The victims of Grenfell paid a heavy price, the cost can never be repaid, but society can understand the value of all communities who have suffered and change the course of history.
It’s 3 years. 3 years since the images of the towering inferno of Grenfell woke us up to one of the biggest disasters I can recall. Woke us up to one of the biggest injustices in living memory. Numbed by the horror before us, the nation froze in trying to make sense of all that was happening. There are no words to describe the tragic stories poured out in raw grief; and yet silence must not be our response.
People recalled their final words, people were missing, families were ripped apart, the community was broken in the bitter pain it had to endure. Firefighters and paramedics reached into the flames to rescue and save; volunteers rose with extraordinary help and love. No life ever to be the same; nor should any of ours.
Why? Why did this happen? The Grenfell Inquiry has said so much, yet the reason was clear. Because the people had long pleaded that their homes were unsafe, fire ‘experts’ highlighted the risks; but they were all ignored. As those with power turned away – money and time were reserved for other priorities, corners were to be cut, life was seen as dispensable.
As I said in the debate at the time, “In one of the richest communities in the country, no-one had the capacity to listen to one of the poorest communities, and while clearly they were proved to be right, the price they had to pay was all too costly.”
The fact is, people knew the lethal risks.
There is a pattern. The community were predominantly Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority; they were poor; some had no recourse to public funds; some no documents to their name; some were children. The inherent prejudice in the places of power dehumanised them. They spoke, but were not seen as having a voice.
The constructs of institutional inequality determined by those with power deemed themselves unaccountable, not least to those who would suffer the consequences of their failures.
Today 56,000 people live behind the very same cladding that coated Grenfell. They have cried out; they have been ignored. The drum beat of fear continues for them, the controlling rhythms of our imperialist authoritarian history, are unchanged.
This is why people are rising up. This is why people are claiming their power. This is why people are demanding change. As institutions and statues tumble, people are finding their voices to decree a new order where they too can have a stake in their society.
The victims of Grenfell paid a heavy price, the cost can never be repaid. But society can understand the value of all communities who have suffered and change the course of history. Let us stand with the families of the 72 victims of Grenfell and never let their voices be silenced again.