Book review: ‘Black British Intellectuals and Education’

October 15, 2014 in Blog, Gus talks, Reviews by Gus John

The Empire Windrush. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Empire Windrush. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

It is not for nothing that the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush at Tilbury port in East London on 22 June 1948 is seen by many commentators as marking the start of the growth of the black population in Britain. That ship brought 492 passengers from Jamaica, the largest group of West Indian immigrants to arrive in Britain immediately following the end of the Second World War. Most of them settled in Brixton in the London Borough of Lambeth, a place that would later become the site of some of the fiercest confrontations between the African population and the state as represented by the police.

The African heritage population of Britain now stands at 1.87 million, having been a mere 28,000 at the end of the Second World War. One million of us currently live in London alone and in some boroughs we make up more than 25% of the population. Among the Global African Diaspora (GAD) in Britain, therefore, there are 4 generations of British born Africans in relation to whom the old narrative about ‘coloured immigrants’, ‘newcomers’ and ‘integration once the newcomers have settled and produced British black children’ is increasingly meaningless, as the GAD population remains marginalised and subject to widespread discrimination and social exclusion.

West Indian immigrants came mainly from agrarian economies and from villages where poverty and deprivation defined people’s lives and life chances and limited their capacity to access quality health care, among other things. But theirs was a poverty of means; it was neither a poverty of spirit nor a poverty of aspiration. They came to Britain with high ambitions for their children, especially with respect to schooling outcomes, progression to higher education and to the sorts of careers they had dreamt of back home for their children: typically, doctors, dentists, lawyers, civil servants, architects, engineers. Read the rest of this entry →

Book review: “Black Star – Britain’s Asian Youth Movements”

October 28, 2013 in Gus talks, Reviews by Gus John

“Civil liberties, from a working class point of view, are about having the space in which to engage in political struggle – to organise alternative bases of power which can lead to the transformation of society, to record the struggle as it progresses and to express, in theory and in practice, an independent class position. This space is always contested and the occupation of any part of it carries no security of tenure…” (Ian Macdonald QC)

This extract from a review of E P Thompson’s ‘Writing by Candlelight’ (1980) by the internationally renowned immigration and human rights lawyer, Ian Macdonald QC, captures in every detail the historical significance of the Asian Youth Movements (AYMs) in Britain which helped to define and reconfigure the ‘political culture’ in Britain in the 1970s through to the late 1980s.

Anandi Ramamurthy has ensured, through her study of the AYMs, that the politics they made and their dismantling of the settlement the state and the Labour Party thought they had reached with Britain’s South Asian population would not be written out of the history of post-war Britain and of the growth of South Asian communities in the UK. Read the rest of this entry →

Book review: Remaking the Niger Delta

October 16, 2012 in Blog, Reviews by Gus John

At the launch of his latest book – “Remaking the Niger Delta: Challenges and Opportunities” – in the Nigeria city of Lagos, Kingsley Kuku thanked Professor Gus John for editing the manuscript and helping to get it ready for printing.  Prof John delivered the following public review of the book:

Your Excellency Mr Vice President, Your Royal Highnesses, other distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, I greet you in Peace and with Hope.  I say ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and not the usual ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ because some of us men are not so gentle and some women not so ladylike.  Be that as it may, we nevertheless remain ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and in this audience particularly I feel much more comfortable with that.

Let me begin by reminding us that the problems in the Niger Delta are man-made.  They are not the product of natural disasters.  Typhoons and tidal waves did not despoil the once lush environment and mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta, bringing crippling poverty from one generation to another in their wake.  No! So, if those problems which have acquired a stubborn permanence were made by man, they could be remedied by man.

The renowned scientist and philosopher, Albert Einstein, once famously said: “The problems we have created cannot be solved by the same thinking that gave rise to them“.

Kingsley Kuku is calling for a new mindset in the Niger Delta and Nigeria to address in a sustainable way the problems of the Niger Delta that have been 60 years in the making. Read the rest of this entry →