50 years after Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ Speech

August 28, 2013 in Blog

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These famous words, the second sentence of the American Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, were the cornerstone of Dr Martin Luther King’s speech on 28 August 1963.  That speech is rarely remembered in its entirety and consequently over time the last part which is most frequently quoted has come to represent a rallying cry for black and white integration rather than a ‘call to arms’ in the struggle for equal rights and justice.

Why is that important and what is its relevance for Britain?

It is important because while desegregation was high on the political and social agenda of the civil rights movement, it is the denial of access to opportunities for self advancement and to justice under the law for ‘coloured Americans’ that segregation represented that so preoccupied King. Racial segregation was, after all, imprisonment with hard labour in what that great novelist of the African Diaspora, George Lamming, described as ‘the castle of my skin’.  And while racial segregation has never been stated policy and state-sanctioned practice in Britain, the ethnic penalty that is carried by descendants of enslaved Africans in the British Isles is nevertheless a benign form of racial segregation within a nation state with a veneer of ‘tolerance, fairness and justice’. Read the rest of this entry →

My highlights: History, Education, and Policing

March 1, 2013 in Blog

The week of 18 February 2013 offered many opportunities for reminiscing, reflection, critical analysis and for planning collective action on a number of fronts, history, education and race and policing and community security among them.

On Wednesday 20 February, Global Hands and DeMontfort University, Leicester, hosted a one day symposium on Police Reform and Developing the Community Security Sector in the Emerging and Developing World, looking at police practices, community policing, non-state policing and policing and national security in Britain, Nigeria, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

My contribution to the symposium was ‘an overview of policing and human rights issues in the developing and emerging world’.  In that presentation I examined a number of issues that are common to Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, to name but a few.  Age old notions such as policing by consent and the centrality of public confidence in the police and in the structures that hold them accountable for their actions are under serious strain in many countries.  This is a consequence of police routinely abusing their power without being held to account, as well as weak government and compromised politicians being seen as incapable of protecting the citizen and upholding the rule of law.  Read the rest of this entry →

Making History by Reclaiming ‘Black History’

February 22, 2013 in Papers

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 →

Gus John to chair debate for Black History Month

October 24, 2012 in Blog

The University of Hertfordshire has invited professor Gus John to chair a debate on racial issues, as part of their Black History Month celebrations. The session will happen  on Thursday 25th October, at 6:00 pm.

The debate will follow the ‘Question Time‘ format and it will count with the participation of: Rodney Hinds, sports editor at The Voice newspaper; Paul Macey, director of Words of Colour Productions; and Anne-Marie Senior, Community Engagement Officer at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.

The panel will focus on some of the following topics: transracial adoption, black and minority ethnic athletes in the 2012 Olympics, image and reality, race and the US presidential election, and more!

The event will take place in the courtroom of the Law Building at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield and is free to attend.

For more information, click here.

Picture (home): “New Law Building” by p_a_h (Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

History… Whose story?

October 23, 2012 in Blog

One does not to drill down too deeply to find the connection between the racist and most brutal murder of Anthony Walker in 2005 and the central thrust of Benjamin Zephaniah (pictured) ’s lecture in his home city of Birmingham on Friday 19 October 2012. History teaching in British schools does a disservice to children of African and Asian heritage no less than to white British children.

Anthony was murdered by white young men in a manner reminiscent of the gratuitous hounding, lynching and killing of Africans in the southern states of America. What is more, the instrument of their murderous savagery was an axe, that most powerful metaphor of white domination of Africans whom colonialism and imperialism defined as sub-human and less worthy of honour, dignity and respect than the horse that ‘massa’ and his slave-drivers rode.

The use of the axe to routinely punish enslaved Africans for daring to seek freedom from bondage or to protest against the inhumane treatment that characterised their daily living is part of the story of what connects African heritage children with their white counterparts in British schooling and education. Read the rest of this entry →