UK elects first black Mayor of Jamaican heritage
Marvin Rees has been elected as the United Kingdom’s first black mayor of Jamaican descent to run this city of Bristol. He received 63% of the vote and made history in the UK. The election of Marvin Rees is a powerful symbol of how things have changed Bristol with historical ties to slavery and civil rights battles in the black community. It has been a major step for him and his family along with the nation coming from such a far fetched dream since his father arrived from Jamaica in the 1960s.
Rees’ father once told him about a time when their were signs stating “No Irish, no blacks, no dogs. The city experienced a boycott because it would not employ blacks or Asians. The fact that the city has elected a black, Jamaican descendant mayor “says something about the journey Bristol has been on.” says Rees. Rees’ mother and extended family are white, and growing up, he was often the only black child in his school classes.
At the age of 44, he believes his background puts him in a good position to understand the needs of the people in his city. Spending time in the United States, working with Sojourners, a church-based community organizing group focused on the issue of inner-city povert, Rees is planning to appoint a dedicated housing lead who will be in charge of addressing the problem of gentrification, as well as protecting the children’s centers. He has promised to build 2,000 hew homes, 800 of which are to be “affordable housing” by 2020. Rees recognizes the challenges that confront him, but is ready and eager to improve Bristol for all of its residents.