Nyansapo - Learning from the New Cross Fire, 30 Years on
‘The labourer is always in the sun; the landowner is always in the shade’ – African Proverb, Yoruba
It‘s been a while. Sorry.
I hope the seasonal break was revitalising and that you are approaching 2011 with a little fire in your belly, we need to – I suspect its going to be a rollercoaster of a year.
But despite all the challenges coming our way, we will survive.
I say this not with naivety but with certainty for in my experience it is only with self determination that we are able to achieve our goals.
It is my belief that throughout 2011 we should take the time to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses. To be honest about who are our friends and foes. And then once we are able to identify those who we can rely on and those who we cannot, we need to reallocate our time and resources accordingly. As someone who had a problem saying no to helping others (often to my own physical and emotional detriment) I am not advocating that we become less charitable. But I am stating that it is time we fully engaged with the principle of reciprocity and avoid the negative energy of can’t do people who see a problem with everything, whilst reengaging with the positive vibes of will do people who seek to implement solutions despite the scale of the challenge.
Blood Ah Go Run If Justice No Come
On Sunday 18 January 1981, at a joint party to celebrate the birthdays of Yvonne Ruddock and Angela Jackson, a devastating fire was to tragically affect the lives of family, friends, and community for ever. 439 New Cross Road, Deptford was to become the site where 13 young Africans, mostly under the age of seventeen, all lost their lives as a racist government alongside its inept police force, added fuel to the grief of a mourning community that was already being blighted by incessant acts of state oppression and racist terrorism.
Immediately after the incident, police officers told Mrs Ruddock, the grieving mother of two of the victims that they were investigating the matter on the basis that a fire bomb had been thrown at the house. Reports at the time claimed that “Police believe revenge may have been the motive. Officers had been called to the house earlier in the evening after receiving complaints about noise levels”.
The community worker Sybil Phoenix was invited by the police to attend the incident and she graciously opened up her house to Mrs Ruddock who had not only lost her children but also her home. But one of the undisputed heroes of the day was the veteran broadcaster and community champion, Alex Pascall. At the earliest opportunity and with much risk to his career, he broadcast his findings across the BBC radio network through the trailblazing programme, Black Londoners which thankfully he ended up heading for 14 years.
Whilst African people all over the country were numb with grief, the following Sunday evening, Alex Pascall went to the house and interviewed Mrs Ruddock, the mother who had lost not only her daughter Yvonne, in the blaze but also her son, Paul. The broadcast was a landmark in community media affairs and led to massive offers of support across the UK ranging from counseling to the eventual establishment of a fund worth over £20,000 for the families to address their needs.
Yet despite the magnitude of this disaster, there was no public response to the families from Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister of the conservative government at the time. Disgracefully, there was also total silence on the matter from the British monarch who refused requests that she send a letter of condolence to the families who were still suffering from the trauma. Indeed, suffering parents were receiving anonymous hate mail bemoaning the fact that more innocent Africans hadn’t perished. The scourge of racism that surged through the veins of Britain’s underclass and its political elite meant that both the head of state and her government did not believe the incident was of any major significance (to make matters worse, shortly afterwards both the monarch and prime minister publicly are said to have sent messages of condolences to the families of those lost in a similar incident involving european victims).
Placing these barbaric acts of immorality in context, in 1981, to distract the British public from the reality of ideological imposed economic impoverishment, the royal family had announced that Prince Charles and Lady Di were to marry, this was at a time when the Thatcher regime was not only aggressively terrorising African people in the UK who they formally labeled ‘educationally subnormal’, but it was also ruthlessly exploiting Africans in the Caribbean and the Continent, whilst simultaneously oppressing the Irish, by attacking their people and holding the controversial ‘Diplock’ trials where juries were removed in order for a sole judge to lock up people without due process (this lead to the famous hunger strike by activist Bobby Sands).
With reference to Africans, in 1978, Thatcher infamously remarked that Britain “might be rather swamped by people of a different culture”. She and her people hated Africans – with a passion. Whilst today we can successfully claim to have demolished denigratory institutional labels like ‘coloureds’, ‘BME’, ‘urban’, ‘BAMER’, ‘people of colour’ and ‘visible minorities’ - back then the government was very successful in fueling conflicts within the Pan African community by infiltrating and disrupting our communities with drugs and undercover agents whilst causing conflict in our neighbourhoods by teaching our children in their schools to divide into groups of ‘west Indians’, ‘west Africans’ and ‘mixed’ n words.
Thatcher’s racist words attracted much praise, especially it is believed, from the royal family, but in 1981, the monarch herself was finally forced to recognise that not everyone within her domain was amused by their nonchalant attitude when a young 17 year old seeking infamy, fired a replica pistol at her as she rode past during the Trooping of the Colour. Marcus Simon Serjeant, was jailed for five years under the 1842 Treason Act.
Indeed, several decades after the Germanic monarch, Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg Gotha’s (also known as Windsor) ignoble display of incivility towards the families of the New Cross Fire incident, she would later be reported as having sent “a heartfelt message of support to Jade [Goody] as the star [sic] lay dying”. Goody who passed away shortly afterwards, was born on the same year as the New Cross Fire tragedy took place and grew up to become famous for her vile racist bullying in the Channel 4 television programme ‘Big Brother’. She became a perfect barometer of how deeply ingrained racist attitudes continue to persist, decades later, throughout an ignorant Britain, crossing class, gender, time and space boundaries.
