Global African Diaspora: transforming the state we’re in?

July 31, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Gus talks, Highlights

When did you discover you are African

This article aims to explore the structural position of the Global African Diaspora population in Britain as related to the economy, education, employment, criminal justice and political representation. It examines the decline of social movements and of independent political resistance to the structural, cultural, institutional and personal manifestations of racism and discrimination that still define social relations in British society. It ends by addressing the question of what electoral politics has to offer the African Diaspora in Britain, given the record of successive governments over the last 60 years.

The African heritage population of Britain now stands at 1.87 million, having been a mere 28,000 at the end of the Second World War. One million of us currently live in London alone and in some boroughs we make up more than 25% of the population. Among the Global African Diaspora (GAD) in Britain, therefore, there are 4 generations of British born Africans in relation to whom the old narrative about ‘coloured immigrants’, ‘newcomers’ and ‘integration once the newcomers have settled and produced British black children’ is increasingly meaningless, as the GAD population remains marginalised and subject to widespread discrimination and social exclusion.

Many writers and academics cite the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush at Tilbury port in East London on 22 June 1948 as the start of the growth of the black population in Britain. That ship brought 492 passengers from Jamaica, the largest group of West Indian immigrants to arrive in Britain immediately following the end of the Second World War. Most of them settled in Brixton in the London Borough of Lambeth, a place that would later become the site of some of the fiercest confrontations between the African population and the state as represented by the police.

In fact, there had been a continuous black presence in Britain for at least 400 years before the Empire Windrush docked in June 1948. While it is not possible to state the exact number of Africans that lived in the UK from one century to the next, what is known is that they were to be found in all strata of the society and hailed from the African continent and the African Diaspora. Many were scholars and scientists, artisans and missionaries, musical composers and dramatists, medical doctors, biologists and horticulturalists. Others were seafarers and military personnel. Read the rest of this entry →

‘Trojan Horse’ brings a Packhorse of British Values into Every School

June 18, 2014 in Blog, Highlights

Prime-Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove open the new Perry Beeches III Free School. Credits: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Prime-Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove open the new Perry Beeches III Free School. Credits: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

David Cameron made a jingoistic statement about ‘British values’ last weekend in the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ debacle and Ofsted’s ‘extremism’ inspection findings on 21 schools in Birmingham, findings in respect of 5 of them that were described by the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, as ‘deeply worrying’.

Increasingly, I find myself wondering whether some leaders of state have lost the capacity to listen to themselves and understand what is coming out of their mouths, or whether they are just plain stupid.

The Prime Minister said:

This week there has been a big debate about British values following the Trojan Horse controversy in some Birmingham schools  – about what these  values are, and the role they should play in education.

I’m clear about what these values are – and I’m equally clear that they should be promoted in every school and to every child in our country.

The values I’m talking about – a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law – are the things we should try to live by every day.

I am an African. I have lived in Britain 50 years. During that time I have campaigned relentlessly for racial equality, human rights and social justice and against structural, cultural, institutional and personal manifestations of racism and discrimination. Campaigned against:  racist murders by neo-fascists and racist extremists; the protection given to such organised bands of extremists by the police and the state; police practice of harassing bereaved Asian families about their immigration status when called to the scene of racist murders, rather than pursuing the murderers; police brutality, too often with fatal consequences for their victims; the deaths of African people while in the custody of the state without anyone being held to account; police huddling together to concoct ‘evidence’, hide the truth and pervert the course of justice, thereby denying justice to the relatives of the dead; police abuse of power and wanton criminalisation of black young people with the endorsement of the courts;  wrongful arrests, malicious prosecution, gross misconduct and massive cover-ups, all with the full knowledge of their senior command.

I have witnessed police surveillance, harassment and wrongful imprisonment of community activists campaigning for justice, campaigning for a more accountable police service, campaigning for a less racist media, campaigning against perennially disproportionate levels of black youth unemployment and commensurately high levels of illegal stops and searches by the police, campaigning against the ruining of black students’ life chances through school exclusions and the dumping of the excluded into containment centres and ‘sin bins’, latterly known as pupil referral units.

I have witnessed ‘white flight’ and the abandonment of whole areas by white folk only because they wanted nothing to do with black folk whose presence they felt would depress the value of their properties, the status of their neighbourhoods and the quality of schooling outcomes for their children. Read the rest of this entry →

John rages at ‘illiterate rantings’ of diversity report critics

May 8, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print


The following article was published by The Law Society Gazette on April 8th, 2014

The author of a report clearing the Solicitors Regulation Authority of institutional racism has hit back at the ‘wild and baseless claims’ of its critics, branding them ‘illiterate rantings’.

In a lengthy defence of his 237-page report into the disproportionate representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) lawyers in the SRA’s regulatory activity, Professor Gus John said the ‘kindest’ thing that can be said about the ‘illiterate rantings’ of the diversity groups’ response, is that they ‘did not bother’ to read the report before issuing the response.

The Law Society Gazette

Click here to read The Law Society Gazette

John’s report, published last month, found that BME solicitors are disproportionately represented among those investigated by the SRA and receive harsher sanctions. But he suggested that the regulator is not institutionally racist.

John said the problem lies instead in wider socio-economic factors which mean BME solicitors are over-represented in small firms or are sole practitioners. Both constituencies encounter greater regulatory intervention.

The Equality Implementation Group (EIG), comprising six groups representing BME solicitors, dismissed as ‘fundamentally flawed’ John’s report, which they claimed lacked any ‘evidential basis or data’ for its findings. They said his failure to draw any inference of institutional racism was a ‘shocking indictment of a costly report that promised much but has delivered very little of value’.

John said he had met members of the group and provided them with regular updates throughout the course of the review. Read the rest of this entry →

Stomping the Moral High Ground

May 1, 2014 in Blog

On 21 February 2014, I submitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) my report of the independent comparative case review they had commissioned in 2012 with the following terms of reference:

“to identify whether there is disparity in the way the SRA applies its policies and procedures in dealing with BME practitioners as compared to others with a view to identifying potential improvements to such practices, policies and procedures to maximise fairness and consistency.”

The report was published on 13 March 2014. In their Press Release, the SRA said:

The 248-page report is the result of one of the most extensive pieces of independent research and analysis into regulatory outcomes for BME solicitors and builds on work previously commissioned by the SRA from Sir Herman Ouseley (2008) and Pearn Kandola (2010). 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 →