Alex Raikes – breaking down barriers
“Coming from a mixed heritage background I know what it’s like to be made to feel unwelcome, and to feel like you don’t fit in. I’m determined to do everything I can to break down barriers between people so we can all live side by side, peacefully, happily and without conflict,” says Alex Raikes MBE, Strategic Director of Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI).
Bristol is the fastest changing city (ethnically) outside London but, despite its cosmopolitan reputation, the West of England still sees far too many instances of people being abused and victimised because of their race, faith, disability, sexual or gender orientation.
Compared to 1988, when SARI was established by Batook Pandya, society has changed and many more people now are horrified if they see someone abusing a person for the colour of their skin, for being homeless or having mental health problems. However hatred of people who are different is still far too prevalent.
“We deal with over 500 cases a year of hate crime across the West of England and our advice and support is free and confidential,” says Alex.
Back in the 1980s when Batook Pandya set up SARI it was unique as a minorities-led, independent organisation supporting victims of racist incidents and encouraging agencies to respond better, as well as gaining the trust and support of local BME communities. At Quartet we recognised that its innovative approach was filling a valuable gap so we provided grants that helped SARI get established and later expand its activities.
Today SARI is well respected as a pioneering model for undertaking hate crime work with a broader programme of activities covering education, preventative work and multi-agency work to combat social exclusion and discrimination.
Alex adds, “Now we have our own consultancy service through which we train and offer best practice guidance to public and private sector organisations and this helps to produce some income which better protects our free services. We don’t just rely on public sector and trust and charity funding. We haven’t needed to apply to Quartet for a grant for more than 10 years.”
“Since the Brexit vote we’ve seen a rise in hate crime particularly towards Eastern Europeans. Although 5% of the Bristol population is Muslim, 40% of SARI’s case load are Muslim. No-one speaks up for the gypsy/traveller community and the average life expectancy for a gypsy/ traveller man is just 55 years old. These are just a few examples of how unequal our society is,” says Alex.
Looking to the future, Alex is confident that SARI will continue to breakdown preconceptions and prejudices and support people who are victims of hatred.