And yet, whilst it was the lack of response from the monarch, executive and legislature that lit the flame exposing an inhumane lack of empathy when it came to African lives, it was actual response of both the media and police that fueled the angst of millions with their callous reporting and racist investigations that would successfully seek to deny justice itself.
Despite the initial firebombing report given at the time, the Metropolitan Police unofficially retracted its statement and publicly announced that it refused to investigate the crime as an arson attack motivated by racism. It is important to remember that this was at a time when the police were not only proud of being institutionally racist but also openly corrupt, assaulting and arresting Africans with impunity as they were exempt from the Race Relations Act which would have placed a duty upon them to challenge racism within its ranks and policies (this would remain the case for another twenty years).
However, back in 1981, the Pan African community was not as politically illiterate as it seems now. There was also a stronger liberation movement that having recently come to the UK direct from our homes, had still retained a sense of what justice was, of pride, self reliance and righteous resistance. The police were about to implement ‘Operation Swamp 81‘ or ‘sus‘ as the overt stop and search policy introduced at the beginning of April 1981 was nicknamed where racist police officers in Brixton were given permission from government to arrest African people, young and old, simply on suspicion. For those within this movement, that remembrance of our ways cultivated a fearless spirit which ensured our collective dignity came before individual ego.
A few months later, the first Brixton uprising became the first serious, domestic challenge, to the British state since the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Not only did the state get ‘a bloody good hiding’ from our young people, there was also a transformation of British politics leading to Bernie Grant, the first, and to this date, only dedicated Africentric MP coming to parliamentary power in 1987.
Even today, when children are taught about human rights in schools, the focus is typically placed upon Wilberforce for ‘abolishing’ the enslavement of Africans, it is placed on Ghandi for revolutionising the world with non-violent protest, it is placed on Martin Luther King for daring to dream that one day racists will change their minds if we stop using force to defend ourselves against violence and instead, simply love them enough.
Well all these myths are a gross distortions of history.
(As some of us may know, slavery was NOT abolished in 1807, Wilberforce opposed the Haitian Revolution, advocated whipping enslaved Africans and was a supporter of the colonial enslavement of Africa. Ghandi, sold out his people to the British, looked down on those without wealth and when traveling in South Africa revealed his hatred of Africans. And finally, Martin Luther King’s greatest speech was not about a ‘rainbow’ dream which Malcolm X rightly referred to as our ‘nightmare’, but his brilliant words created whilst imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama after the heroic acts of Rosa Parkes, as well as his valiant Vietnam speech, which he made as he finally reached political maturity. Words that remain true to this day as they did when he first uttered them.)
I mention all this in the context of the Notting Hill Fire because if you have been educated by the British schooling system then once again it is likely you have been lied to. The true actions and achievements of Africans in Britain have been deliberately omitted from the curriculum text books and instead replaced with ‘white’ washed tales of ‘black firsts’. The first ‘black’ person to achieve this, the first ‘black’ person to achieve that, in short the first African to mimic what a european has already achieved.
But that is not history, that is catch’up coonery.
The real truth is that in 1981, as for centuries before this date, African people have been making history whilst others have been doing their best to erase all memory of it. This is a by product of eurocentrism as universalism. However we also have to accept part of the blame for failing to document, archive and recreate our history in formats that remain accessible to future generations.
Black Peoples Day of Action (Artist: Unknown)
So let’s continue...
Exactly what happened as the police refused to act in the interest of justice, when they deliberately colluded with the media to release lies and statements of disinformation? Well I’m not a historian, others can fill the gaps with far more detail than I can, but what I do know is that the established local community activists such as Rosalind Howells, Sybil Phoenix and Mavis Best who were experienced in campaign work led with much of the day to day ground work, whilst several organisations came together including the headlining New Cross Massacre Action Committee which was formed to support the families.
The impact of the New Cross Fire and news of the British government’s deliberate offensive reticence became so huge it was not only a national issue, but also an international one. As such it led to the families being legally represented by leading human rights lawyers (including Michael Mansfield and Rock Tansey).
Sadly as this happened, public detail of the women involved became very limited, but rest be assured much of the work was carried out by our sistas. Community workers such as Mia Morris, Ama Gueye, Rosanna Lewis, Stella Dadzie and many, many more all contributed in activities ranging from handling administration, organising gatherings, assisting families function through their trauma, to feeding workers, educating young people and creating literature and banners. Despite conditions at the time rendering many of them voiceless (for political, cultural and security concerns) their support both outside and within the historic New Cross Massacre Action Committee enabled involvement from revered community workers such as Gus John, Alex Pascall, Minka Adofo, John La Rose, Menelik Shabazz, Darcus Howe and Linton Kwesi Johnson, to help organise what would become known as the ‘black peoples day of action’.
As a result, on the 2 March 1981 up to twenty thousand African people, including leadership from young people and women from all over the country marched for over eight hours from Fordham Park to Hyde Park with slogans including: 'Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said', 'No Police Cover-Up', 'Blood Ah Go Run If Justice No Come'.
