To iconize and canonize: Stephen Lawrence 20 years later

April 23, 2013 in Blog, Essays

From: The Guardian's website (http://bit.ly/11KVIgp)

From: The Guardian’s website (http://bit.ly/11KVIgp)

On 22 April 2013, senior representatives of the British state joined the Lawrence family in marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence by white racists. Leaders of the three main political parties and the Mayor of London attended a memorial service at St Martin in the Fields, near Trafalgar Square, to pay tribute to Stephen and to acknowledge ‘the debt the country owes to the Lawrence family for  refusing to give up, ensuring those who were guilty of Stephen’s murder were brought to justice’. 

Beguiling as some might have found it, there is something both fascinating and deeply disturbing about that memorial, the presence at it of those leaders of state and above all, about the statements they made.

In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally convicted of Stephen’s murder after repeated failures by the Metropolitan Police that arose from corruption, incompetence and what the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry led by retired judge, Sir William Macpherson called ‘institutional racism’. Indeed, the convictions were possible only because in 2005 the ‘double jeopardy’ law that had existed for 800 years was changed to allow a suspect to be tried again for the same offence if there was “new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence”, which had not been previously available. Three suspects Gary Dobson, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight, had been acquitted following a private prosecution brought by Stephen’s parents in 1996. David Norris had not been prosecuted before. The Lawrence family is still hopeful that sooner rather than later they will see all of Stephen’s murderers behind bars. Read the rest of this entry →

What did the Iron Lady do for us?

April 20, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Television

On April 15th, Vox Africa kindly invited me to take part in their flagship programme “Shoot the Messenger“, where we discussed Baroness Thatcher’s legacy. I was joined in studio by former Mayor of London’s Wandsworth Borough, Chief Lola Ayorinde, and by the Calypsonian artist Alexander D Great.

On the first part of the programme, we reviewed the week’s papers:

STM1

Read the rest of this entry →

David Cameron tries being ‘cruel to be kind’

October 25, 2012 in Blog

It was truly stomach churning to hear David Cameron on Monday 22 October 2012 unctuously setting out his government’s revised law and order agenda for dealing with the presence of knives and guns on our streets, punishing and rehabilitating offenders and giving private contractors outcomes related incentives for reducing offending.

This was the same David Cameron who in the wake of the massive civil disturbances in London and other cities in the summer of 2011 was encouraging and endorsing the practice of jailing those arrested and charged for their involvement in the disturbances by the hundreds, a majority of them for first and relatively minor offences.

One is often led to wonder whether politicians such as David Cameron, George Osborne and Michael Gove – and Tony Blair before them – inhabit the same planet as the rest of us. For one thing, they would have us believe that they suffer from a type of amnesia which kicks in with a vengeance when, in desperation, they reach for particular policies and make headline grabbing pronouncements. Read the rest of this entry →

Gus John’s speech at the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Space

December 18, 2011 in Gus talks, Speeches

The following speech was delivered by prof. Gus John on December 18th, 2011, during the opening of the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Space at Bizspace.

I greet you all in Peace and with Love.

Greetings to Sister Jayanti whom I have not seen in a long time.

Congratulations to Sister Ann for moving the project onwards to this wonderful stage.

I am sorry I cannot be with you as I am speaking at a Memorial Concert in Leeds even as you are gathering.

We welcome this space and the flow of positive energies that is already evident within it. The opportunity to stop, reflect and enquire within is necessary at any time, especially as we are programmed to think that the helter-skelter of constant activity we immerse ourselves in is inevitable and necessarily productive.

In this time, however, when the global economic crisis is making the world reflect upon how wealth is created, distributed and squandered; at a time when we are being made to confront the futility and destructiveness of wars; at a time when subjugated peoples across the world are following, collectively, that fundamental human instinct for freedom, we all need more space and more encouragement to ‘Be still and know that I am God’ as the good book says. But not only ‘know that Mother/Father/Spirit God’ is the Supreme Being, the Universal Essence, but that that God dwells within us and with us. Read the rest of this entry →

Black, Asian, minority ethnic communities and inner city riots

November 29, 2011 in Gus talks, Speeches

The following speech was delivered at the “Beyond the Unrest – Community Safety & Civil Society” seminar, promoted by the BME Leadership & Engagement project, on November 29th, 2011.

The subject I have been asked to address is vast and it is simply impossible to do justice to it in the time I have been given.  For one thing, a ‘historical perspective’ raises the question:  where does history begin?

I say that because there have been riots in England involving ethnic minorities since the 12 century, at least.  At his coronation in Westminster Abbey on 3 September 1189, for example, Richard I barred all Jews and women from the ceremony, and when some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king, his courtiers stripped and flogged them and ejected them from the Abbey.   A rumour spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed and the people of London began a massacre, robbing Jews, beating them to death or burning them alive. Many Jewish homes were burned down, and several Jews were forcibly baptised.  Richard later punished those who were known to have been involved in the massacre.

To span the decades and centuries between 1189 and 2011 would be instructive if not deeply depressing.  More to the point, though, it would keep us here till this time next year and I do not for one minute suppose you love me that much.

So what I want to do is say something briefly about the types of riots there have been that have involved black and ethnic minority people and to look in more detail at the riots thirty years ago, the riots in August this year and what they tell us about the society and how the nation should respond if they are not to become an even more regular occurrence in a society that remains decidedly ill at ease with itself. Read the rest of this entry →