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 →

A tribute to Prince Joseph Lincoln Burke-Monerville

May 3, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks, Speeches

The following address was delivered at Joseph Burke-Monerville‘s funeral. 

Condolences to John and Linda, Joseph’s parents and Jonathan and David, his brothers and all of the Burke-Monerville extended family. If I were to name you all, we’d be here till 6.00 o’clock… tomorrow morning.

Joseph Burke-Monerville (Credits: http://on.fb.me/Yk31Ii)

Joseph Burke-Monerville (Credits: http://on.fb.me/Yk31Ii)

I have witnessed close at hand your pain, your hurt and your grief these last weeks, and have had cause to applaud your faith, your resilience and generosity, even in your grief, and your togetherness as a family.

Let me express my special admiration for Jonathan, who in the last 11 weeks has borne the loss of his twin brother and best friend with immense courage and dignity, sustained by what I sense is an inner peace and deep faith, and above all, the knowledge that his beloved brother, though no longer with him in the mortal body, is as inseparable from him in spirit as they both were in life; sustained by the knowledge that the Creator and the Ascended Ancestors have welcomed him in glory to his eternal home.

We have gathered here to celebrate Joseph’s life and all that he was, and all that he gave because of who he was and how he lived.

But, even as we celebrate, we mourn.

We celebrate the fact that he was all he could be; but we mourn the fact that he was cut down in his prime and prevented from being all he aspired to be: an even more loving twin brother; a son of whom his parents could be justly proud; proud because of who he was as a person, his self-belief and how he lived his values; proud because of his achievements and his example to others. All he aspired to be: a loving sibling; a loving, funny and caring uncle and guardian; a role model to his siblings and his peers; a committed and active citizen; a successful and innovative forensic scientist.

As they mourn, one of the many things Jonathan, his parents and the entire family struggle with, – even as they give thanks for the fact that they did not lose three sons -, is the cruel irony that Joseph who so abhorred violence and loved peacefulness, who was always the one to make peace, was made the innocent victim of such gratuitous violence.

I deplore utterly the statement that is made too often in relation to incidents such as that which claimed his life and in which so many others like Joseph have lost their lives…, the statement that: ‘it was a tragic case of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Read the rest of this entry →

The exclusion epidemic that won’t go away

March 25, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Print

Print screen from "The Voice" (http://bit.ly/XJ2Hbe)

The following article was published by “The Voice” on March 25th.

Black Caribbean boys are three times more likely to be excluded from state schools than their classmates, a study has found.

The Children’s Commission report, They Go The Extra Mile, published on March 20, established an “unacceptably high correlation” between exclusion and male pupils, those with special education needs and children on free school meals.

Four main ethnic groups – Roma gypsy travellers, travellers of Irish heritage, black Caribbean and mixed white/black Caribbean – were also deemed most at risk.

It means a Black Caribbean boy from a low-income family with mild special educational needs (SEN) is 168 times more likely to be excluded than a white girl from an affluent family. Read the rest of this entry →