP for Maidstone & The Weald, joined Diversity UK's 4th birthday celebrations and delivered the charity's inaugural annual Westminster lecture in which she honored Paul Stephenson OBE.
In her speech Mrs Grant discussed race and diversity in a post-Brexit Britain, an issue that has sparked worry and division throughout the nation. She pointed to divisive events amidst the UK referendum campaign as well as issues across the pond that have incited racist hostility.
The Conservatives' first and so-far only black female MP & Minister then presented Mr Stephenson with a Lifetime Achievement Award. It was for his commitment to fighting for equality and civil rights, both in his home town of Bristol and around the world.
Appointed as Bristol's first black social worker, Paul led a 60 day boycott against a bus company in Bristol who refused to employ Black or Asian people as drivers and conductors. His 1963 campaign directly resulted in the company revoking their 'colour bar'. Stephenson went on to achieve nationwide fame for refusing to leave a public house until he was served - in the face of their 'no blacks' policy. His resultant arrest and trial helped pave the way for the first Race Relations Act, in 1965.
Diversity UK founder Mrs Lopa Patel MBE, Mrs Joyce Stephenson, Paul Stephenson OBE and Helen Grant MP
Mrs Grant said: "I was delighted and honoured to present this Lifetime Achievement Award to Paul Stephenson OBE, an accolade truly deserved. I commend him for his bravery and courage, for helping to shape a fairer and more just society and for inspiring me in the fight against discrimination and inequality".
"I also congratulate Diversity UK and the Ethnic Minority Foundation for their achievements. They are at the vanguard of a long tough journey but together, united, we will get there".
In accepting his award Paul Stephenson's own words resonated deeply with the packed audience in the Speaker's Apartment at the House of Commons. He expressed deep concern about the 'emboldenment of racisists' arising from recent elections and said 'we may not have much time, and it is our duty to fight discrimination for our children, and theirs.'
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