Birmingham’s Commonwealth Day celebrations, 14 March 2016

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Commonwealth day is celebrated by the Commonwealth nations every second Monday in March. Although the occasion is marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey and H.M. the Queen’s speech broadcast around the globe, Commonwealth Day does not enjoy widespread public awareness. For the past 2 years, the Birmingham Commonwealth Association has taken upon itself to raise awareness of both Commonwealth Day and its own activities through a flag raising ceremony, a citizenship ceremony and an evening dinner including an award giving ceremony.

From left to right: Keith Stokes-Smith, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Wade Lyn, and Paul Ellis, curator of Birmingham City Council

From left to right: Keith Stokes-Smith, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Wade Lyn, and Paul Ellis, curator of Birmingham City Council

Commonwealth Day in Birmingham

This year’s Commonwealth Day, on 14 March began with the raising of the Commonwealth Flag in front of the Council House in Victoria Square at 10:30, in the presence of the Lord Mayor, the Chairman of the BCA, Keith Stokes-Smith and Wade Lyn, the Chairman of the BCA’s Communities Group.

At 12:00, the Birmingham Commonwealth Association was present at the Commonwealth Day UK Citizenship ceremony, where 27 citizens of Commonwealth countries were recognised as citizens of the United Kingdom in their own right. The special occasion was marked by the BCA with several speeches given by three members of its communities group: Mr. Quaye Botchway, president of the Ghana Union Midlands; Nura Ali Dhuhul, Executive Director of Allies Network; and Marcia Lewinson, Chief Executive of W.A.I.T.S. Action. Their speeches highlighted some of the Commonwealth values and reminded those present of the importance of respect, tolerance and gender equality.

After the official certificate of citizenship was handed over to the 27 new citizens by the deputy Lord Mayor, distinguished members of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association presented them with a BCA Welcome Certificate.

The culmination of the day’s events came with the Birmingham Commonwealth Association’s Annual Commonwealth Day Networking Dinner that took place in University College Birmingham’s Brasserie. The ceremony was hosted by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Gary Wood and included the representative of the Queen, Vice Lord-Lieutenant, Colonel George Marsh TD; the Deputy Lord Mayor of Birmingham, councillor Mike Leddy; councillor Ken Wood; the Consul General of India, Jitendra Kumar Sharma; the South African Honorary Consul of the Midlands, Avi Lasarow; the vice-president of the Institute of Asian Businesses, Saqib Bhatti; the Bangladeshi Assistant High Commissioner, Muhammad Zulqar Nain; Deputy Lord Lieutenant Satinder Kaur Taunque OBE.DL and the now retired Deputy Lord Lieutenant Dr. Jagjit Taunque MBE.DL among other illustrious Birmingham citizens, including several representatives from the business community.

Marcia Lewinson and Nura Ali Dhuhul

Marcia Lewinson and Nura Ali Dhuhul

The ceremony was also attended by the representatives of the two charities that Keith Stokes-Smith announced the Association would be supporting. Nura Ali Dhuhul; Executive Director of Allies Network, who work on raising awareness around and preventing female genital mutilation; and Marcia Lewinson, Chief Executive of W.A.I.T.S. Action, a charity that works with women victim of domestic violence.

Keith Stokes-Smith formally launched the recently published “Birmingham Commonwealth Association Document” and its four sections dedicated to “Who are we?“, the “Trade and Business Group“, the “Communities Group” and the “Education Group“. The document outlines the aspirations and achievements of the Association’s three sub-groups. He also announced the first patron of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association, Ruth Lea, representative of Economists fro Britain.

As the evening progressed the first two  Birmingham Commonwealth Association Youth Community Award winners, Jordan Jarrett and Kesar Abbas were introduced by Harry Fowler from the Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs. The awards were announced by the Association’s Chairman Keith Stoke-Smith and presented by the Communities Group Chairman Wade Lyn.

The evening was brought to an close by the words of H.M. the Queen’s Commonwealth Day speech and a loyal toast proposed by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Colonel George Marsh TD.

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