“Covid-19 has exposed decades-ignored social inequalities”
Social activist Adam Matan OBE is one of our trustees, and he's passionate about engaging truthfully with the community to change things for the better.
Adam founded the Anti-Tribalism Movement in 2010, a non profit organisation tackling tribalism and inequalities within communities, and in 2020 went on to lead the Independent Policing and Crime Commission for Hammersmith and Fulham to examine the root causes of crime and anti-social behaviour in the borough.
What’s involved in your role as a trustee?
I have been a trustee for Hammersmith United Charities for four years. I really enjoy contributing to setting the direction and strategic priorities for the charity, and being involved in day-to-day activity like awarding grants. It’s rewarding to see our resources used for recreational and educational purposes for the community. I like visiting beneficiaries, to really see what impact small grants make to people’s lives.
As a trustee, I help to make sure the board is reflective of the communities we support in the north of the borough. I have a good understanding of what works well in the community sector, and which programmes and people we should be engaging with. I enjoy advocating for issues I’m passionate about, like disabilities, BAME organisations, and arts and cultural activities.
What’s shaped your work and values?
I came to the UK from Somalia when I was 13, following the Somali Civil War. In Somalia, children are often treated a little like adults, so I was very responsible when I came here – a bit more mature than a usual 13 old boy! We came here to improve our livelihood, and to help others, both at home and in the communities here. Those values were instilled in me at a young age by my family, so as soon as I finished university, I wanted to help other young people to achieve their potential. I went on to start the Anti-Tribalism Movement in 2010 – the aim was to fight tribe-based discrimination and promote peace and tolerance. Since then it has grown into an international force with 140,000+ members, which feels like one of my greatest achievements.
What changes do you want to see in your community?
Covid-19 has exposed deep-rooted, decades-ignored social inequalities in our community. It’s unfortunate that it has taken such a world event to bring it to the surface. There is no way we will be able to ignore it now – so many people will be even poorer by the end of lockdown.
There is a family I’m working with on Lime Grove in Shepherd’s Bush. There are seven children, and mother and father living together in a two-bed flat. Imagine that under lockdown rules? Some of the children have underlying health issues. Both of the parents are key workers, so they can’t stay away from work – the family will literally starve to death if they do. But they always know they might be bringing the virus back, with no space for anyone to self-isolate.
Many fear that it’s just lip service when decision/policy-makers say that there will be change due to the lessons learned from Covid-19 There is a level of discontent and unsettledness amongst many BAME communities and their leaders. I don’t think it will be long until we see social unrest if there is no real response to some of these issues.
It’s something we’re beginning to work on at Hammersmith United Charities, with a programme called Let’s Talk About Race. We want to find out how we can engage with communities in a more meaningful way, to truly understand what our grantees and their service users think we should do to counter deep-rooted social inequalities. It has got to be led by the people.
What’s special about Hammersmith & Fulham?
I’m biased, but Hammersmith & Fulham is the greatest borough! It’s a city within a city. We have everything you can admire: three football clubs; the biggest shopping mall in Europe; beautiful, historical parks; the river; a flourishing business hub in Hammersmith; the ‘Silicon Valley’ of London at White City; and Uxbridge Road, one of the most diverse streets in London, running through the heart of the borough.
And through the pandemic we have seen how generous and supportive these communities have been to each other: the number of spaces opened for homeless people, food distribution, individuals been supporting each other, and businesses giving free food and other supports.
When there is a disaster, when there are members of the community who need support, the residents of this borough really pull together.