Since the turn of this century, Cardiff, Wales has seen steady growth, both in population and economic development. As the capital of Wales, it was always central to the nation’s economy, but by the 2000s, Cardiff was quickly asserting itself as a significant financial center for the entire UK. From the tourism industry to the financial institutions that employ more than 50,000 people to local universities, Cardiff’s industries spread the gamut and have created a population that outperforms the rest of Wales and the UK in qualifications.
Despite this explosion of the competitive, diverse economy in the city, many have been left out. Nirushan grew up in Butetown, Cardiff, one of the most diverse areas in Wales and home to the tourist center of Tiger Bay, which sits on the coast. This community has a long history of multiculturalism, with people from over 50 countries settling there following World War I. Many of those national communities remain, with significant Somali, Yemini and Greek populations, and while Nirushan has seen his community’s economy grow, he’s seen many of his neighbors left behind.
Young people of color, in particular, are not being invited to participate in Cardiff’s growing economy. For many locals, these higher qualification standards, which are rooted in access to education, limited many of their opportunities. The situation was made even more complex by the unwillingness of local business leaders and executives to ensure equal access or implement inclusive hiring policies. In some instances, community members have expressed that they were being actively discriminated against and kept out of the workforce. This experience resonated with Nirushan and his peers as they felt left out because of their ethnicity.
Feeling frustrated by his experience and the undeniable inequality he was seeing, Nirushan decided to take action. Needing guidance and support, he found Peace First, which provided a necessary framework for Nirushan to develop and execute a project plan. Nirushan, along with a few friends, founded the Buketown Employment Action Team (BEAT) to challenge the ongoing discrimination and pressure business leaders, hiring managers and executives to really invest in the community they were profiting from.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced Nirushan and BEAT to take their in-person organizing events online, creating a virtual community-building experience that was ultimately a success. BEAT has reached over 200 people through a series of digital events and has created an expansive job database for young people of color in Buketown. They’ve also been able to meet with local business leaders and discuss the impact hiring discrimination has had on young people, developing an ongoing dialogue that continues today.
Watch Nirushan talk about project BEAT here.