I recently produced the NARM (Naming And Role Model) DVD and book, which highlights a number of African British male role models. So I was especially keen to attend this year’s Huntley Conference, which took place last Saturday (19/02/11) at the London Metropolitan Archives. Because it featured two NARM role models I have great admiration for: veteran publisher Eric Huntley and the-latest.com editor and activist Marc Wadsworth. The former provided a rundown of African British cultural history, whilst the latter, focused on our political history.
The conference’s theme, inspired by the Wailers’ song, was entitled ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Campaigning For Rights, Respect And Self-Reliance’. So I was expecting Voice columnist and former activist Darcus Howe to speak to the theme by delivering a presentation full of brimstone and fire. Instead, Howe held a conversation, talking about the period he arrived in Britain, the advice of walking a few paces behind white girl-friends, the great potential lost to the Caribbean because of the demise of the West Indies Federation, how he became a West Indian in Britain, and shared some Trini in-jokes.
Later on, I heard one of the participants comment “This is a good Caribbean event.” I thought it was at a “black” event, or better still, an African British history event. Because of the lack of time, Colin Prescod decided to forgo the discussion session. That robbed me of the opportunity to point out that we need to be shaping our identity as African British people. This is inclusive of all peoples of African descent, as opposed to "black", which some people of Caribbean antecedence equate with being Caribbean.
One example that springs to mind was my hearing someone of Caribbean antecedence saying that Black History Month (BHM) was about Caribbean heritage, because they, unlike continental Africans, did not know their history. It’s a somewhat prevalent but fallacious position. The Windrush generation resulted in the majority of Africans here being of Caribbean antecedence, so perhaps it’s understandable that some people would routinely equate “black” with Caribbean.
But times are a-changing – there is a hegemony shift on the horizon. Continental Africans are coming through in various fields, such as mainstream politics, and increasingly in music, where artists such as Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, and Sway are more likely to talk about gari than dumpling. The population projections also show continental Africans growing at a faster rate compared to those of Caribbean antecedence. This is why I believe we should be looking at ourselves as African British. It’s unifying, and to quote a line from a former Wailer: “No matter where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you’re an African.”
Back to the conference, Prescod allowed one question, which came from him. He asked the speakers what they thought of the march planned for March 2 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Black People’s Day Of Action. Wadsworth said he would not mind attending. But surprisingly, Howe, who was a member of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee and a prime co-organiser of the 1981 march, poured scorn on the upcoming march. The once radical community activist, and one of the Mangrove Nine who challenged police racism in the early 1970s, said he did not want to be "kettled" by the police. So he would probably stand at some safe distance and watch the proceedings. If it looked successful, he might join, otherwise he’d return to his south London home. Perhaps, it was one of his Trini in-jokes. If it was, I did not get it and did not laugh.
Black Music Congress
June Is British Black Music Month: A range of events throughout June to mid-July: www.britishblackmusic.com firstname.lastname@example.org
VORP (Voice Of Responsible Parents) Victims & Witnesses Of Crime Conference: Saturday July 2 or 9, 12noon-5pm including lunch. Free: email@example.com
NARM (Naming And Role Model) African British Civil Rights History: Inter-generational BHM presentation and quiz. Thursday October 27 2011, 6.30-8.30pm. Free: firstname.lastname@example.org