Elected to Parliament in 1987, as one of the first black MP's in modern
times. He famously attended his first State Opening of Parliament in African
dress, attracting outrage in some quarters - but huge respect in others.
In Parliament he founded the Parliamentary Black Caucus, and took a leading
role in establishing contacts with black people and politicians throughout the
world. He travelled widely, especially to Africa and to his beloved Caribbean
region. In 1990 he accompanied Rev Jesse Jackson to South Africa, greeting
Nelson Mandela on the day of his release. Later he established an information
technology centre amid the townships in the Free State, which is named after
He was Chair of the All Party Group on Race and Community, and of the
British Caribbean Group. In 1997 he was appointed as member of the Select
Committee on International Development, and he was the only MP amongst those
appointed to the Home Secretary's Race Relations Forum in 1998. He founded the
Standing Conference on Racism in Europe in 1990, and also established the Africa
Reparations Movement in Britain. In 1995, he founded the Global Trade Centre. A
dedicated constituency MP, his last battle was to establish a major arts and cultural
facility in his Tottenham constituency, a project which has been progressed since his
death and will now be named The Bernie Grant Centre.
On the floor of the House of Commons he was outspoken in the cause of
eliminating racism both in Britain and the world. He campaigned against racist
policing methods, and deaths in custody, on institutionalised racism in health,
housing and education, for refugees, and for greater resources for inner city
areas. Internationally he fought for the elimination of overseas debt for poor
nations, and for the recognition of the past injustices of colonisation and
Contrary to popular belief, however, he fought not only for racial justice,
but for oppressed people whoever they were. Many thousands valued him for the
individual attention he gave to their personal difficulties.
Bernie Grant channelled the concerns of his community to the highest levels
of Government, and was regarded as the authentic voice of Britain's ethnic
minorities. By the time of his death, the outspoken activist of the seventies
and eighties, was seen as a statesman of great integrity. His funeral at
London's Alexandra Palace in April 2000, attended by some 5000 people from
all sectors of society confirmed his standing and impact on public life.