Community champions from the region’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME) communities are set to be celebrated, as entries open for this year’s Tees Valley BME Achievement Awards.
The awards ceremony, now in its twelfth year, will once again recognise the wealth of achievement and talent across the area by honouring inspiring individuals and organisations at the prestigious event on Saturday, November 27.
Judges are urging local people to put forward the names of those who have made the biggest contribution over the last year, from organisations working at the grass roots, to well established members of the community, newly emerging stars, and dynamic young community members.
The glittering ceremony will be held at Middlesbrough’s Jurys Inn Hotel, where guests will enjoy South-Asian dining, keynote speeches from leading local figures, special guest appearances, and the presentation of the awards in categories ranging from Youth, Community and Business, to Public Sector, Apprenticeship and Education.
Other presentations include Community Safety Champion, Woman of the Year, and the Lifetime Achievement Award, the latter recognising the sustained commitment to, and support for, BME communities.
Nazir Afzal OBE, former chief crown prosecutor and national adviser to the Welsh Government, will be returning to Teesside to host the annual awards, in partnership with Tees Valley Business, the local growth hub for the region established by the Tees Valley mayor and combined authority.
Speaking on the importance of this year’s ceremony, Nazir Afzal OBE said: “The last year has been as horrific as any in loving memory. I lost my brother to Covid-19 and my mother to a broken heart, but each of us will have a personal story to tell, possibly of heartache, of sacrifice and of community.
“It is the understanding and appreciation of the importance of community that makes the BME awards so important this year.”
He continued: “We came together, we looked after each other and there were truly magnificent displays of partnership, of innovation and of caring for our most vulnerable. If ever there was a need to recognise the best of us, then it is now.
“Those from minority communities were disproportionately impacted by Covid, but the same communities disproportionately tended to our ill when they were hospitalised. We could just clap hands for them, or we could say thank you in the spotlight of our awards ceremony – so let us congregate and congratulate.”
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “The past year has seen communities pull together like never before in the face of a devastating pandemic. However, if one thing has come out of all the heartache and loss, it’s the brave and inspiring stories of individuals, organisations and businesses which went above and beyond to help where they could.
He added: “This will be a BME awards like no other, and we’re very proud to be able to help highlight some of the best our region has to offer.
“This event is incredibly important to champion heroes and help to encourage future generations as communities across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool begin to recover from the impact of this virus.”