Superbly captured by the filmmaker Menelik Shabazz, collectively as we marched past Fleet Street, the city of London was brought to a standstill and for a brief moment, Britain’s most influential racists in suits were terrified their time of privileged, ‘white’ supremacist fueled inequality was up. Eventually a mission statement was produced to indicate a collective desire to secure justice for the victims and their families. But to appease the growing anger around the political disquiet surrounding the whole situation, the police announced that they had found evidence of ‘a liquid substance which may have assisted the spread and intensity of the fire’. Since then, Ros Howells, a community worker based in Deptford at the time has spoken about how the mainstream newspapers insinuated that “something illegal had been going on at the party”.
Then in a similar manner to the ill-fated Stephen Lawrence investigation that was to follow, the police started to aggressively investigate the survivors as if they were criminals. Robert McKenzie one of the survivors said of the police; “They gave me no respect and I felt like I had been arrested - not asked to share information. They didn't want to listen to the truth.”
A thousand people were interrogated and the data both manipulated and misinterpreted to present an explanation sympathetic to the racist views of the British state. Despite a coroner's inquest revealing a serious “material irregularity” that cast sufficient doubt over the integrity of the police investigation, which included false charges, coerced confessions and gross misconduct, the jury returned an open verdict.
The coroner was subsequently accused by members of the victims’ families of misleading the jury, but even in the face of a High Court agreeing with this assessment it was ruled that the verdict should stand. After much protestation a second inquest was held but it also returned an open verdict in May 2004. Finally, in March 2005 further permission to challenge the verdict was refused to the families.
To date, no-one has ever been charged in relation to the incident.
Thirty years later I’m asking have we done enough to secure justice? As the brutish police force and a ConDem government continue to replicate the conditions that led up to our uprising in 1981, can we honestly say that we are ready to defend ourselves and family?
The slogan of the day during the time was 'Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said'. The activists then, who are now elders did not ramp. During this time African families were under constant racist attack by civilian groups like the National Front (yesteryears English Defence League - for young readers).
However, despite the serious threat of state sanctioned persecution, physical and psychological assault, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and deaths in custody, our leaders of the time mobilised and although not always securing justice, they defended us by establishing a network of supplementary and independent community schools, refuge centres, restaurants and bookshops, they created spaces where we could go and learn in a safe, environment, a place where we could just be.
Today I look around and much of what that heroic generation built enabling us to move forwards in safety has almost disappeared. All have gone, but not only from state attack, but also from community neglect. Back in the day they used to firebomb our venues. Today they leave us to our own devices or pull the funding (our own tax money) confident of a lacklustre response in defence.
Frankly its not only demorallising, but also embarrassing.
Too many of us seem to have been appeased with the award of grandiose titles giving us an illusion of inclusion in state affairs, too many of us seem to have been pacified with government bribes, parliamentary trinkets of representation and royal accolades of obedient praise that denote many of us as spineless members and indeed benefactors of a morally repugnant empire.
We seem unable to say No.
And yet today, even whilst too many of our children suffer educationally, politically, and worst of all, spiritually, a moral decay, we fail to speak of the ‘so many dead nothing said’ in the here and now. Indeed, we the heirs of a glorious liberation movement, appear to have traded it all in for the security of a status enhancing job, X-Box/Playstation and 50 inch plasma TV.
'Blood Ah Go Run If Justice No Come' ?
Well it’s our blood that’s still running.
The very few elders who were active then are now leaving the movement, the UK or this very life/realm, often suffering from burnout or disillusion whilst others are forced to live in poverty. Meanwhile our children have no idea of the number of positive community workers who are still around, working with limited resources, trying, crying even, whilst swapping evangelist preaching with liberatory teaching.
I even meet progressive non-Africans who have more interest, some even doing more work, for our liberation than the majority of us. I’ll be the first to admit that blame is now giving way to shame despite our continued exposure to unjust pain
And yet, the only way we can ensure we never again have to utter the words – ‘13 Dead and Nothing Said’ is by having the courage, the integrity to speak out on the issues that directly affect us, to annually give respect to our Ancestors by remembering their names, honouring their deeds, building on their accomplishments.
‘13 Dead and Nothing Said’
30 years ago, 1981 was a transformative turning point in our community. Together we said no to injustice, together we built movements that offered solutions, supplementing education, creating politically literate cultural media and cutting loose those naysayers that whinge whilst sitting on the fence. It was a true glorious renaissance right here in the UK that was just as important as the Harlem Renaissance, a rich and revolutionary progressive movement whose removal from the ‘white-washed’ history books does not deserve its relegation from the archives of our own progressive media.
‘13 Dead and Nothing Said’
Never again should we have to utter these words.
Some of you may know that alongside Education and Community Development, I am also studying Law (Human Rights and Constitutional) at university. During my studies on the history of human rights (western perspective) it becomes clear that it was our Ancestors, who through their resistance to enslavement and struggles to secure civil rights, took forward the first generation of rights (liberté). Less known or written about in British history books, is that it was the actions of our elders of which the actions that took place in 1981 are a symbol of that, established the second generation of rights (égalité). Today, it is us that were supposed to usher in the final generation (fraternité) – collective self determination.
Sadly this has not yet materialised.
This Tuesday at 9pm, I will be hosting a special edition of the Pan African Drum. Through Nyansapo we will be broadcasting a programme that instead of focusing on the nostalgia of the 18 January 1981 tragedy, will concentrate on the real lessons learnt. What did we do, what could we do, what today as we lose another thirteen, fourteen, fifteen hundred, week after week, month after month, year after year, what MUST we do.
