Making the future we face the future Britain we want

January 7, 2014 in Blog, Gus talks, Papers by Gus John

In 1970, a full thirty years before The Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, sponsored by the Runnymede Trust and Chaired by Professor Bhiku Parekh published its report (which was speedily buried by the British establishment), the late CLR James ended a rousing address to three hundred black youths at the Metro Youth Club in Notting Hill with these words:

‘Your future is Britain’s future and Britain’s future your future.  If you succeed, Britain will succeed.  But, if Britain fails you, it will have a hell of a job saving itself’.

(In Police Power and Black People, 1972, Derek Humphry and Gus John, Panther Books Ltd)

Between November 2011 and October 2013 Race on the Agenda (ROTA) delivered the Shaping the Future seminar series, which considered some of the main challenges facing London’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children and young people and their families, following a difficult economic period and wide-spread policy reforms and public spending cuts.

In August 2014, Professor Gus John will have been 50 years in the UK, having arrived in 1964 as a theological student.  In contributing to the seminar series, Gus drew upon his many decades of political activism, community development and academic research, including his tenure in the London Borough of Hackney as the UK’s first black director of education and his seminal study of youth policy and youth and community work in 16 towns and cities in England:  ‘In the Service of Black Youth –  a study of the political culture of youth and community work with black people in English cities’ (1981)

We strongly recommend the final report of the Shaping the Future seminars which is now available from the publications pages of ROTA’s website. Read the rest of this entry →

Where Now for Black History Month?

November 3, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks, Papers by Gus John

"African Diaspora" by beautifulcataya (Flickr - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“African Diaspora” by beautifulcataya (Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Most every year at this time, a debate ensues about the purpose, merits and direction of Black History Month (BHM), a debate fuelled in the main by frustration about the focus of BHM programmes over the preceding four weeks. 

On Thursday 31 October 2013, some 1,000 people gathered at the Church of Christ the Redeemer in Allenbury Road, Greenford, for the funeral of the publisher and political activist Jessica Huntley and to acknowledge and celebrate her distinctive contribution to British schooling, British social history and Black History over the last half a century.

One of the many educational and inspirational events Jessica organized and contributed to in the period before her death was a debate in November 2012 about ‘the way forward for Black History Month in the UK’.  On 22 February 2013, Nubian Jak organized a symposium at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London, on a proposal for an annual ‘African Heritage Month International‘ celebration in February.  On February 23rd, the 8th Huntley Conference was held at the London Metropolitan Archives. This also marked Jessica’s 86th birthday and turned out to be her last conference.

I was unable to contribute to the Huntley debate but wrote this paper for the Africa Centre symposium.  I reproduce it here because among the very many discussions that took place around Jessica’s funeral about the many projects she was actively involved with up to the day before she passed on, was one about her take on the future of Black History Month. Read the rest of this entry →

Making History by Reclaiming ‘Black History’

February 22, 2013 in Papers by Gus John

This short paper is my contribution to the ongoing debate about the future of Black History Month in the UK.  It is in response to the ‘Position Paper’ written by Nubian Jack for discussion at the meeting on African Heritage Month International at the Africa Centre, Covent Garden, London, on 22 February 2013. 

Nubian Jak has provided a useful potted history of the origins and development of Black History Month (BHM) in Britain, a story that even after 25 years is unfamiliar to many.

During the last 25 years, much has happened that in my view calls into question the provenance and trajectory of BHM, thus making it necessary for us to question our connectedness with it and how we are fashioning it for the current and future generations in the same way that the early pioneers laid the foundations for us. Read the rest of this entry →

Time for a National Black Footballers Association

December 5, 2012 in Blog, Gus talks, Papers by Gus John

High profile racist incidents during premium league games in recent times have led to more open public debate about racist abuse of black players by white players and fans.

Such sort of practice has been commonplace in professional football since pioneers such as Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Viv Anderson took to the pitch in the post-Second World War period. They had been famously preceded, of course, by Andrew Watson (1857-1902), the British Guiana born first black Association footballer who won caps three times at international level for Scotland, and Ghanaian Arthur Wharton (1865 – 1930), the first black player to play professional football in Britain.

The story of Andrew Watson’s success in the 1880s and of Wharton’s story, sensitively told by Phil Vasili in his book: The First Black Footballer, Arthur Wharton 1865–1930, with a Foreword by Irvine Welsh and an Introduction by Tony Whelan, should be compulsory reading for every white footballer and fan in Britain. Read the rest of this entry →

African Diaspora’s programme of action: economic cooperation

February 21, 2011 in Gus talks, Papers by Gus John

The following paper was submitted to the African Diaspora’s Technical Committee of Experts, which met in Pretoria, South Africa, on February 21st, 2011. 

Preamble

Following the report the rapporteur for the Economic Cooperation break out group gave to the Meeting in the penultimate session on Tuesday 22 February, Mr Richard Cambridge made a helpful and informative intervention in which he dealt with the issue of remittances.  I was a member of the Social Cooperation group, dealing with educational, social and cultural affairs.

The rapporteur’s report highlighted the proposal that there should be a bank to handle remittances and that existing banks with an enlarging profile in Africa and the Diaspora should be used for that purpose.  Eco and Standard banks were cited as examples of those.  The report and Mr Cambridge’s comments also focused on the proposal that there should be an African Institute for Remittances linked to or in parallel with an African Diaspora Investment Fund. Read the rest of this entry →