Tribute to forces’ ethnic heroes

Dean T Huggins, Development Officer for the Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network, which is asking for a memorial for former military service personnel.
Dean T Huggins, Development Officer for the Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network, which is asking for a memorial for former military service personnel.
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THE bravery of black and ethnic minority service personnel is to be honoured at a new exhibition.

The Black and Minority Ethnic Forces Memorial Project will pay tribute to members of the British Army, Royal Navy and RAF who hail from countries such as Nigeria, India and Pakistan.

An exhibition and booklet will highlight their service in the armed forces over the past 250 years, featuring personal experiences and recollections.

Dean Huggins, who runs the Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network, is spearheading the project.

“The Ministry of Defence has prepared an exhibition called We Were There, which looks at the ethnic minority presence in Britain’s armed forces over the last 250 years,” he said.

“We would like to acknowledge the contribution made by Sunderland’s ethnic minorities and share their experiences with the wider public. As well as the exhibition, we would like to produce a booklet that can be sent to local schools and colleges.”

Set up in 2004, the organisation in Addison Street, Sunderland, brings together volunteers and community groups to run training and support services.

“The aim of the project is to help counteract some of the negative stereotypes about black and minority ethnic communities and to increase the recognition of their role within Britain’s military history,” he said.

Dean is appealing for former members of the armed forces with a black or minority ethnic background to get in touch.

“The exhibition is going to be in the North East in the autumn,” he said. “We’re trying to make contact with black and minority ethnic Sunderland residents who have been members of Britain’s armed forces.

“We’d also like to speak to family and friends of service personnel, anyone who can provide us with information about their experiences.”

African Iweka Otigbah, who now lives in Grangetown, Sunderland, served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for 14 years.

The 53-year-old, who was based largely in Germany with the Army, said he hoped the project would be a big success.

“I’m supporting the project as much as I can,” said the dad-of-eight. “I think it will be an eye-opener for a lot of people.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the project should call 565 7315 or email info@sbmen.org.uk

Alternatively, write to Sunderland BME Network, Unit 31, Stanfield Business Centre, Addison Street, Sunderland, SR2 8SZ.

@SunEchoJohnston