Black History Makers: Islington’s deputy leader on fighting inequality
- Credit: Islington Council
Fighting for equality is hard wired into Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz’s political career.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has galvanised the world around a cause, the first female Black deputy leader of Islington Council told the Gazette working to achieve parity is “part of her daily life, part of our community’s daily life and not something that has happened this year to be suddenly championed”.
“The risk I can’t bear to have is that it’s just a conversation and what I’m proud to do in my work is to move on a conversation about what the inequalities are and to find out how do we actually action things to move us forward,” she said.
“There is an area of life that is made harder by structural racism - you are more likely to be unemployed, you are more likely to be homeless, to be in the criminal justice system, to get worse grades at school if you are Black.”
Kaya’s parents introduced her to the Labour movement; she remembers leaflet dropping aged seven and became an official member as soon as she was eligible.
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While her mother’s side of the family is Jewish and her grandfather was interned in the Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime, Kaya’s father hails from Zimbabwe.
The reason her parents got on so well, she believes, is because of their political backgrounds.
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“They both have a collective understanding of oppression and what social class used to look like and the need to have a fight towards equality,” she said.
“One of my first memories, which I realise was when I was four, was to sit down as a family to watch Mandela being released from prison.
“I said: ‘Daddy what’s happening?’ and he said: ‘This man. This man has done the impossible’, and there was a collective sense of pride.”
Kaya was equalities champion as a back bench councillor, before she took on the post of deputy leader in September.
“I’m very proud to be the first Black deputy leader of Islington Council, but I didn’t set my ambitions and work 70 hours a week for years to be the first Black deputy leader,” she said.
“It’s something that I know comes with an important added responsibility and I’m proud to champion.”
She is passionate about ensuring diverse political representation.
“It’s a buzzword, but it’s important we have that visibility and that we give our insight.
“So much can be done by us being at the table and reflecting on how our lives have been affected.”