This programme and article is just a couple of the ways I know best of helping. We have journalists, poets, singers, writers, scholars, lawyers, doctors, programmers, teachers, healers, musicians, broadcasters, artists, dancers, designers, filmmakers, actors, producers, managers, students, mothers, fathers, children, I beg you all please come join us, participate, listen, reflect and then contribute in any way you feel able – passionately silently if need be, as long as it is with cultural integrity.
You see everyone who has access to a computer or online media can with a mouse click share or create their own message of Pan African solidarity. We can all do something, from helping a young person realise their potential to supporting an elder live their remaining years in dignity. You see, for unless we do these things for ourselves, our blood will continue to run, until one day, the vampires will have drained us dry – and then collectively we die.
I won’t pretend that I’m not tired, frustrated, broke and on the verge of being burnt out, but despite all that, as a parent, a human, a Pan Africanist - I’m not about to let that happen, are you?
May the Ancestors guide and protect us.
Toyin Agbetu is a writer,
film director, poet, and founder of Ligali, the pan African human rights based organisation.
Victims of the New Cross Fire (18 January 1981)
Humphrey Geoffrey Brown,
Gerry Paul Francis,
Patricia Johnson, Yvonne Ruddock,
Queens warmest wishes to Jade
Bernie Grant Archive
Review: New Cross Fire Remembered at the Albany
Q&A: The Scarman Report
1981: Nine die in New Cross house fire
Who started the New Cross Fire?
Nyansapo: News and Updates
The Pan African Drum
The Pan African drum is broadcast from the UK and attracts new listeners from across the world every week. Our broadcast is currently only available online.
Our podcasts of previous shows are usually available 24 hours after broadcast from the Ligali website.
The radio show is also available by going to http://www.myspace.com/nyansapodrum
or clicking either of the links: Nyansapo Radio or Nyansapo Direct Studio Link
New Cross Fire Commemorative Events
NEW CROSS FIRE VICTIMS:
HONOURED WITH MEMORIAL BLUE PLAQUE
Three decades after 14 young people tragically lost their lives after attending a house party in New Cross, the Nubian Jak Community Trust in partnership with Lewisham Council is to install a Blue Plaque at the address where the tragedy took place.
The ceremony will take place at:
Where: 439 New Cross Road,
Lewisham, London SE14 6TA
When: Tuesday 18th January, 2011 at 2:00pm
The plaque unveiling will be the climax of a series of events happening over 4 days beginning with a Remembrance Evening of entertainment at the Albany Theatre, Deptford, on 14th January hosted by the playwright Kwame Kwei Armah. This will be followed on Sunday 16th January, by a 3pm Memorial Service at St Andrews Church , Brockley SE4. Then two days later, on Tuesday 18th, exactly 30 years to the day the catastrophic fire took place, a blue commemorative plaque will be unveiled by family members of those that perished in the fire. Also attending will be the Lewisham councillors, dignitaries, TV personalities, the media and members of the public.
The New Cross Fire was a devastating house fire which killed 13 young black people during a birthday party in New Cross, South East London, on Sunday January 18, 1981. It would later claim a 14th victim. The black community were shocked by the indifference of the wider population, and accused the London Metropolitan Police of a cover up, which they suspected was an arson attack motivated by racism. The protests arising out of the fire led to a mobilisation of black political activity and the largest ever street march by a BME community in Britain . To date no-one has ever been charged, but the case represents a land mark in British African Caribbean history and race relations.
However, in 2006 a new student bursary scheme was created, in memory of the New Cross Fire Victims. The scheme awards annual grants to two current or former students of schools and colleges in Lewisham, wishing to study at Goldsmiths University of London. The scheme, which was initiated by Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, has the backing of all the families who lost loved ones in the New Cross Fire. It is a positive lasting legacy which will continue to help future Lewisham students. After the plaque unveiling on Tuesday, there will be a ceremony at Goldsmith College to celebrate the recipients of the 2011 Bursary awards.
Jak Beula, Chair of the Nubian Jak Community Trust said: ‘The New Cross Fire Plaque, coming on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy, is a timely reminder of the resilience shown by the families, and a community who lost so many young lives who did not get the chance to fulfill their potential. It is hoped that the plaque will serve as a permanent reminder to the world that they will never be forgotten.'
14 Dead Nothing Said!:
30 years since the New Cross Fire Massacre 'No Justice! No Peace!'
When: Friday 21 January 2011, 6.30pm Arrival 7pm Start
Lysada Adventure Playground, 6 Montego Close (off Railton road, near Barnwell Rd), Brixton SE24 0CH
Nearest Tube & BR: Brixton (Victoria Line) [5 minute walk to venue]
Adm: Youths are especially welcome - All free of charge
Facilitated by Cecil Gutzmore
For more information: Ring 07940 005 907; email – Panascf@yahoo.co.uk; Website – www.pascf.org.uk
Community Noticeboard - Campaign to save Mission Dine Club
Council to demolish elders community centre
The Mission Dine Club (MDC) a community centre serving vulnerable people in society, faces demolition.
The Mission Dine Club: A charity supporting the Elderly and Disabled people through the provision of a day care centre and fundraising
When PM David Cameron and his Con-Dem ministers speak about the need for ‘Big Society’ few people realise the true cost of these proposals. The idea that government services should shrink so that community work can be given to volunteers for free comes at a steep price for us all.
