Nehemiah Court Celebrating Black History Month.

I was delighted to be asked to open the newly refurbished Nehemiah Court on 1st October 2021. Nehemiah Court is a complex of 34 flats that was first opened in 2002 by Sir Bill Morris. I was met by the Chief Executive Llewellyn Graham and the Chair, Bishop Wilton Powell.

My first duty was to plant a Cherry Tree Prunus Kiku Shidare outside to celebrate  HM Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Canopy. In my speech I said how honoured I was to be asked to celebrate Black History Month with this wonderful refurbishment which will change people’s lives. Some people say why celebrate BHM? It is important to celebrate the contribution that BAME people have made and to hear from them about the struggles they have encountered and overcome. Malcolm X who visited nearby Smethwick  to draw attention to the National Front and racist behaviour.  He said ” that is not a chip on my shoulder that is your foot on my neck”.  How prescient those words were. Or Nelson Mandela who was asked -don’t you hate the people who put you in prison ? and he replied “if I did – I would still be in prison.”    The football players in America took the knee against injustice and then we saw, the world saw,  a black man die before our eyes- when George Floyd was murdered. What was so important was the way young people  responded from every background they came together under Black Lives Matter movement. That is why we have to honour this generation now retired ; they taught – you taught the younger generation by your patience , resilience and wisdom. You laid the ground for all their success. And now it is time for them to look after you. But I had a task for that generation – they must tell their stories to their children and grandchildren,  record it, in any way so it is not lost. It is a human right to live safely and securely and that is what Nehemiah Housing is doing for the residents.  There is a wonderful picture of Revd Martin Luther King Jr at the dining table with his family with a picture of Mahatma Ghandhi. They both taught us peace and reconciliation. And we need to remember Dr King’s words that the Arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards Justice and  we are getting there so there is hope for the future- it is bending.

After the tree planting  aided by Martin Levermore MBE, we went inside and I  unveiled the plaque which recorded the historic day -the 1st day of Black History Month. Grace was said before lunch.   In 2020/21 the scheme has undergone a £1 million pound refurbishment programme which included  the refurbishment of all the communal areas and a two-storey extension. As part of the refurbishment there was an  extension to the upper floors to extend the lift,  relocating the lounge and the office facilities. On the lower ground floor, an unused kitchen and lounge were converted into three flats, also adding a scooter store room and, an unused staff room into a fourth new flat.  There is now a designated bin store area and the car park was re-configurated to allow for a more secure car park.  New internal corridors with additional lights were installed and the fire alarm system was upgraded.  The extensive refurbishment means Nehemiah Housing can now provide more independent and assisted care living to tenants from across the Walsall area.

I visited one of the refurbished flats. It was set up to be wide enough for a wheelchair and the height of the worktops and sink  could be lowered and raised making it adaptable for the future. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who worked so hard and made this such a memorable day.  I handed over a gift.  They were  boxes of Gulab Jamun and other Indian sweets.

If you want to know more about the brilliant Nehemiah Housing here is the link:  They are based at 1-3 Beacon Court Birmingham Road Great Barr B43 6NN ; Tel 0121 3580966  Email: [email protected]