A new campaign aiming to break down barriers by bringing together youngsters from different backgrounds to stand against extremism is being launched today.
Together We Are Stronger will see young people across south Leeds taking part in sport activities to help them work together and build stronger relationships between communities.
It has been organised as a collaboration between Leeds City Council and the Government’s Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) programme, set up to offer funding and support to local groups involved in counter-extremism projects.
The campaign is being launched at Leeds United’s Elland Road ground today by Baroness Williams, Government Minister for Countering Extremism, Coun Judith Blake, leader of the council, and Coun Debra Coupar, deputy leader.
A series of videos have also now been released to kick-off the scheme, each following one of six youngsters from Leeds who have been praised for making a positive contribution to the city.
Baroness Williams told the YEP that the campaign will form part of a national effort to break down barriers between communities, celebrating what people have in common in the UK.
“Leeds is such a wonderfully diverse city and Together We Are Stronger is about celebrating its unique spirit and inspirational people,” she said.
“While some individuals may seek to divide us or hold extremist views, we must show how open, tolerant and diverse a society we are and the young people in this campaign, who represent the spirit of Leeds, do precisely that.”
The campaign is part of the Government’s BSBT programme, which will this year be working with councils and social groups across the country and in Leeds, which Baroness Williams hopes will “strengthen communities’ resilience to extremism”.
During the short video clips released today, each youngster speaks about what it means to be from Leeds, their pride for the city and how they are trying to help make it a more inclusive place.
Among those featured is Josh Clarkson, who at just 16-years-old is already a kickboxing instructor from Seacroft.
Josh’s gym serves as an open space for people from all backgrounds to learn martial arts.
Another youngster involved in the videos is Halima France-Mir, a British Muslim from Moortown, who helps organise Leeds’ West Indian Carnival, which was established by her granddad.
Coun Coupar, deputy council leader, said the pride, passion and energy exhibited by the city’s youngsters featured in the video clips were “a great example to all of us” of what can be achieved by community cohesion.
“The Together We Are Stronger campaign and the young people featured in these videos are a shining example of everything that is great about Leeds today: its dynamism, its diversity and its compassion,” she said.
“We are all extremely proud to be from Leeds and the values that we as a city hold.
“But we are also very much aware that we don’t exist in a bubble – we face the same challenges as the rest of the country, including from those who seek to divide our communities from one another and demean the contribution of others to our city.
“The pride, passion and energy shown by our young people and demonstrated in these videos is the perfect response to these type of views and arguments.”
The campaign will now be supported by sporting initiatives delivered in south Leeds by Street Games and community groups in the city, including Leeds United’s official charity, the Leeds United Foundation.
The organisations will help to bring together young people in the area, create opportunities for them to work together, and aims to build stronger relationships through fun activities.