'I’m a proud Mackem': New Sunderland councillor wants to change perceptions of Wearside
The first BAME councillor elected in Sunderland says he wants to change perceptions of Wearside and pave the way for more to follow his example.
Usman Ali, a self-described ‘proud Mackem’, saw off UKIP and Labour to flip Ryhope to the Conservatives in a strong showing for his party at the polls last week (Thursday, May 6).
And now he hopes to use his new platform to help the city ‘catch up’ with better known rivals, such as Newcastle.
“I’m born and bred in Sunderland and I’ve always known Sunderland is a very accepting place,” the 37-year-old said following his victory.
“A lot of people have a perception of Sunderland that it’s not a great place to live if you’re from the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) community.
“I’m here to show the rest of the country Sunderland is a progressive city and has the potential to develop into a brilliant city.
“I can’t control what people think of Sunderland, but I think Sunderland is an amazing place which doesn’t get enough credit.”
A relative newcomer to politics, Ali only joined the Conservative Party last year (2020) after becoming involved in efforts supporting vulnerable families during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
A businessman and landlord, he has promised to work to protect green spaces from development and has said he intends to donate his councillor allowances to charity and good causes.
One of an increased cohort of 18 Tories in the council chamber, his victory means Ryhope is now one of just two city wards represented by three different parties.
But he had insisted he will treat all his new constituents the same – ‘even if they didn’t vote for me’.
He added: “I didn’t get into politics because I wanted to be the first BAME councillor – that didn’t dawn on me until election day, I don’t believe in putting people in boxes.
“The most important thing is I’m a proud Mackem, I’m very proud of being from Sunderland
“Being from the BAME community isn’t something I’ve really thought about, it doesn’t matter what colour skin I am because I’m going to give 100 per cent for my residents and make the city better.”