“Helping your community is reward enough” – Bert Williams

Making a better world and helping your community will reap rewards far greater than cars or houses, University of Brighton graduates were told yesterday (July 26) at an annual graduation ceremony.

Photo: Jim Holden

Bert Williams MBE, the driving force behind Brighton and Hove Black History, was speaking as he received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the university for his contribution to the promotion of race equality in the local region.

Bert said: “I have had the opportunity to research black history and promote race equality throughout Brighton and Hove – it is in this area of my work in the community that has resulted in not only the recognition I am receiving today but also in receipt of my MBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2011.”

The two awards, he said, led him to the message he wanted to leave to graduates receiving their degrees at the Brighton Centre: “It came to me as I was working with the outstanding team of volunteers alongside me. I was supported by humble, polite, honest and kind people – not working for the glory of status or financial rewards but all working to inform and educate those around them

“Success in this context was not measured by cars, houses or social status but by the difference they make in people’s lives.

“If you are working and striving towards a goal, only focusing on the immediate rewards, financial or otherwise, it will fog your judgement and impair your decision-making.

“If you seek to make a difference, improve your community and create a better world for the generation behind you, your success will be rewarded beyond anything that you have ever imagined.”

Bert, who received a standing ovation during  graduation ceremony, came to England from Jamaica in 1960 at the age of 16. He served in the RAF and then worked for the NHS until his retirement. He chaired Mosaic, a local group for black and mixed-race families, and in 2002 he co-launched Brighton and Hove Black History. He also organised the Chattri Memorial service on the Sussex Downs, which commemorates Indian soldiers who fought during the First World War.

Bert was introduced at the ceremony by Professor Chris Pole who recounted Bert’s comment to a local reporter after receiving his MBE.

Bert was quoted as saying: “I feel quite touched really, and quite honoured. I would not have been able to do it without the community. They have been really supportive. There are such beautiful people in Brighton – the nicest place I have ever met. This award is for them.”

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