The Mission Dine Club (MDC) was founded in 1986 by Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye in response to the needs of the elderly and disabled in the community. Its community Centre based at Fry Road, Harlesden has been serving the local community for about seven years.
It all started when in 1985, Dame Betty met an elderly lady at her GP's surgery who invited her to come to her house for a cup of tea. Before she could keep the appointment, the lady died, and sadly was not discovered for two weeks.
Dame Betty set up Mission Dine Club to ensure that what happened to the lady did not happen to others, and that the elderly and isolated in Brent and its environs had a caring environment in which to have healthy meals, ease their isolation and socialise. She became a Dame in 1997 in recognition of her charity work.
Many would think that supporting the very people voluntarily dedicating their lives to serve society would be a priority to advocates of ‘Big Society’. Yet as the government deems cost-saving more important than providing services for the vulnerable we can see the opposite seems true.
The elderly are not the only patrons of the centre, hundreds of people annually attend to access community events as well as the wealth of training, youth projects and volunteering opportunities provided. Nonetheless, despite receiving past support from the lottery to build the MDC, she sadly was unable to secure the freehold or a long lease. Now the council want to exploit this fact in order to demolish the centre and reallocate the space to extend a nearby school.
There is almost no awareness of this issue despite the council having issued a consultation paper on the matter. Perhaps, revealingly, neither the voluntary sector, nor MDC are listed as consultees anywhere on the document. Campaigners seeking to save the MDC are asking supporters to write to Nitin Parshotam firstname.lastname@example.org . Cllr Ann John (leader of Brent Council), email@example.com , and Harlesden councillors Janice Long firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com , and Helga Gladbaum, cllr.Helga.Gladbaum@brent.gov.uk in opposition of the demolition.
A fundraiser for Haiti at the Mission Dine Club
To read the full article please click here
10 January 2011
Demolition of Mission Dine Club
It has come to our attention that you may have some influence over the proposed council plans to demolish the Mission Dine Club (MDC) centre that resides at Fry Road, Harlesden. The potential loss of this centre, which for over five years has provided a caring and friendly environment for the elderly to have a healthy meal, socialise, and ease their isolation is an issue of grave concern to our organisation.
It may be helpful if we outline our interest in this matter. Ligali is a Pan African human rights based organisation. Our remit, amongst other things, is to challenge the misrepresentation of African people and culture fuelled by ethnicity bias.
For several years now, the MDC has opened its doors to many young and vulnerable members of the public seeking support, training, volunteering opportunities and education. This is in addition to the invaluable services Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye, who is rightly regarded a community champion, provides for the benefit of the elderly and disabled through the Mission Dine Club charity.
We write requesting that you exercise influence at Brent Council and seek the termination of plans to bulldoze the MDC site. For the past twenty five years MDC services have included, visiting and providing for the elderly and vulnerable in order to ensure that their dignity and quality of life is sustained. We humbly suggest that the proposed demolition of MDC premises is irresponsible and counter-productive to supporting these vitally needed community services. We believe, it far more prudent for a council to explore and implement ways of supporting bodies providing valuable charitable work to its constituents during these times of financial austerity.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
The Ligali Organisation
Thank you for your E-Mail,and I too is aware what MDC have been doing for over 25 years. The Facts are : MDC have a binding Lease agreement for 25 years which is expiring in September as I have been told, the owners ,The Council stated that the lease now expiring the site is required for building and providing School places for the children of Halesden. The report to the Executive highlighted all aspect in order to make an informed decision,the main points Expired Lease and the need for School places. Best wishes, Cllr L A Beswick MBE
Dear Cllr L A Beswick MBE
Thank you for your response.
What the facts you have shared now reveal is that if the lease was not expiring then the council would have been compelled to have found another option.
So in many ways what we are seeing is an exploitation of circumstances that seeks to justify the disadvantaging services of elderly and disabled people instead of simultaneously providing additional support for the children of Harlesden. Indeed it is likely that some of the parents/carers of children that attend local schools could also be users of the chartable services provided by the Mission Dine Club.
We find it somewhat fortunate and given the economic climate, surprising, that the council has sufficient excess funds to justify this building expansion plan. However having read the Newfield Primary School’s 2009 Ofsted report it would indicate to us that public resources would be more effectively utilised in raising its standards and achievements to above that of ‘Grade 3 - Broadly average to below average’ instead of increasing the intake of its pupils and exposing them to ‘satisfactory’ educative services.
I have attached a copy and details of the link to the Ofsted report for your convenience.
These comments we are making are not intended to disparage the works of the teaching staff who should be commended for the noted improvements, but instead to raise concern at the likelihood of Harlesden constituents funding unnecessary expenditure to attract more students, when it is clear that even Ofsted believed;
“The proportion of pupils joining and leaving the school part way through the year is unusually high. When the school was inspected in May 2008, it was judged to be providing an inadequate education and required significant improvement in relation to standards, the quality of teaching, the quality of governance and the attendance of pupils.”
How does the council justify this strategy based on student expansion instead of pupil retention?
Is it possible for a copy of The Report to the Executive to be sent to us alongside the original application by the school for expanding their site? We would be interested in reading the results of the impact assessment study taken to see how this decision will effect vulnerable people in Harlesden. What other options were explored?
Kindly awaiting your response.
I refer to your E-Mail ,your request for a copy can be made through the Legal and Democratic Service of the Council of which is the norm. Any comments on this issue can be also directed through the Children and Families department. Best wishes, Cllr L A Beswick MBE.
