London’s Black Cultural Archives Opens Its Doors

July 28, 2014 in Blog, Highlights

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 →

A tribute to Athelston Winston Best

March 29, 2014 in Blog

It is impossible to speak or write about the British schooling system and its engagement with the post-war Black presence these last 50 years without calling the name, Winston Best, over and over again.  Without doubt, Winston stands in the vanguard of the black working class movement in education and schooling as both an educator and an activist.

Athelston Winston Best. Photo courtesy of the Best family.

Athelston Winston Best. Photo courtesy of the Best family.

Winston (pictured right) was born on 15 August 1930 in Sugar Hill, St Joseph, Barbados, the first of six children of Luther and Lillian Best. Luther was a road builder and Lillian a market trader. Winston was big brother to Eulene, Gloria, Moriah, Lloyd and Owen. Gloria in Canada, Moriah in Brooklyn, Owen in Atlanta, Lloyd in Barbados and Eulene in Ipswich, East Anglia. Winston and later Lloyd came to England, Lloyd returning to Barbados after almost 40 years.

Winston attended Southborough Boys School, Clifton Hill, St Thomas. At that time, only primary schooling was free. Winston’s parents paid for him to attend secondary school. After secondary school, he left and went to work in Curacao where he spent 12 years with Shell doing oil refining. He became very active in labour organisation there with Len and Albert Mason.

Winston was therefore able to assist his parents in paying for his siblings to attend secondary school; he makes particular mention of Lloyd at Cumbermere and Owen at Lodge School. Lodge School was one of the most racially segregated schools in Barbados. Winston acknowledged that Patrick Simmons, former Barbados High Commissioner in England, was one of those who was instrumental in helping to break down what Winston described as the ‘apartheid schooling system’ at Lodge School and in Barbados generally.

In time, Winston took charge of the care of his parents. His mother died in 1984. Mert Pitt, childhood friend of Winston and lifelong friend of the Best family, helped to care for his mother in her twilight years. Read the rest of this entry →

SRA focus too narrowly on regulating in the public interest

March 13, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

The Solicitors Journal published the following article on 13/03/2014

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s narrow focus on regulating in the public interest has had a disproportionately adverse effect on BME firms, the author of a major review into allegations of regulatory discrimination has said.

The Independent Comparative Case Review, by diversity expert Professor Gus John, built on previous research by Lord Ouseley in 2008 and Pearn Kandola in 2010, both of which highlighted concerns that regulatory approach before the introduction of outcomes-focused regulation discriminated against black, ethnic and minority solicitors.

It cleared the SRA of discrimination against BME firms, but Professor John said these practices were nevertheless disproportionately affected by the regulator’s then approach to compliance and enforcement. Read the rest of this entry →

Policing by contempt

March 8, 2014 in Blog

Credits: "Stephen Lawrence memorial", by Darryl_SE7 (Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0)

Credits: “Stephen Lawrence memorial”, by Darryl_SE7 (Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0)

So, finally the home secretary is ordering a judge-led inquiry into the activities of undercover police and their corrupt practices. We in the black community have argued since the 1960s that there is a thin dividing line between the police’s illegal and abusive treatment of black people and the racial violence and murders committed by white racists.

In the case of Stephen Lawrence, we have always claimed that from the very outset the Metropolitan Police were key players in a ‘joint enterprise’ with known hard core criminals to thwart the apprehension of Stephen’s murderers and pervert the course of justice. The report by Mark Ellison QC simply confirms what we already knew or otherwise rightly suspected.

At times like these, politicians no less than police top brass express shock and outrage at revelations of corrupt and illegal practices on the part of the police, thus confirming that the historical complaints communities make about the myriad ways in which police abuse their powers and break the law have been roundly ignored by the state.

The harsh reality is that the experience African and Asian communities have had of policing in Britain since the beginning of the 20th century and especially since post-war immigration is of policing with contempt, never mind all the familiar rhetoric about policing by consent.

So, how have we got here? Read the rest of this entry →

Could you name a British black intellectual, now Stuart Hall has gone?

February 15, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

The Guardian newspaper published the article below on 15/02/2014

As a pioneer of cultural studies and coiner of the term “Thatcherism”,Prof Stuart Hall, who died this week, was in the truest sense a public intellectual. He was also something else: probably the only black British intellectual who most people could readily name.

A bit of prompting might produce mention of Paul Gilroy of King’s College, author of The Empire Strikes Back and Black Atlantic, who has recently returned to Britain after several years in America’s more fertile ebony towers. But how many other black British thinkers have a public profile? Read the rest of this entry →