Racism, tokenism and totemism: the disturbing case of Doreen Lawrence

August 4, 2013 in Blog

Print screen from the BBC's website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

Print screen from the BBC’s website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

In April this year I wrote a blog which I titled ‘To Iconize and Canonize – the State We’re In 20 Years after the Murder of Stephen Lawrence‘. In that article, I examined the process of iconizing Stephen as the victim of a racist murder and canonizing his mother, Doreen. That canonization is now pretty much complete with Doreen being made a Life Peer of the realm in the last week.

In one sense, if one is disposed to be especially generous, this mother of all gongs could be seen as the expression of a ‘Big Ben’ of a ‘mea culpa’ on the part of the British establishment. I fear, however, that is much more sinister than that.

In the last few days, I have had many people from the Global African Diaspora, women especially, express their delight that ‘Doreen is now the Right Honourable Baroness Lawrence’ and that ‘there is one more of us in the Lords’. They all thought I was being churlish and as one put it ‘typically anti-establishment’ when I made the same arguments I was prompted to write in April, not least the following: Read the rest of this entry →

Defining the ‘African family’ – your comments

May 25, 2013 in Blog

Following the publication of “Defining the ‘African family’ in the Global African Diaspora“,  many of you have been e-mailing me to share your comments on some of the points I raised. One of the most significant contributions came from Delroy Washburn, chairman of the Federation of Reggae Music (FORM). Read the rest of this entry →

Defining the ‘African family’ in the Global African Diaspora

May 20, 2013 in Blog

"African Diaspora" by beautifulcataya (Flickr - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“African Diaspora” by beautifulcataya (Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Pan-African Congress Movement (PACM) in the UK will observe Africa Liberation Day (ALD) in various cities, notably London and Birmingham, over the weekend 25- 27 May 2013, as it has done annually over many decades. 

This year, celebrations take on an added significance as it is 50 years since the predecessor of the African Union (AU), the Organisation of African Unity, constituted Africa Liberation Day in 1963. The AU has also designated 2013 the ‘Year of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’.

This year, as in previous years, PACM publicity for its programme to mark ALD, warns that it is STRICTLY AN AFRICAN FAMILY EVENT!’  This raises a number of issues which are seldom debated in communities that constitute the Global African Diaspora in the UK.

I well recall attending an ALD event in Manchester some years ago at which I was due to speak. As I arrived at the venue, I witnessed an altercation at the entrance which, as I soon discovered, had to do with the observance of that warning and differing interpretations of what constitutes ‘the African family’.

An elder who had lived in Manchester since the end of the Second World War and was one of the few people who had distinct recollections of the 5th Pan African Congress he attended in Manchester in 1945, turned up at ALD with his wife of some 40+ years.  The event organisers welcomed him warmly, but clearly had a problem with his wife joining him.  She was white English.   This led to an argument which I joined, making it very clear that I was not going to stick around, let alone deliver my talk, if both the elder and his wife were not allowed to attend the event.  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 →