Sunday 4 December 2016

St Andrew's Day March and Rally - celebrating the multicultural voices of the North East - Report of Rally

Hundreds of people from many different ethnic backgrounds - trade unionists, activists, politicians and citizens - came together at this year’s St Andrews Day March and Rally in Aberdeen in a celebration of diversity in the North East of Scotland and to give a clear message that racism and intolerance is not welcome here.

The event was organised once again by Aberdeen Trades Union Council, this year in partnership with #WeAreAberdeen, a group which has been set up to combat growing racism and intolerance in the wake of the Brexit campaign.

Carrying colourful banners and placards, the marchers were upbeat and joyful as they strode along the aptly named Union Street behind the stirring music of the Granite City Pipes and Drums Youth Band.

The rally at the Castlgate heard uplifting stories from a number of speakers, many of whom had come from different countries to make their homes in the North East of Scotland. All paid tribute to the warmth of the welcome they had received from the people in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.

 However some had also experienced intolerance and racism reminding us that we must always be vigilant and challenge such behaviour wherever we see it.

  To see more photos from the event go to our Facebook Album.

Warmly welcoming the marchers to the Rally, Kate Ramsden, President of the ATUC said that in a very real sense we are all immigrants.

She said, “Some of us come from further afield than others and some have made their homes here for much longer than others. 

“But whether we moved to the city because of the clearances or moved here to work or came here fleeing poverty, war or oppression, we have all made our homes here and we all have a part in creating the vibrant community that is the North East of Scotland.

“And we should remember that St Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland was himself a migrant and an immigrant. So it’s fitting that we should celebrate his day with this event which celebrates all our diverse communities.”

Lewis Macdonald, MSP added his voice of welcome. “It’s wonderful to see so many people from so many different and diverse backgrounds and nationalities making their home in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”
The rally then heard from the multicultural voices of Aberdeen. From Hadiza who had come from Nigeria with her husband and four daughters to study social work. She spoke of the support she had received from Robert Gordon University and the support that the school had given her daughters to help them to integrate to their new community.

“If only the weather was as warm as our welcome,” said Hadiza, “I came from 37 degrees to here. It is soo cold!” she added to much laughter.

And from Piotr a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, who is from the Polish community. He reminded us that refugees have been with us for a long time, in Scotland, in Poland and across the world. He took the opportunity  to thank the Syrian people at the rally for taking in Polish refugees when they were forcibly evacuated from USSR in the second World War.  

He spoke of his life in Aberdeen and told the rally “I am Polish by birth but Aberdonian by choice.”

Sean McVeigh from the Aberdeen Anti-Fascist Alliance spoke the word of Jorn, one of their members from Germany. He has been subjected to fascist abuse from the National Front since coming here. However he also spoke about the support he has had to challenge this and his determination never to let fascists win.

Alison Evison, Councillor in Aberdeenshire told the rally about a wedding she attended recently between a Muslim and a Christian friend – a true celebration of diversity and a coming together of all that unites us rather than what divides us. Alison introduced Basel Aldaya from the Amal Committee of the Syrian families (Amal means hope)

Alison and Basel
Basel brought his thanks to all who had made it possible for the families to be here. In a moving speech he spoke about civilisation and what it means exactly.

“I’ll tell you what it means,” said Basel, “It means the love, the safety and respect between all religions and people ....... I'm Muslim and Christian as well. I'm white and black as well. I am Syrian and Scottish as well.  I am human and human as well...............this is the real civilization.”

Speaking for the ATUC was Gemma Clark, our youngest member. A sixth year student at St Machar Academy and a third generation trade unionist, Gemma spoke about the negative impact that racism has on young people and on their self esteem, resilience and behaviour. 

She highlighted the importance of the trade union movement in tackling racism.

Gemma ended by quoting Nelson Mandela, saying, "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

Barney Crockett, Aberdeen City Council echoed these sentiments and spoke of Aberdeen’s proud history of multiculturalism and opposition to fascists in this country and abroad.

Sarah Schroeder from SPSC reminded the rally of the need to support diversity and fight racism not just at home but around the world. She condemned the Israeli State’s treatment of the Palestinian people, “But this does not hinder Palestinians from welcoming and inviting the diverse volunteers from all over the world into their homes and to be their extended family,” said Sarah.

Shelley Milne from Aberdeen Solidarity with Refugees spoke of the importance of welcoming people who have fled their homes and communities to escape poverty, war and oppression. She reminded us of the importance of putting aside our differences and coming together to focus on what unites us – our common humanity.

She also warned that the numbers of displaced people are likely to increase as a new threat, climate change begins to take its toll. “We will see whole countries disappear under the ocean,” she warned. “People will have no choice but to seek refuge elsewhere. We need to prepare.”

The rally ended with two members of the Irish Community – Unite’s Tommy Campbell and his colleague from Ireland, Davy Kettyles.

Tommy read Samuel Beckett’s “Feeling Good” poem, building on the theme of welcome and being kind to each other.

“When a bit of sunshine hits you

After the passing of a cloud,

And a bit of laughter gets you

And your spine is feeling proud,

Don’t forget to up and fling it

At a soul that’s feeling blue,

For the moment that you sling it

It’s a boomerang to you.”

Davy Kettyles
Davy sang us out with his powerful song, “Humanity” written on the one year anniversary of the death of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi. He has written it to remind us all of our need for compassion and kindness to those fleeing war and oppression at risk of their very lives and the lives of their children. Proceeds from the sale of downloads will go to Save the Children.