Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: Mandela Urges Black Leaders To Tackle Inner-City Conflict by Hugh Muir

Nelson Mandela will tonight urge black leaders in Britain to play their part in the battle against conflict and under-achievement in inner cities.

In a statement sent to a groundbreaking meeting of high achievers, the former South African president will say they must beware of cutting themselves off from the less fortunate and show they are bringing their expertise to bear.

The strong message is being delivered against the backdrop of this month's government-backed Reach report into gangs and inner city deprivation, which said black teenagers needed a new generation of role models.

Mr Mandela's signed comments have been sent to the black businessmen and women, celebrities, politicians, journalists and financiers who will meet for the Mayor of London's inaugural black leaders' dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair.

Organisers say part of the rationale for the event is to show that there are many unsung black success stories throughout a wide range of professions that are rarely focused on by the media.

The guest list includes Stanley Musesengwa, the chief operating officer of Tate and Lyle, Naomi Campbell, Damilola Taylor's father, Richard Taylor and the former England footballer Ian Wright.

Most of those invited feature in a list of the UK's 50 most powerful black and women, compiled by the New Nation newspaper.

"Mr Mandela's message is that these people have done well, but they should not forget those who have not and they should not underestimate the contribution they can make," a source close to the event said.

"They have climbed the ladder. Now they should help others to do the same. These are the great black role models that everyone has been calling for.

"There are many people doing things that all young men and women could aspire to and we have hundreds of those role models together in one room. It is a great achievement."

The event takes place amid growing concern about the alienation of youths in inner cities and fears that many drift into gangs merely because they see no more attractive future for themselves.

Mr Mandela will tomorrow attend the unveiling of his statue in Parliament Square.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007