Harry takes a stand against institutional racism in surprise message
The Duke of Sussex has outlined his personal commitment to tackling institutional racism, warning it has no place in society but that it remains endemic.
In his most high-profile speech on the issue, Harry apologised to the younger generation that more had not been done to make the world a better place.
The duke, in a surprise message to children and young adults during The Diana Awards ceremony, paid tribute to those award winners who were working to end racial inequality, saying they gave him the “greatest hope” amid the division, isolation and anger around the world.
Harry said of himself and the Duchess of Sussex: “I want you to know that we are committed to being part of the solution and to being part of the change you are all leading.
“Now is the time and we know that you can do it.”
His words came after Meghan, who became the first mixed race person to marry a senior royal, delivered an impassioned Black Lives Matter speech to her old high school following the death of George Floyd in the US, sharing her “absolute devastation” at racial divisions.
Mr Floyd died after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protest in the US and around the world.
Harry added: “My wife said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven’t done enough to right the wrongs of the past.
“I too, am sorry. Sorry that we haven’t got the world to the place that you deserve it to be.
“Institutional racism has no place in our societies, yet it is still endemic.
“Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame, to create a better world for all of you.”
Speaking from Los Angeles where he has moved after quitting as a senior working royal to pursue a life of personal and financial freedom, Harry gave a special mention to recipients who were being recognised for their work on race and injustice.
“Right now we’re seeing situations around the world where division, isolation and anger are dominating as pain and trauma come to the surface,” he said.
“But I see the greatest hope in people like you and I’m confident about the world’s future and its ability to heal because it is in your hands.”
He appeared on behalf of both himself and his brother the Duke of Cambridge on what would have been their late mother Diana, Princess of Wales’s 59th birthday.
Speaking about his mother, Harry acknowledged she “never took the easy route”.
“I know that my mother has been an inspiration to many of you and I can assure you she would have been fighting your corner,” he said.
“Like many of you, she never took the easy route, or the popular one, or the comfortable one, but she stood for something and she stood up for people who needed it.”
Harry highlighted a number of the award winners including 24-year-old James Frater from London.
Mr Frater, as a young Black Caribbean boy, had 300 detentions and exclusions from school, but his life was turned around after he was mentored by four teachers.
He is now training to become a doctor and has focused on creating initiatives to increase the representation of black students at university, particularly at Russell Group ones.
Mr Frater, who spoke after the duke, was one of the 184 people – children and young adults – presented with a Diana Award accolade this year for social action or humanitarian efforts.
The charity was set up in memory of the princess who was killed in a car crash in 1997 when Harry was 12 and William 15.
Others championed by the duke included 23-year-old Nasra Ayub from Bristol who is an activist at Integrate UK, a youth-led charity that works towards gender and racial equality and cross-cultural cohesion.
She has provided consultation to two Prime Ministers, joined meetings at the Home Office and has represented the organisation at the African Union, Ethiopia.
Others name-checked by Harry included Demetri Addison, 19, from Jamaica, who is an advocate for young people in the face of rising youth violence; Jhemar Jonas, 17, who raises awareness about youth violence in south London; and Shanea Kerry Oldham, 19, from London, who developed the Operation Inspire mentoring programme for young boys that were excluded internally and founded Your Life More Life, which creates safe spaces for young people impacted by serious youth violence.
Marvel Mthembu, 22, from Johannesburg, was also recognised by the duke for setting up the international organisation Crushing The Barriers.
Harry said: “People like Nasra, James, Demetri and Jhemar, Shanea and Marvel, you are six young people that my brother and I are proud to specifically recognise tonight, and it is your voice that is far more important than mine.”
The Vamps star James McVey hosted the 2020 Diana Awards, and celebrities including singers Liam Payne and Bastille’s Dan Smith, actor Will Poulter, and actress Dame Emma Thompson were among those who recorded virtual messages honouring the award winners.