Professor Emeritus Norman Girvan (1941- 2014)

May 15, 2014 in Blog

"Professor Girvan Memorial" by IIR UWI (Flickr - All rights reserved by IIR UWI)

“Professor Girvan Memorial” by IIR UWI (Flickr – All rights reserved by IIR UWI)

It is with great sadness that I learnt in April of the passing of a great comrade and friend, Professor Norman Girvan.

I had just finished conducting the funeral of another life-long comrade and friend, Winston Best, and was on my way to the crematorium when I learnt that Norman had died. Feelings of desolation were swept aside and banished only at the remembrance of the strong and indomitable spirit they were in the human body and by the knowledge that they were bound for the realm of Ascended Ancestors.

Norman had tragically suffered a fall while on holiday with his family in Dominica some weeks earlier and had succumbed to his very severe injuries.

I am of that generation that was fortunate to have grown up and gained my political literacy in an era that produced some of the finest New World intellectuals and public thinkers the Caribbean and the world could have hoped for. The likes of Arthur Lewis, Norman Girvan, Susan Craig-James, Walter Rodney, Clive Thomas, Judith Wedderburn, Merle Hodge, Owen Jefferson, Brian Meeks, Kari Levitt and Lloyd Best. Read the rest of this entry →

Uncovering the truth of Walter Rodney’s ‘assassination’

May 10, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

The following article was published by The Voice on May 4th, 2014

Image captured from The Voice's website

Click here to read The Voice

A COMMITTEE to aid an inquiry into the alleged assassination of prominent international activist Walter Rodney has called for “vigilance” to insure the investigation uncovers the truth.

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee (JWRC) was launched last month to support the inquiry, which began on April 28, into the death of the historian and political activist.

Rodney, author of seminal texts The Groundings With My Brothers (1969) and How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972), was killed in what is being called a ‘suspected assassination’ in Georgetown, Guyana on June 13, 1980, when an explosive device concealed in a walkie-talkie radio went off.

The former professor of the University of the West Indies, had challenged the then Forbes Burnham administration in Guyana, forming a new political group, the Working People’s Alliance, whose influence spread to the rest of the Caribbean, the US, Africa and Europe.

The Commission of Inquiry into his death was set up in June 2013 by Guyana’s president Donald Ramotar, following a request by the family.

The three-member commission comprises top Barbadian attorney, Sir Richard Cheltenham QC, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown QC from Jamaica and Trinidadian senior counsel Seenath Jairam. 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 →

Black No More… Whatever happened to Britain’s black community?

November 6, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Radio

Click here to listen to this programme

Click here to listen to this programme

It’s a controversial question… and some might go even further and ask: is there such a thing as the Black community in Britain?

The idea was raised at a BBC UK Black debate held on October 15th and with a panel that included some of the UK’s leading black thinkers, cultural commentators, academics and young people.

They came together to discuss issues of identity, leadership and aspiration amongst people of African and Caribbean heritage.

Hosted by Dotun Adebayo, and with Lord Victor Adebowale, Professor Gus John, Joy Warmington and Shaun Bailey on the panel it was at times a fiery discussion.

Listen to the whole debate here.

Picture (home): “BBC TV Centre” by Sue Llewellyn (Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Where Now for Black History Month?

November 3, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks, Papers

"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 →