To: Customer Services (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our organisation is interested in making a formal challenge to the proposed demolition of the Mission Dine Club in Harlesden that provides charitable services to the elderly and disabled people in the local community.
We have written to several of the people associated with the decision process and have been advised by Cllr Lincoln Beswick to contact ‘Legal and Democratic Service of the Council’ for copies of ‘The Report to the Executive’ alongside the original application by Newfield Primary School to expand their site.
Cllr Beswick has also indicated that we forward details of our challenge to ‘Children and Families department’. Please could you provide us with specific names and correspondence details alongside
Dear Toyin Agbetu,
Thank you for your email raising your concerns over the future of the Mission Dine Club.
In October 2010, Brent Council served notice on Mission Dine that we would not renew the lease on the site of its building adjacent to Newfield Primary School.
The reason for this decision is the planned expansion of Newfield Primary School, which will provide 210 new school places. There is extremely high demand for primary school places in Brent, which local schools can only meet by expanding. The Council is legally bound to provide primary school places, and I consider the education of our young people to be one our most important priorities.
The Council does recognise Mission Dine’s objective of supporting elderly and disadvantaged young people. Indeed Mission Dine has been allowed to continue to operate despite not having paid rent for six years, and notice of the decision not to renew the lease was given in October 2010 to give Mission Dine the time to relocate. However, the future of the Borough’s young children must in this instance be the priority.
I hope this reply makes clear the situation, and the reasons for this decision. It is my hope that Mission Dine will be able to find an alternative site, and I can assure you my administration will continue to support community organisations and the vulnerable in our community wherever possible.
(Cllr) Ann M John, OBE
Leader of Brent Council
Thank you for your enquiry.
I have passed your email to Anne Reid, Principal Democratic Services Officer in the council's Legal and Democratic Service for her information. She has however advised me that "The Report to the Executive" which you wish to obtain is not yet available and is due to go to members for consideration in February.
Should you in the interim wish to speak with Ms Reid directly please telephone 020 8937 1359.
When replying to this enquiry, please
do not remove the reference number.
One Stop Service
Further to your enquiry, the report on the proposed Newfield expansion is due to go to the Executive for consideration on 15 February 2011. Should this be the case, it should be available after Friday 4th. It will be on the internet.
Enquiries about the detailed proposals can be sent direct to the Director of Children and Families, Krutika Pau, email: email@example.com. She will also be best placed to answer your questions regarding other partners that may be involved.
News and Views
||Birmingham charity continues to help Haiti one year on
One year on since the Haiti earthquake, a Birmingham charity is still helping to rebuild the country.
Friends of Foundation Félicité was set up soon after the earthquake hit the country. Twelve months on. the not-for-profit organisation is still raising funds to help grass-root projects in Haiti. According to reports there are still more than one million people living in terrible conditions.
An estimated 230 were killed in the earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 and it effected almost four million people. Like so many around the world, people in Birmingham were touched by the disaster.
Long term vision
A group of people from the local communities decided they wanted to do more to help, not just by simply donating in the short term but to help with long term vision of rebuilding the country and lives of those affected by the earthquake. In an interview on BBC WM's Mornings with Joanne Malin, volunteers Ankhobia Carvalho and Joan Hunter explained why Friends of Foundation Félicité was set up and how it has been fundraising over the last 12 months. Ankhobia from Handsworth Wood recalled how she felt after seeing the devastating Haiti pictures on the news for the first time: "It was awful, I remember watching BBC news everyday for weeks and all I could do is cry and cry because I couldn't believe what I saw in front of my eyes.
"I have always had a love for the history and people of Haiti, then when the earthquake happened it was just natural for me to do something. The whole world was touched."
Even with the large amounts of money and aid being poured into the country, critics have attacked the lack of progress made by the Haitian state and the international community in the country's reconstruction. Ankhobia explains that people in Birmingham had the same concerns: "A group of people in Birmingham got together and decided to create a charity organisation because we were concerned that some of the funds weren't getting through to the grass-root organisations who knew where the needs were on the ground."
The Birmingham based organisation was set up to directly support the grass-root Haitian charity Fondation Marie Claire Heureuse Fèlicitè Bonheur Dessalines (FF in Haiti). The charity has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 11 years in the areas of humanitarian, social and educational work to aid the people of Haiti. Ankhobia was already in touch with Fondation Fèlicitè in Haiti through the charity founder Professor Bayyinah Bello whilst working on a history project.
A tremendous help
Speaking from America on BBC WM's Mornings with Joanne Malin, Professor Bello explained how money raised in Birmingham and the West Midlands was making a real difference to people in Haiti. "Friends of Foundation Félicité have been a tremendous ray of sunshine. Through their help we've been able to help young people believe in their ability to help rebuild their own country and we also provide clean water for new babies born in the tented camps."
Friends of Foundation Félicité website
for more information on fundraising events happening across Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Source: BBC WM
Pan African World View
Sankofa: "go back and fetch what you forgot"
Reclaiming our Name and Heritage
By Awula Serwah
What's in a name? What does our name say about us? In traditional African settings, a name is very important, and helps to identify us. For example, with the Ga people of Accra, Ghana, the name Adole Lomotey, tells us that we are referring to the first girl from a particular Ga family.
