This year, there has been a surge in the anti-racist movements across the world as people have taken to the streets to demand change following the death of George Floyd in May.

It has resulted in universities, councils, museums, and more recognising the contributions that BAME (black and minority ethnic) people have had on our local communities.

Abdul Harid, the first Asian councillor in Carlisle, is eager to see the contributions of BAME people in the city recognised to show that Carlisle is a welcoming place to live in.

Mr Harid said: “The BAME community is making outstanding contributions in our city in providing vital services in the NHS, hospitals and doctors surgeries.

“They are also providing services to the local communities in the hospitality sector, restaurants and takeaways with late opening hours and food delivery services.”

When he first moved to Carlisle in 1993, things were quite different, he describes Botchergate as a “no go zone” for Asian people.

People felt unsafe living in the city, he saw people attacked in their own homes and some families left due to a feeling of insecurity.

“Before the development went ahead on Botchergate, it was a no go zone area for Asian people around there,” Mr Harid said.

“It was very tough on Botchergate.

“I have seen a lot of families attacked in their own homes, they felt unsafe in their own homes.

“A couple of families had to leave because they didn’t feel welcome in Carlisle.”

Mr Harid was elected as a Carlisle City Councillor for the Currock ward in 2007, a position that he held until 2019.

He was the first Asian person to be elected into the city council.

In that time, he ran against candidates from the British National Party but he defeated them and even won with a 500 majority.

“Before, there wasn’t a platform for the BAME community. It was very tough for people to move into Carlisle,” he said.

“I became an example and a role model for people to come to Carlisle.

“During my first year of election, the British National Party had a candidate in my ward and I defeated them.

“The last election I won was by a 500 majority in Currock so I was setting an example for people to show that Carlisle is a home.”

The Black Lives Matter gathering that took place in the city during the summer was the first time that Mr Harid had seen so many people come together to give a platform for the voices of BAME people in Carlisle.

It was an emotional event that saw hundreds of people bolster the voices of those who took to the microphone to share their heartbreaking experiences of racism in Cumbria.

“The Black Lives Matter movement has given a platform and recognition to the BAME community in the UK and especially in Carlisle,” said Mr Harid.

“That was the first time I have seen such a big gathering and recognising that this person works for the NHS, this person works at a local school.

“It was recognising the contribution of hard working people of the BAME community.”

Since then, there has been a wave of awareness-raising events held by anti-racist organisations and a drive to highlight the history of BAME people in Cumbria.

A collaborative project that was recently launched by Cumbria County Council, Carlisle Archives, Tullie House, and M-Unit is one such project that is hoping to shine a light on Carlisle’s underrepresented communities.

They are asking for people to come forward with memories and objects that help tell this story.

Timothy Cottingham, community services officer at Carlisle Archives, explained: “The idea came from feedback from various members of the black community in Carlisle and how they thought about how black history had been done in the past and what we can learn.

“There’s a lot of history recorded and we have got some white history but our collections [in Cumbria] are not the best for black history.”

Raising awareness and educating people is an important part of the anti-racist movement.

Mr Harid has done a lot of work in tacking issues of racism since moving to Carlisle, particularly in creating community cohesion and educating people.

He said: “I worked with the police and local authorities here before I became a councillor to recognise and understand, it’s part of education.

“I worked with the schools to highlight the issues.

“I’ve worked with the local authorities to get people involved and to understand the important role that people play.

“It is creating awareness basically.”

Community events that showcase different cultures have also been well received in the city in the past.

AWAZ Cumbria has excelled on this front with community kitchen events, film nights, and parties.

Last year, the organisation held Filipino and Syrian film nights where city residents shared their cultures by showing films that gave an insight into their lives.

Speaking at the time, Nicole Cottingham, community development worker for AWAZ, said: “These film nights are an opportunity to not only learn about different nationalities living in Carlisle, but to get to know the people themselves.”

Mr Harid has done his fair share of community events including Eid parties in a bid to encourage community cohesion “so that people can respect each other.”

But he is also keen to share the other contributions that people like himself have made to the city.

Whether that is by owning businesses, raising money for local charities, supporting young people, or just generally contributing to the local economy.

“Everyone you look at in Carlisle is working hard, they’re not criminals or people who are creating crime.

“I had three businesses here, I employed local people, I used local resources and I contributed financially for more than 24 years into the local economy.”

Mr Harid said he still worries that Carlisle is not perceived as welcoming to BAME people.

“Especially with the low number of BAME people in Carlisle, I think Carlisle is being treated as a city that is not welcoming to people from other backgrounds,” he said.

“There is so much that the BAME community can do for this city.”