‘Go Home or Face Arrest’: promoting ‘community cohesion’ in ‘post racial’ Britain?

August 10, 2013 in Blog

The year is 1990. The place, Hackney in East London.

A man is walking along Homerton High Street accompanied by his children whom he is taking to join the public library. A builder’s truck passes by and a wooden plank is hurled at the man, accompanied by a shout of ‘Go home, you stinking Paki’. The man is hit on the head and falls to the ground in front of his horrified children. Fortunately, although suffering a serious head wound he lives to tell the tale and thankfully is not the victim of yet another racist murder.

Who was he?

He was a primary school teacher from Trinidad, of Indian heritage, a descendant of indentured labourers who were brought to the Caribbean from that great outpost of the British Empire, India, beginning in 1845, to replace the enslaved Africans who had moved away from the plantations following the abolition of slavery in 1838. He had never been to Pakistan or anywhere else on the Indian sub-continent. Before Trinidad won its political independence and became a republic, he had carried a British colonial passport. Read the rest of this entry →

When Stephen met Trayvon

July 23, 2013 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)

Stephen Lawrence – 1993 to 2013 and continuing… Trayvon Martin – 2012 to 2013 and continuing… So, who will guard and police the guards? Who and what are those guards protecting and on whose behalf?

When does ‘neighbourhood watch’ morph into vigilantism, with vigilantes exercising what they see as their moral and God-given right to determine who is acceptable in a neighbourhood and who is not; who could go visit residents without fear of challenge and who should just know that, if they do, they are eligible to be challenged by those who appoint themselves as gatekeepers to exclude people like them?

Who has the inalienable right to walk the street and go wherever they like, irrespective of their dress code and who does not? Who are immediately identified with those of their ethnic or social group who commit crime and engage in anti-social behaviour and from whom the same could be expected automatically and who are not?

Who can presume to have the protection of the law and the services of the police when their rights have been infringed and their person or/and property violated and who cannot?

Why should any society presume that it is held together by liberal democratic values and principles and can export those to, if not impose them upon, others when from childhood every African heritage person born in that country learns that they carry an ethnic penalty that restricts their freedom of movement and access to opportunity and that they forget that fundamental fact at their peril? 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 →

“To the barricades!”

May 20, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks, Open letters

On 13th May 2013, Diane Abbott MP put out a call to the 10th London Schools and the Black Child (LSBC) Conference: “Black Children & Education: After Gove, where next?”.

"Michael Gove at Chantry High School" by Regional Cabinet (Flickr - CC BY 2.0)

“Michael Gove at Chantry High School” by Regional Cabinet (Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

For the past 13 years, the Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has been campaigning for equality and justice in schooling and education and against the practice of excluding a disproportionate number of African heritage children.

Diane Abbott has demonstrated a passion for schooling and education over very many years, especially on account of the schooling experiences of children of African heritage.  In 1999, she held two conferences in her constituency the London Borough of Hackney on ‘Hackney Schools and the Black Child’.  In 2000, the third of these was held which, like the previous two, attracted some 400-500 people.  In 2002, Abbott joined forces with the newly elected London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and started the London Schools and the Black Child conferences which ran annually until 2009.

Those conferences proved very popular with African parents, teachers and community activists, some 2000-2,500 of whom attended most years.  However, although the focus of the conference was schooling and the ‘black child’, fewer than 50 black school children attended in any one year.  The conferences generated a great deal of heat and excitement, but typically very little action.  They allowed for no resolutions or demands to be put to government and each succeeding conference failed to focus upon whatever action those who attended in the preceding year may have taken in their communities in response to the issues debated.

Meanwhile, the Labour government of the day continued to pass laws, whittle away rights and allow schooling practices which were as detrimental to ‘the Black child’ as anything the Conservative administration had done prior to the Labour victory at the polls in 1997.  Yet, year on year, the Education (or Schools) Minister would attend Diane’s conference to tell ‘the black community’ what the government was doing to raise standards and tackle the endemic underachievement of African Caribbean children in the schooling system.

Diane Abbott intends that this conference would address the question: “Black Children & Education: After Gove, where next?”.  Some of us might think it even more pertinent to ask the question: “‘Before Gove, what?“.  Read the rest of this entry →

Why did they have to rain on our party?

May 14, 2013 in Blog

On Tuesday 23 April 2013, at about 3.00pm, serious youth violence in London claimed two lives, that of Derek Boateng who turned 16 that very day and of his 15 year old assailant (who cannot be named for legal reasons). Derek was stabbed to within an inch of his life on the 393 bus and had to be airlifted to a specialist trauma unit in hospital where he died the following day, surrounded by his family. He was an only son and had two elder sisters.

The air ambulance landed on the Astroturf pitch of Highbury Grove School on Highbury New Park, not far from the 393 bus stop.

Born in Homerton Hospital, Hackney in 1997, Derek lived all his short life with his family. His schooling career was clearly troubled. Having attended Brook Community Primary School in Hackney, he joined the Jack Petchy Academy, also in Hackney. He moved to Highbury Grove School two years ago but was excluded after just one year.

He later started attending Camden JobTrain, a vocational training facility catering for excluded students and run by Westminster Kingsway College. He had been at JobTrain for 15 months until 23 April when, having shared a birthday cake with students and staff at that centre, he left to start his fateful journey home.

His father, Davis Boateng, is reported as saying: “He was practical, rather than academic, but he was bright. He did distract the class sometimes, but it was a phase. He was starting to fulfil his promise, he wanted to be an engineer, and at his last parents’ evening the teachers praised him. He was starting to think about making a life’. Read the rest of this entry →