It is interesting that many people of African descent in this country, even those from the continent have European names. In contrast, most South Asians I know, whether they were born in Britain or the former colonies have Asian names. Within the African community, the Nigerians on the whole do relatively well with African names like Olu, Shola, Ngozi and Bola, but many of us maintain the names of our 'oppressors'. It is not uncommon to have an African on the continent with the name John Arthur. I am not suggesting that Africans should not have non African names, but if this appears to be the norm then we should ask ourselves why this is the case.
If we think about the cruelty of the Maafa (African Holocaust), it appears inconceivable that we would keep, or give our children Eurocentric names – names that link us to our enslavers. In some cases it is because we confuse so called 'Christian names' with European names.
Some rap artists are happy to 'reclaim' the N-word, a derogatory way of addressing African people, but are not so keen to reclaim African names. In 'Roots', Kunta Kinte endured brutal beatings in his attempt to keep his name. He knew how important it was, and understood why the oppressors wanted him to adopt the name Toby.
We are in 2010, and we are not forced to adopt European names. Why do we do so? We need to reclaim our identity and heritage. Our heritage does not begin and end with an African name, but it is crucial. We need to look deeply at what it means to be an African, and what we understand by the African personality.
I am impressed with actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, and the steps he took to reclaim his heritage. He changed his name from Ian Roberts to Kwame-Kwei-Armah and said in a 2007 article in the Guardian: “It was when I was 19 and reading the autobiography of Malcolm X that I decided I could no longer carry the name of someone who once owned my family.
“It contradicted my need to reclaim an African identity, free from the illegitimate institution that was chattel slavery. It also meant that my children would not have to be defined by that evil period of history. I traced my family tree back to the slave fort my great-great-great-grandfather was taken from and reclaimed my ancestral name. I became Kwame Kwei-Armah.”
Before he became an acclaimed thespian, he was a budding singer best known for the song ‘Reclaimed’. In the song, he sings about reclaiming his name and proud ancestry, and taking responsibility for teaching his son his family history.
As we come to the end of the year, we can reflect on how far we have come to reclaiming our heritage, and look at what our names, and the names we give our children say about us. If Kwame Kwei-Armah's example is too radical for us, and we are not ready to change our names, we can consider reclaiming an African name.
Others may have a simpler way, but an option may be to acquire an African day name, from a country like Ghana, where there is a name for each day of the week. If for example we are female, and were born on Saturday, we could call ourselves Ama or Awo. If we are male and were born on Saturday, then it's Kwame, Kwamena or Ato. It should not be too difficult to find out which day of the week we were born.
My challenge is that we begin to reclaim our rich heritage, and identity by proudly reclaiming African names.
Originally Published in the January edition of New African
Ms Serwah: Community worker
Who is Ms Serwah?
Ms Serwah is a Ghanaian born barrister who was in private practice in Ghana, before moving to the UK. She was appointed to, and served as an Assembly Member on the Accra Metropolitan Authority. In 2002, she co-founded BTWSC, a voluntary organisation that aims to develop potential, raise aspirations and promote social cohesion. The organisation works towards these aims in several ways, including working with young people, adults, and inter-generational audiences, and delivering accredited and non-accredited courses, bespoke programmes, and community events. In 2007, she received a Brent Citizenship Award for her community work. Ms Serwah is the co-author of ‘African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent’. In February this year, she was appointed a Notary Public in Ghana.
How long have you been involved in social cohesion and community development?
I have been involved in community work since my secondary school days in Ghana. My parents and school (Achimota School), taught me that serving your community was the most import thing. The purpose of education was to give you to tools and skills to do so. I became involved in community work in this country in 2002.
Why did you choose to enter this field?
I chose this field because I thought there was a gap that needed to be filled. Too many young people were losing hope, living up to stereotypes, and were not achieving their full potential. In my view too many adults were refusing to take responsibility and were happy to blame others. Much as I agree that the system can damage our children, and make adults lose their self worth, I believe that there is a lot we can achieve if we pull together. Learning from how the pioneers achieved in challenging circumstances can help us to overcome.
Give us some example of the challenges you faced?
I found the lack of respect we sometimes have for each other sad. I have had people ignore me, and then start paying attention when they find out I am a barrister. Smile at your brother or sister - don't just smile because of what you think they have achieved. I was also taken aback at the way young people called adults by their first names, which is unacceptable in African and African-Caribbean communities. As an African, I would prefer a young person to call me Auntie Serwah or Ms Serwah, but not simply by my first name. There is a reason why we say sister, brother, auntie, uncle etc. I also cannot call elders by their first names. I went to a photographic exhibition the other day by the esteemed Mr. Barnor, and was appalled to hear him being referred to as James.
What inspired you and who would you like to have inspired?
I was inspired by my family and my school. I would like to inspire any person who would like to make a difference. Making a difference in one person's life is a starting point.
How do you think the works of BTWSC contribute to the Pan African community?
I think trying to raise aspirations, and instil a sense of self worth, contribute to uplifting the Pan-African community. I am saddened by the way too many of us erroneously think of Africa as a sad, poor place, and do not want to be associated with us. We must be proud of our African roots even as we acknowledge the problems and try to do something about it.
Your events and publications provide an excellent opportunity and resource for children and parents to learn in a family friendly style that is accessible to many – was this deliberate and why? We believe that families and communities should be at the heart. Without strong families, it is difficult to have well adjusted children. It is our responsibility to educate our children to learn about who they are and give them a sense of identity. This quote is on the cover of the ‘African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent’ book.
