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 →

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 →

Time for a National Black Footballers Association

December 5, 2012 in Blog, Gus talks, Papers

High profile racist incidents during premium league games in recent times have led to more open public debate about racist abuse of black players by white players and fans.

Such sort of practice has been commonplace in professional football since pioneers such as Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Viv Anderson took to the pitch in the post-Second World War period. They had been famously preceded, of course, by Andrew Watson (1857-1902), the British Guiana born first black Association footballer who won caps three times at international level for Scotland, and Ghanaian Arthur Wharton (1865 – 1930), the first black player to play professional football in Britain.

The story of Andrew Watson’s success in the 1880s and of Wharton’s story, sensitively told by Phil Vasili in his book: The First Black Footballer, Arthur Wharton 1865–1930, with a Foreword by Irvine Welsh and an Introduction by Tony Whelan, should be compulsory reading for every white footballer and fan in Britain. Read the rest of this entry →

Intercultural dialogue between Europe and Islam

November 1, 2012 in Gus talks, Lectures

On October 31st, professor Gus John delivered a research seminar entitled “Intercultural Dialogue and Mutual Respect between Europe and Islam - The challenge for Education” at the University of Birmingham. Here is the lecture in full:

Let me thank my friend and comrade Dave Gillborn for nominating me to deliver this lecture and thank the School of Education for the invitation to do so.

Professor David Gillborn is one of the few academics in this country who has courageously and consistently engaged education practitioners, policymakers and fellow academics on the issue of race, ethnicity and education in the last period, especially in this era of neo-liberalism and the marketization of schooling and education.  We owe a lot to him for his clarity of vision, the incisiveness of his analysis, the relevance of his research and his perseverance in encouraging teachers, students and voluntary education projects to be bold, to think outside the box and to challenge establishment ‘wisdom’. Activists for children’s education rights, like myself, in communities across the country, continue to look to him for academic research evidence and policy analysis to support our perennial struggles.  For me, and I dare to say it in this forum, that is an even more critical endorsement for any academic than the validation of one’s peers.  It therefore gives me great pleasure to be able to share some thoughts with you today to mark the start of Prof Gillborn’s professorship at this university.

Read the rest of this entry →