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Here at Ben & Jerry's, equality and inclusion have always been at the heart of what we believe in. Our company and our communities include people of all origins, faiths and backgrounds — a tapestry of human experience that makes us stronger through its diversity.
Recently, political groups and media companies have sought to divide our communities on the basis of race, religion, sexuality and other discrimination that has no place in a modern, inclusive Britain. So now, more than ever, we need communities to come together and create a more equal, tolerant and fair world for us all.
One area where people from all walks of life are coming together more and more to celebrate diversity, equality and a shared moment of community identity, is football.
This can be seen happening in the current non-league revolution here in the UK, where fans are shunning the money-making machine of the Premier League to support their local non-league football teams. Many of these fans are bringing the progressive values of tolerance and inclusion to the terraces, and nowhere is this clearer than at both Whitehawk FC, Brighton and Clapton FC, East London. Both sets of fans (dubbed "Ultras") are using their local football clubs as a platform to promote tolerance and togetherness in their communities, which have been hit hard by austerity and increased xenophobia in the UK.
We thinking this is an awesome effort... it's great that a sport, which used to be a focus of racism and homophobia, can now be used to promote the idea that football is for everyone, regardless of who they may be. And, if we can promote inclusion on the terraces, then why not in the streets, in schools and in local shops?! Football can bring us closer together, and the Ultras of Whitehawk and Clapton are showing us just how!
Another example is Pavinder Samra, who helped set up The Punjabi Rams, one of the UK's first ethnic minority football supporters groups. Derby is an area in which a large Punjabi community settled in the 1950's and 60's, however they at times found it difficult to integrate with the local football team, Derby County (aka The Rams). The Punjabi Rams promote the idea that football is for everyone and organise events to engage local people in their football club. You only have to attend one of their events to see that you don't have to be Punjabi to join - their key message to celebrate differences and a shared passion clearly shines through! The group also undertakes local charity work to promote inclusion, always using football as a conversation starter!
Football also has the ability to use its voice to promote tolerance and togetherness at times of need. This was shown by the response of football teams, particularly in Germany, to the recent refugee crisis — clubs provided free tickets to the new citizens of their towns, and fans spent evenings painting huge banners to express their welcome to the new members of their communities.
As a society, we need to find more ways for people from all walks of life to come together and celebrate their common interests. It will help bind us closer together and strengthen the resilience of the community against powers that want to break us up. We salute the work of The Punjabi Rams, The Whitehawk FC fans, the Clapton Ultras and all those fans in Germany that welcomed refugees to their clubs... game on!
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