Blog written by: Atif Ali

'Forward' has been the motto of the City of Birmingham dating back to 1839. That singular-worded motto and the city’s Coat of Arms has been in the forefront of our thinking as we have forged a new plan for our operations in the 'City of a Thousand Trades'. 

Birmingham is home to over 1.2 million people, with nearly 50% of residents coming from an ethnic group other than white and under 25s accounting for nearly 40% of the population.

2020, was an extraordinary year, a global health pandemic, impacted every single country in the world. The existing inequalities in our society were brought to the surface and the Black Lives Matter movement shone a light on police brutality. During the lockdown, I found myself asking what sort of City and world I wanted to live in.

In June 2020, I called for better representation in the institutions across my home City. I'm pleased that we are now taking steps in the right direction. In conversations that I had at the time with hundreds of people, I was asked where my sense of social justice originated from? I thought long and hard. I was certain, it wasn't because I grew up in inner-city Birmingham, to parents who migrated here in the '80s from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. I was sure that my personal desire to change things was rooted in me from the age of 13 when I found myself supporting my parents after witnessing the struggles they went through whilst caring for my disabled siblings.

The common theme for 13-year-old me and 25-year-old (last year), was that I wanted to contribute and make a difference. A Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him) states; "Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” By raising my voice, I hope to have inspired others to do so.

I hope to witness a fundamental change in the world and most importantly my home City whereby we can bring the change that is needed to live in a fairer society where we have:

1. Representation across all our institutions,
2. Young people at the heart of decision making, &
3. Empowerment of our marginalised, underrepresented communities

I pledge to do this, by working hand in hand with people all across the City. As the saying goes; "Justice delayed is Justice denied". Rumi says; "You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop." By individually implementing small changes today, I am confident, we can, collectively, live up to the motto of taking our City: 'Forward'.

About Atif Ali

Atif completed his Masters in Law at the University of Birmingham in 2017 and is working as a Public Health Officer - Inequalities at Birmingham City Council, having completed a 2-year graduate scheme in the Inclusive Growth directorate. Atif volunteers his time as a Co-opted Independent Member on the Housing & Community Services Committee at Bournville Village Trust, he is a Trustee at The Veolia Environmental Trust, a Severn Trent Community Fund Panel Member and a School Governor at Fox Hollies Special School. Atif was a finalist for the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Future Face of Public Sector Awards in 2019 & 2020 as well as the Council’s Chamberlain Awards 2019 in the 'Rising Stars' category for showing; 'great attitude, initiative, accountability, and responsibility'. Atif will be a participant in the Patchwork Foundation 2021 Masterclass Programme, which seeks to educate and train young adults from disadvantaged and minority communities with classes from top political and public figures.