Mandela urges Britain's black leaders to help empower community
· Move aims to focus on unsung high flyers
· Success stories to provide role models for young
Hugh Muir Tuesday August 28, 2007
The following correction was made on Tuesday August 28 2007
There were inaccuracies in our report below about Nelson Mandela's statement to the Mayor of London's Black Leaders' Dinner. We said the former South African president would speak at the event when his appearance had not been confirmed. Also we said a new statue of Mr Mandela was due to be unveiled today when in fact that event, which he will attend, occurs tomorrow.
Nelson Mandela will tonight warn Britain's black leaders they must play a key role in efforts to tackle conflict and under-achievement in the inner cities.
The former South African president will tell an audience of high achievers that they must beware of cutting themselves off from the less fortunate and show that they are bringing their expertise to bear.
The strong message is being delivered against the backdrop of this month's government-backed Reach report into gangs and inner-city deprivation which said black teenagers need a new generation of role models, aside from the usual group of musicians and sports stars. It called for more mentoring and outreach work.
Mr Mandela's message will be heard by a large group of black businessmen and women, celebrities, politicians, journalists and financiers who will meet for the mayor of London's inaugural Black Leaders Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair.
Organisers say part of the rationale for the event is to show that there are many unsung black success stories throughout a wide range of professions but that they are rarely focused on by the media.
The guest list ranges from Stanley Musesengwa, the chief operating officer of Tate & Lyle, to figures such as Naomi Campbell, Thandie Newton, Richard Taylor, father of Damilola Taylor, Anthony Hamilton, father of Lewis Hamilton, the former sports star and TV presenter Ian Wright and England footballer Sol Campbell.
Most of those invited feature in a list of the 50 most powerful black men and women in the UK compiled by the New Nation newspaper; rankings topped by Damon Buffini, the boss of private equity firm Permira, and Baroness Scotland, the attorney general.
Mr Mandela is in Britain for the unveiling of his statue in Parliament Square and the dinner is being held in his honour.
The message, which is signed and will be handed to each attendee, reads: "It is important for you as leaders to harness those responsibilities and ensure that you also empower those around you who scale the mountains with you."
A source close to the event said: "What the event shows is that people are making great strides in all kinds of fields. These are the great black role models that everyone has been calling for. There are many people doing things that all young men and women could aspire to and we have hundreds of those role models together in one room. It is a great achievement."
The event is taking place amid growing concern about the alienation of youths in the inner cities and fears that many drift into gangs merely because they see no more attractive future for themselves.
There is continuing discussion within black communities about the extent to which they should expect help from the authorities and the degree to which they are able, or should be able, to help themselves.
Last week, the Rev Jesse Jackson launched Equanomics, an attempt to address inequalities by focusing on the economic situation of black communities.
The intervention of Mr Mandela may be timely as his stock is even higher among black professionals than the wider community. Tomorrow's unveiling marks the end of a long battle to recognise his achievements. The sculpture, the work of the late Ian Walters, was earmarked for Trafalgar Square but Westminster city council said it was inappropriate in that setting and the matter went before a planning inquiry which found in the authority's favour. Parliament Square has since been accepted by Westminster and the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, as a good compromise.