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UK VOICE: Jamaican-born scientist receives knighthood in UK

Published:Tuesday | December 31, 2013 | 12:41 PM

A distinguished Jamaican-born scientist is to be knighted by the Queen.

Geoffrey 'Geoff' Palmer, an anti-racism campaigner and Scotland's first black university professor, has been knighted for services to human rights, science and charity.

A professor emeritus at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, Palmer has made huge contributions to the knowledge of cereal and grains.

His work has had a worldwide impact and has played a role in tackling poverty in parts of Africa.

He is also an avid campaigner for better educational opportunities for children and young people from black and ethnic minority communities.

On hearing the news, Palmer's first thought was of his mother.

He told The Voice: "I got a letter a few weeks ago and when I opened it and read it, it said the prime minister had recommended me for a knighthood and I immediately thought of my mother.

“She left Jamaica in 1948 on her own and then she sent for me in 1955, when I was 14 years old.

"It took her from 48 to 55 to save £86 to bring me here. Without her love and sacrifice my story would not have been possible.”

Others to receive awards include professional footballer Rachel Yankey MBE, who was given an OBE for services to football, particularly the women and youth's game.

The Arsenal player, who was once forced to pretend to be a boy to play football, described the award as "pretty unbelievable."

She said: "You don’t expect to be honoured once, let alone to be honoured twice. I feel proud and even more special because it’s not just for on-the-pitch achievements, but it is also for the work I do in the community."

Yankey coaches in schools and has set up a youth community football team in Neasden that has over 150 members.

Dr Solomon Fubara, who set up the African & Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, was honoured for his services to Black, Minority and Ethnic community in the South East; and David Waboso, Director Capital Programmes, London Underground, was awarded for services to transport in London.

This year’s awards were focused on community work with 74 per cent of the honours going to people who are actively engaged in charitable or voluntary work.

More women than men have been honoured for the first time in history, but the number of BMEs to receive awards has fallen.

611, 51 per cent, of the 1195 successful candidates in the New Year’s Honours List 2014 were women, but only 5 per cent, a one percent drop from last year and 7.8 per cent from the previous year, were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The list recognises the achievements and services of extraordinary people and is open to nominations from any individual or organisation - though self-submissions are not permitted.

Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake claims the problem is lack of nominations from black and ethnic minority communities.

He said: “This year we have hosted a number of outreach events to encourage greater participation in the honour system.

“But the issue is people seem to think that it is not for them or it is not something they should aspire to. Actually it is for everybody and our focus is to get this message out - through the media, community organisations and house of parliament events.”


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