Hackney Council rejects petition from charity supporting Black domestic abuse survivors

Hackney mayor Philip Glanville rejects Sistah Space's petition

On 27 January, Hackney council held a debate to discuss the future of Sistah Space. It’s a charity that works with Black women and girls who’re at risk of, or have experienced, domestic or sexual abuse. Most councillors voted against the charity’s request for the council to provide suitable, affordable premises.

Save Sistah Space

Sistah Space founder Ngozi Fulani brought a petition to a remote Hackney council meeting, asking councillors to provide suitable premises for the charity. The petition is supported by Hackney’s Green Party, Liberal Democrats, and Women’s Equality Party. And it calls for the council to provide a minimum five year lease for new premises, or provide a voluntary and community sector (VCS) building at charity rate for Sistah Space.

This was following another petition, with over 25k signatures, asking the council to provide a suitable space for the charity. There was a temporary agreement that the council would provide premises for the charity which expired on 17 January. In his response to the petition, Hackney mayor Philip Glanville highlighted this agreement, saying “Sistah Space has not been evicted. They agreed to leave on that date and they have done so”.

Fulani began by saying that the council has held Sistah Space “in high esteem” for its work, having received Hackney’s citizens award. She continued:

But the moment we said: ‘Please sir, can we have some more?’ You said: ‘More?’.

She told councillors:

We provide a service that you can’t or won’t. And instead of using us as a resource, because we’re the experts on us, you fight us with every corporate tool at your disposal, spending thousands on legal fees… We’re a very small charity, and our only crime, it seems, was asking for safety.

Fulani asked councillors to remember Valerie Forde and her baby who were violently killed by Forde’s ex-partner in Hackney. She added that the charity’s client base has increased by 500% over the course of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The charity leader concluded:

Hackney councillors, will you please provide proof to us that to you, Black lives do matter.

Hackney council debate

Many councillors praised Sistah Space’s important work, and others expressed their desire to continue working with the charity, but most voted against the petition. According to the mayor, none of the council’s VCS buildings meet the specifications set out in Sistah Space’s petition. He argued that the charity is asking the council for a space which “simply does not exist”.

Councillors Sade Etti and Sophie Conway highlighted their experiences as survivors of domestic abuse. Highlighting that one in three women will have experienced domestic abuse in their lifetime, Conway said:

The work that Sistah Space does resonates with me. … I sincerely hope that they will secure a suitable space within the borough so that they can continue their invaluable work.

In his response to the petition, Glanville said:

This petition sets out that Sistah Space would like us to hand over a property to them. An action that would not only be in breach of our own VCS policy, but be unfair to other charities that follow fair and transparent policy and bid for spaces.

He concluded:

I hope we can move on and continue to fight against both racism and that terrible scourge of domestic violence and abuse. Sadly, we cannot do so in the way set out in the petition.

The fight for a safe space continues

The charity organisers are disappointed by this outcome. The Save Sistah Space campaign to help the charity secure suitable, affordable premises is ongoing.

Featured image via Hackney Council/YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. The phrase ‘gravy train’ used to feel like a tired one that would be likely to push the button that made a person stop listening or reading. I’m afraid local government is very much a well-oiled instance of the gravy train. Councils’ priorities are to make sure their top tier earners maintain their salaries. They are nothing but accountants and bad ones at that, with very little inner life. I have directly witnessed their machinations myself, and it makes no difference if the figures are nominally Labour or not. In my case I’ve been in a situation where two relatively senior labour figures sides with Directors guilty of collaborating in fraud. My situation has led ot me alighting on all manner of stories regarding local authorities. It remains still a shock that London would be the same, that the stimulation and provocation of being a big city with several universities and so much life that is not around me, but this feeling is just ‘more of the same’, more of the fact that these people will never give us anything, never. It’s alesson we all need to learn, sadly, even if in learning it someone has to give up on something they need so badly, that is needed so badly.

      I recognise well also the twisted kind of parody of logic that these people use, from my own experience. Senior, power-wielding council staff like to make statements modelled on reason but which are hollow. It’s part of the armoury of stonewalling that they deal in and it’s part of the denial they use to naturalise their values and behaviours in their own head. “Sistah Space has not been evicted. They agreed to leave on that date and they have done so.” That is just a perversion of reason isn’t it? Where I live the council’s Chief Executive had some role in assisting a Roma charity. But flags hang everywhere, the council books racist comedians for its theatre; its Civic Centre is mothered in domestic abuse leaflets and fliers but its practices uphold violence and oppressive behaviours. No sincerity, just hollow acts that peter out.

      Living in England is like being the child of alcoholic, narcissistic parents. They’ll never do the right thing, no matter what you ask and for how long. Seems to me all we can do is walk away before the environment has done too much damage, and no, I know that it is simultaneously what is necessary and what is not an option in very many if not most cases.

    2. And we are so exercised about racism aren’t we? Corbyn is an anti-semite. There’s a anti-semite under every Labour bed. John Mann, risibly, commissions a report from Daniel Allington, who works with the CAA, is involved in the Alfred Landecker Foundation, Decoding Antisemitism project (take a look at it, essentially it’s the effort to us AI to prove that anti-semites are sly folk who hide their hatred of Jews behind supporting equal rights for Palestinians – Allington’s report criticises the Canary for arguing that 1.8 million people are imprisoned in the Gaza strip because they are “brown”; the idea, he claims, is ludicrous. Well, why are they there? Because they’re Jews? They are there because they are Arabs, and that is racism, pure and simple); Allington has also worked with Quilliam which falsely claimed that most grooming in the UK is carried out by Muslim men. Alfred Landecker was an innocent victim of the Nazis. His daughter Emilie, however, had three children by Albert Reimann, a Nazi and convinced anti-semite. The Reimann family is associated with the Landecker Foundation. Oh, we are so concerned about racism. Starmer calls BLM a “moment” not a “movement”. Very simple. Racism is allowed to flourish when it’s the racism of Israel towards the Palestinians, when it’s people of colour being killed by US cops, but racism becomes a big issue when US power in the Middle East, exercised through its proxy Israel is challenged. It’s wealth and power the Establishment care about, racial equality is a matter they twist to their own twisted ends.

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