The last time we saw civil rights crusader Jesse Jackson on our television screens he was openly weeping at the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
After almost half a century at the forefront of the bitter struggle to deliver equality for all citizens of America, the election of the country’s first black leader was clearly an overwhelming moment that he probably thought he may never live to witness.
However, far from believing his job has been done, Rev Jackson has embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the UK to talk about the ongoing challenges of delivering civil rights and economic justice and this weekend he found himself delivering a sermon to a congregation in Aston.
It was a timely visit.
Depending on which statistics are used, Birmingham is either already the UK’s first ethnic majority city or will be in the next few years.
It is a city that has long prided itself on welcoming immigrants from all four corners of the globe and many of the companies that made Birmingham the UK’s industrial powerhouse would have been lost without them. But everything is far from rosy in the garden.
As in the United States, discrimination in the UK, be it on the grounds of race, gender or sexuality, has been outlawed through legislation but legislation can only go so far as the Americans and ourselves have found.
On both sides of the Atlantic minority ethnic groups may have their rights enshrined in the law but they are still more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, dying young or spending significant proportions of their life in prison than their white counterparts and as Europe’s first ethnic majority city, it is an issue more pertinent for Birmingham than most.
It is also an issue that doesn’t just relate to the deprived in our society – a look around the boardrooms of the region and it is glaringly obvious that non-white communities are also still woefully underrepresented.
These are deep-seated issues and it will need more than the election of the first non-white US president to reverse the kind of long-held prejudices that are so prevalent in both countries but the glass ceiling has been broken and the prognosis for change has undoubtedly improved in the last month.
It is crucial now that Birmingham’s takes heed of the message of Barack Obama and Rev Jackson – not just in what they say but what they represent – and makes this a city of opportunity for all.