UKREN blog

Monday 24 July 2017

Ratna Lachman, racial justice leader


I can’t quite recall the first time I met Ratna Lachman. I think it was at a European Network Against Racism (ENAR) meeting in Brussels three years ago. For both of us it was our first time at this Europe-wide NGO gathering. What I can very vividly recall is the impression she left on me then and subsequently.

As I had a background in diplomacy, where there are many eloquent people (although most lack the conviction to say anything other than what Ministers want), I was immediately struck by someone so eloquent, so convincing in argument yet so morally right. Ratna became my role model, although I never told her that. Maybe I should have. Ratna was a true fighter, who would stand up for racial or religious injustice. Regardless of herself and any trouble that position may cause her and her family in the future.

Ratna joined UKREN’s Steering Committee and, when UKREN gained charitable status, one of the founding Trustees. She was a significant contributor to ENAR's work too.

Just before the EU referendum we (UKREN and Ratna’s organisation JUST) held a debate about EU membership and what that means to ethnic minorities and faith groups, in Leeds. As with anything Ratna and JUST organised it was both well attended, enlightened people with different perspectives and allowed a space for people from ethnic minorities and faith groups to discuss issues that on the whole had not been about them. And the BBC came along and filmed it. Ratna had invited my wife and little boy to come too, and stay the night with her family. That is the kind person she was. And such a lovely family she had too. After the evening event we ate pizza and talked about everything, including the cancer that was eating into her life.

Ratna sadly passed away on 23 July. It is terribly, terribly sad when someone you know and admire is taken away early. However I think Ratna would like to be remembered for what she did. Eloquently explaining the negative effects of a government policy to create a ‘hostile environment for migrants’. Showing the massive shortfalls in the government’s PREVENT counter-terrorism programme that tarred every Muslim as a potential supporter of terrorism. Fighting institutional racism wherever it occurred.

Ratna. My hero. RIP.

 

Alan Anstead, Co-ordinator UKREN

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