Professor Gus John excels in GDIL lecture

August 3, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print by Gus John

"The Hub Building, Coventry University" by Ian Halsey MMXIII (Flickr)

“The Hub Building, Coventry University” by Ian Halsey MMXIII (Flickr)

On the 15th May, the Faculty of Business, Environment and Society (BES) of Coventry University was especially privileged to welcome the UK’s doyen of cross-cultural education, equality and human rights, Professor Gus John, as the distinguished speaker for the final MSc GDIL lecture, coordinated by Course Director Terry Brathwaite, in conjunction with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Office, Professor Stuart Weinstein and the Law School, as well as the Warwickshire Law Society.

Effectively chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) Professor Ian Dunn, the GDIL Lecture entitled “Promoting Equity of Access to Justice – the Challenge” provided an exclusive platform for approximately 177 registered attendees to be the first audience that Prof John spoke to about his ground-breaking research – an Independent Comparative Case Review – commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in 2012.

The regulator of 100,000 or so solicitors in England and Wales, the SRA was keen for Prof Gus John to determine if there is any disparity in its regulatory decision-making between black and minority ethnic (BME) and white solicitors. Prof John had previously carried out a similar exercise for the Crown Prosecution Service, in addition to chairing the equality, diversity and social mobility advisory group for the Legal Education and Training Review commissioned by the SRA, with the Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards.  Read the rest of this entry →

Global African Diaspora: transforming the state we’re in?

July 31, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Gus talks, Highlights by Gus John

When did you discover you are African

This article aims to explore the structural position of the Global African Diaspora population in Britain as related to the economy, education, employment, criminal justice and political representation. It examines the decline of social movements and of independent political resistance to the structural, cultural, institutional and personal manifestations of racism and discrimination that still define social relations in British society. It ends by addressing the question of what electoral politics has to offer the African Diaspora in Britain, given the record of successive governments over the last 60 years.

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.

Many writers and academics cite the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush at Tilbury port in East London on 22 June 1948 as 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.

In fact, there had been a continuous black presence in Britain for at least 400 years before the Empire Windrush docked in June 1948. While it is not possible to state the exact number of Africans that lived in the UK from one century to the next, what is known is that they were to be found in all strata of the society and hailed from the African continent and the African Diaspora. Many were scholars and scientists, artisans and missionaries, musical composers and dramatists, medical doctors, biologists and horticulturalists. Others were seafarers and military personnel. Read the rest of this entry →

London’s Black Cultural Archives Opens Its Doors

July 28, 2014 in Blog, Highlights by Gus John

George 'Fowokan' Kelly, Colin Jackson and Dawn Hill, Chair Black Cultural Archives. Photo by Colin Ince/ Black Cultural Archives (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

George ‘Fowokan’ Kelly, Colin Jackson and Dawn Hill, Chair Black Cultural Archives. Photo by Colin Ince/ Black Cultural Archives (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There was an extraordinary buzz in Brixton that lasted 7 hours on Thursday 24 July 2014 as the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) opened its doors to the world.

Situated at 1 Windrush Square in an elegantly refurbished Georgian building next to Brixton’s Tate Library, the BCA hosted some 2,500 people in a two part launch programme. There was a private view of the excellent opening exhibition Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain and an official launch ceremony, followed by a launch gala of spoken word and musical entertainment in Windrush Square. The rare, dazzling sunshine and rising temperature helped to induce a celebratory atmosphere as people from across Britain and a significant number of overseas visitors gathered for the opening of the BCA.

The BCA is ‘a national heritage space dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain’. It was established in 1981 by Len Garrison and others and occupied premises at 378 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, above the Timbuctu Bookshop. Len Garrison died of a heart attack in 2003, aged 59, while attending a meeting of the BCA trustees. Read the rest of this entry →

‘Trojan Horse’ brings a Packhorse of British Values into Every School

June 18, 2014 in Blog, Highlights by Gus John

Prime-Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove open the new Perry Beeches III Free School. Credits: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Prime-Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove open the new Perry Beeches III Free School. Credits: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

David Cameron made a jingoistic statement about ‘British values’ last weekend in the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ debacle and Ofsted’s ‘extremism’ inspection findings on 21 schools in Birmingham, findings in respect of 5 of them that were described by the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, as ‘deeply worrying’.

Increasingly, I find myself wondering whether some leaders of state have lost the capacity to listen to themselves and understand what is coming out of their mouths, or whether they are just plain stupid.

The Prime Minister said:

This week there has been a big debate about British values following the Trojan Horse controversy in some Birmingham schools  – about what these  values are, and the role they should play in education.

I’m clear about what these values are – and I’m equally clear that they should be promoted in every school and to every child in our country.

The values I’m talking about – a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law – are the things we should try to live by every day.

I am an African. I have lived in Britain 50 years. During that time I have campaigned relentlessly for racial equality, human rights and social justice and against structural, cultural, institutional and personal manifestations of racism and discrimination. Campaigned against:  racist murders by neo-fascists and racist extremists; the protection given to such organised bands of extremists by the police and the state; police practice of harassing bereaved Asian families about their immigration status when called to the scene of racist murders, rather than pursuing the murderers; police brutality, too often with fatal consequences for their victims; the deaths of African people while in the custody of the state without anyone being held to account; police huddling together to concoct ‘evidence’, hide the truth and pervert the course of justice, thereby denying justice to the relatives of the dead; police abuse of power and wanton criminalisation of black young people with the endorsement of the courts;  wrongful arrests, malicious prosecution, gross misconduct and massive cover-ups, all with the full knowledge of their senior command.

I have witnessed police surveillance, harassment and wrongful imprisonment of community activists campaigning for justice, campaigning for a more accountable police service, campaigning for a less racist media, campaigning against perennially disproportionate levels of black youth unemployment and commensurately high levels of illegal stops and searches by the police, campaigning against the ruining of black students’ life chances through school exclusions and the dumping of the excluded into containment centres and ‘sin bins’, latterly known as pupil referral units.

I have witnessed ‘white flight’ and the abandonment of whole areas by white folk only because they wanted nothing to do with black folk whose presence they felt would depress the value of their properties, the status of their neighbourhoods and the quality of schooling outcomes for their children. Read the rest of this entry →

Birmingham schools: have extremists taken over?

June 11, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Television by Gus John

Earlier this month, the school’s regulator OFSTED released their report on 21 Birmingham schools, after allegations of pupils being vulnerable to ‘Islamic extremism’. It was triggered by a mysterious letter stating that a small group of Islamic fundamentalists had taken over the management of the schools, and were forcing them to teach under religious, rather than secular principles.

Many staff in Birmingham’s schools have hit out against these statements. They say that the whole issue has been grossly over-exaggerated, and that there was little evidence of any Islamic takeover. Many have also said that the incident is being used as a political football ahead of next year’s general election, and that it has deeply distressed many of their pupils taking exams.

So what did happen in Birmingham? Did politicians and the media distort and sensationalise the events? And what kind of effect will it have not just in Birmingham’s schools, but in other areas with a high percentage of Muslim pupils? Read the rest of this entry →