Elected to Parliament in 1987, as one of the first black MP’s in modern times. He famously attended his first State Opening of Parliament in African dress, attracting outrage in some quarters – but huge respect in others.
In Parliament he founded the Parliamentary Black Caucus, and took a leading role in establishing contacts with black people and politicians throughout the world. He travelled widely, especially to Africa and to his beloved Caribbean region. In 1990 he accompanied Rev Jesse Jackson to South Africa, greeting Nelson Mandela on the day of his release. Later he established an information technology centre amid the townships in the Free State, which is named after him.
He was Chair of the All Party Group on Race and Community, and of the British Caribbean Group. In 1997 he was appointed as member of the Select Committee on International Development, and he was the only MP amongst those appointed to the Home Secretary’s Race Relations Forum in 1998. He founded the Standing Conference on Racism in Europe in 1990, and also established the Africa Reparations Movement in Britain. In 1995, he founded the Global Trade Centre. A dedicated constituency MP, his last battle was to establish a major arts and cultural facility in his Tottenham constituency, a project which has been progressed since his death and will now be named The Bernie Grant Centre.
On the floor of the House of Commons he was outspoken in the cause of eliminating racism both in Britain and the world. He campaigned against racist policing methods, and deaths in custody, on institutionalised racism in health, housing and education, for refugees, and for greater resources for inner city areas. Internationally he fought for the elimination of overseas debt for poor nations, and for the recognition of the past injustices of colonisation and enslavement.
Contrary to popular belief, however, he fought not only for racial justice, but for oppressed people whoever they were. Many thousands valued him for the individual attention he gave to their personal difficulties.
Bernie Grant channelled the concerns of his community to the highest levels of Government, and was regarded as the authentic voice of Britain’s ethnic minorities. By the time of his death, the outspoken activist of the seventies and eighties, was seen as a statesman of great integrity. His funeral at London’s Alexandra Palace in April 2000, attended by some 5000 people from all sectors of society confirmed his standing and impact on public life.
on the They Work For You websiteYou can access his parliamentary questions and speeches here on the They Work For You website.