How can we get in touch?
Books they Read: Ife Piankhi
Ife Piankhi was raised in the UK and now lives in Kampala. She is a creative expressionist who uses poetry and music, and she teaches creative writing at Art Movement in Kansanga.
15 January 2011
What makes you love reading?
I just love reading. I use it as a way to expand my knowledge. I read fiction and nonfiction. In my early 20s, I read books on African history from writers such as Cheikh Anta Diop about Africa’s contribution to civilisation. I wanted to get to know experiences of other people because Africans were there at the time of civilisation. I think reading is ideal for everyone but for those who cannot read, music and sound can be a way for them to access such information. I make my poetry and music accessible to people through performances. I have a gig on Friday, 21 January at Isha Gallery in the evening. I believe through my performances people are inspired to develop their own voices. I guess that’s my purpose in the world. Through reading we can also fuse information and make choices, and then we can make up our own minds about certain issues. We have the opportunity to access different perspectives through reading.
We are almost in the 21st century and we should be promoting reading and giving children literature that portrays Africa positively because the mainstream media may not write a lot about it. There is so much information in books. In Uganda, people don’t read outside their curriculum and there is need to read from a wide range especially if we don’t get the opportunity to travel. I made the decision to bring my books from London to Uganda to share with the children I teach. The children are empowered through the arts. Everyone needs to contribute. The solutions to African problems are in Africa.
Which books take a large part of your bookshelf?
I have a different range of books but I look for books that put Africa at the centre so that I can survey the environment. I need to know the African contribution to the world civilisation. Most people are not told that Africa made a big contribution to world civilisation. I have a number of books that develop a positive African identity, and they include, works by Marcus Garvey, The Soul of Black Folk by Du Bois, Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Black Women by Iyanla Vanzant, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Famished Road by Ben Okri, Two Thousand Seasons, The Healers and KMT, in the House of Life by Ayi Kwei Armah. I also have works of authors such as JA Rogers, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Derek Walcott, and Louise Benett. I have books on African Caribbean and African American experiences, and autobiographies. I also have books on environment, including on ecopsychology in which Joanna Macy is at the forefront advocating for health of the planet which is connected to the health of the human psyche.
Which books have you read for the umpteenth time and you have never gotten enough of?
Toni Morison’s The Bluest Eyes, Tar Baby, and Beloved which is about reincarnation. I believe that each of us has lived our lives before. I love Morison’s writing style and the way her stories grip me. She is very poetic; how she describes life and it’s very powerful for me.
What are your favourite quotes from the books you have read?
“Africa for Africans at home and abroad,” by Marcus Garvey
Which writers have influenced your life?
Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery by Bell Hooks is an analysis of the forces that cause African-American Women to suffer depressive and other mentally draining conditions and Hooks goes ahead to give solutions such as renewing our relationship with nature by gardening, wearing comfortable shoes, or spending time in a park or wilderness. Bell Hooks, in her other writing, also shows that through slavery, people of African descent lost some of their culture, a lot of practices remained dreams and subconscious. Most of the people did not find themselves in Europe and America by choice but I choose to return to Africa so that I am a source and can also contribute to the continent.
What lessons have you learnt from books?
Women are important in the development of the communities. Women endure so much (Beloved by Toni Morrison). Until the issues of feminism are resolved Africa will not develop. We should be afraid to change culture and Africa is evolving - change and development are important to our success.
Who are your favourite characters?
I like characters that don’t conform to stereotypes. James Baldwin and Richard Wright characters are not conventional. I love books that acknowledge that each of us is created differently and our uniqueness is what we can do to contribute to life. I don’t like conformity. I love characters that do things out of the ordinary.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I am reading Osho, a book on mediation and raising awareness which we have the key to self-mastery in every area of our lives. What is the what? by Dave Eggers, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and a self development book, Thinks and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Poverty is in our face everyday so we need to do something differently to get out of it.
Source: Daily Monitor
Community Rites and Education
Akoben: Symbol of vigilance and wariness. Akoben is a horn used to sound a battle cry.
Spirit Of A Warrior
Date: Every Week
Adm: 1st lesson is free. Thereafter, £4.50 per lesson. Members £2.00 per lesson
Mashufaa is a martial are created for the mental, physical and spiritual upliftment of a generation of people who have become detached from themselves! Mashufaa is about living a life with light through the sweat of training. Sweat lets you know you are alive.
Remember Mind, Body and Spirit are one. Train to live and live to train. Mashufaa Classes will take place from at The Albany Theatre (Plum Room) nearest Rail: Deptford or DLR Deptford Bridge.
Monday and Fridays*
Venue: Lord Morrison Hall, Chestnut Grove (off Scales Rd), Tottenham, London N17 9ET
Travel: Tube: Seven Sisters (Victoria Line), Tottenham Hale / Rail: Bruce Grove / Buses: 243, 341, 149, 259,279
*Adults and Children
with the children's classes, We encourage
learning through positive encouragement
and use games and skills to reinforce the
martial arts techniques that they learn.
Venue: The Plum Room, The Albany Theatre/Centre, Douglas Way, Deptford, London SE8 4AG
Tube: New Cross / Rail: Deptford Station / Buses: 53, 453, 177
For further details please contact us on: 020 8808 7547 / 07956 337 391 or, via email on: firstname.lastname@example.org