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Michael Holding, Ebony Rainford-Brent awarded freedom of City of London for anti-racism stance

Michael Holding, Ebony Rainford-Brent awarded freedom of City of London

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Pair honoured in virtual ceremony on Tuesday after speaking out about experiences

Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent have been awarded the Freedom of the City of London in recognition of their “courageous stand against racism” during the English summer.

The pair were honoured at a virtual ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, after speaking passionately about their experiences of racism during their careers, amid the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

One particular segment on Sky Sports, screened during the first Test against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in July, went viral on social media as Rainford-Brent gave an emotional account of how she was “drip-fed” racist comments during her playing days.

Holding, who claimed 249 Test wickets as one of the most feared fast bowlers of his generation, spoke out about racial “brain-washing” in a powerful live segment during a rain delay, and later broke down in tears during an appearance on Sky News, as he recounted the racism experienced by his parents.

In a memorable monologue, he cited the case of the black scientist, Lewis Howard Latimer, whose perfection of the carbon filament used in light bulbs was revolutionary, but is virtually unknown compared to the involvement of white inventor, Thomas Edison.

“Everything should be taught,” he said. “In my school days, I was never taught anything good about black people and you cannot have a society that is brought up like that where you only teach what is convenient to the teacher.

“History is written by the conqueror, not those that are conquered. History is written by the people who do the harm, not by the people who are harmed. We need to go back and teach both sides of history.

“Until we do that and educate the entire human race, this thing will not stop. We need to teach and re-educate, as a lot of black people in this world are growing up believing that they are lesser than other people and that cannot be right.”

William Russell, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, said: “It is entirely right to call out prejudice in all its forms, and Ebony and Michael have taken a courageous stand in speaking out against racism in this country. The granting of the Freedom of the City of London recognises how they have added their voices to the growing global movement to stamp out racism.”

Rainford-Brent, who was the first black woman to play for England, featured in 22 ODIs and seven T20Is between 2001 and 2010.

She is now the director of Women’s Cricket at Surrey, and earlier this year launched the African Caribbean Engagement Programme (ACE) with Surrey to offer opportunities in cricket to young Africa-Caribbean boys and girls aged 11 to 18.

The programme recently received £540,000 over a three-year period from Sport England, and will be established as an independent charity with Rainford-Brent to serve as its chair. Earlier this month, Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan were unveiled as ambassadors.

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