It may well be that you are glad to see the back of 2020 in the hope of a more settled, secure and satisfying 2021. And you would of course not be wrong in taking that view.
From my own point of view, and this is not in any way to put a dampener on a more positive outlook, there is still a lot of work to be done, if not more.
However, before totally writing off 2020 as the global ‘Annus Horribilis’ that it was for so many, I’m taking the first few days of the new year to reflect on the real and uninhibited acts of community that I witnessed and was also personally in receipt of. Imagine, for a moment, how it would have been had these acts of individual and group kindness not been in such abundance; in the early days, the notes through my letterbox from strangers offering support, shopping and socialising (over the phone of course), the claps, cheers and celebrating that reverberated around my communal courtyard and across the country on a Thursday evening, the volunteer community organisations that stepped up in a hugely increased capacity to provide their respective communities with ongoing help, health and hearing.
Not because of the pandemic but in spite of it, myself and a few friends, joined later by friends of friends and then people not previously known to us, came together and created a LGBT+ forum for the London borough of Lambeth called Lambeth Links. There is much good that already happens for our community here in Lambeth and our goal is to harness that and be the central point of information and advocacy for the LGBT+ community of Lambeth, the largest in the UK.
It was during the early days of Lambeth Links I first became aware of Consortium and the truly amazing support and guidance that they provide. This, coupled with the accessibility to an engaging, encouraging and effective team provided Lambeth Links with the initial boost that was needed to get us further off the ground. This has culminated with an application to be submitted this month to the Charity Commission, to become a fully fledged registered charity.
So impressed was I with the people at Consortium and so connected did I feel to the importance of what they do, I was driven to apply to become a trustee when the opportunity arose and delighted and excited to be informed that I had been successful in August 2020. Double that feeling when being appointed chair in November 2020 at our AGM, all under the constrictions of COVID-19.
It will not be easy to forget about 2020 and I’ve been taken recently to thinking how I would talk about our present in the future to those whom are not around for or won’t remember this period: ‘I remember when the first national lockdown came into force…’, ‘Mass vaccination rollout started in December 2020…’. Quite apocalyptic when you say it out loud.
Dramatic? Perhaps, but there is a point. How will our community feel in the future? What services will exist for us? What support will there be? Another that will be requiring a vaccine is the economy. This is no doubt going to lead to shortage of resources for members like ours and lead to more competition for that reduced pool and there will be the (ongoing) reduction of central services for what is deemed as non-essential (or not important enough). As is often the case, this will see our community affected disproportionately. Then there is the position of where we will find our priorities on central agendas; those of health inequalities, mental and physical, where we already know that marginalised groups are at greater risk of developing mental health problems; the rights of our trans family as we see more and more attacks upon them for simply being who they are and the subterfuge and clandestine ways with which these attacks are being perpetuated. The threat to our fantastic volunteer organisations, including many members of Consortium, as funding opportunities for become fewer for greater needs.
And this is why, to me, solidarity is of the utmost importance in the years to come. One thing that the creation of Lambeth Links has shown to me is that there is truth to the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We need to come together to prepare to fight for what we know is right. If we can do this in a coordinated and organised way, understanding what it is each of us specialise in, accepting that we know our own communities better than others, recognising that most of us are volunteers and applying that knowledge in a patient and understanding way, we can be and create something truly remarkable between ourselves.
Consortium is on hand to help facilitate this. We are here to encourage, enable and enhance our current members, those who are yet to join us and those that reflect our aims, vision and values. So again, before writing off 2020 completely, let’s reflect on the real and uninhibited acts of community that occurred and carry them forward.
So, what does 2021 mean for me? In a word, advocacy. Advocacy for individuals, for groups, for you and for myself too. That is not something we should shy away from, because ‘If you can’t love yourself…!’.
Feel free to reach out to me to discuss this, or anything else, further.
Wising you all a very Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year.