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Don’t give me sorrow, I want equal opportunity to live tomorrow

10190629Too many of us are living in an un-comfort zone. Desensitised to negative images of ourselves while resigned social justices. Let’s get back to doing for self, argues Lester Holloway

What a week it’s been. Ken Hinds, a Met police independent advisor, stopped 100 times by the police. A white model in Vogue, blacked-up with her legs spread apart. Black unemployment rocketing, much far faster than anyone else.

It’s easy to get depressed with news like this. But then again, what these stories all have in common is that they are things done TO us. By the police, the fashion police, and the economic police.

In a week when Dutch Fascist Geert Wilders came to Britain to spread hatred, and Louis Farrakhan DIDN’T get a chance to come here to spread self-love, let me quote the Honourable Minister, from a speech entitled “Blackman – do for self, or suffer the consequences”:

Look at us. We all wear shoes, but we have no shoe factories. If the cattle gives its hide to the Caucasian people so that they can take that hide, tan it, and make shoes for themselves, would not the same cattle give their hides to you and me?

Was it not a Black man who invented the machine which revolutionized the shoe industry? Yet we profit nothing from his genius.”

Or as James Brown more succinctly put it, in his track Funky President: “Let’s save our money, do like the mob! Put up a factory and own the job!”

Lester Holloway

Lester Holloway

So as we lose our jobs in this recession, let us not lose another generation as we have lost past ones. And you know what I’m talking about: the talented 35 to 50 year olds today who could not get on the ladder in Thatcher’s Britain and have struggled ever since.

As we lose our jobs, it’s time instead to join together as never before. Plan together. Pool our resources. Become a community again. And do for self.

Over the last few days, I’ve seen a few things that have lifted the heart. I was at Diane Abbott’s education achievement awards, meeting our future leaders.

I attended the launch of this years’ Powerlist, produced by Michael Eboda. There are so many inspiring achievers in here. The right-on Observer worried about the disproportionate rise in black unemployment, but did not report on the powerful black people who are creating jobs.

People say we don’t buy black papers anymore because we can read about ourselves now in the daily press. Well, if we want to keep reading bad things about ourselves, then let’s keep on consuming the mainstream press who tell us our heroes are black reality show contestants – shows that are not making money for us. Diversity and Alexandra Burke are great, but they entertain me, they don’t empower me.

And the mainstream media try to tell us who are enemies are. Mainly ourselves. They tell us about black-on-black crime. Educational failure. And even the solutions are framed in negative terms. Absent fathers. Bling culture. A lack of ambition. Lack of role models.

This portrayal stands in stark contrast to the work of organisations like REACH and REALLITY who address the problems in a positive, forward looking way. By changing the discourse and moving away from the assumption that those who have lost their way are self-destructive and need to be rescued with benevolent government schemes.

They are instead asking the question: what do we need to rediscover our greatness? Because the government ain’t gonna it for us, whatever political hue it is.

When a house burnt down in New Cross killing 13 young children, we marched. When there were a spate of murders in south-east London, including Stephen Lawrence, we marched. When the police murdered innocent civilians, we took to the streets. When Cynthia Jarrett was killed, and Cherry Groce was shot, we got off the couch.

So, when did we last march? It wasn’t the last time we had a death in custody, there’s been plenty of those, including Sean Rigg in Brixton. We still have racist murders. We still have groups of young white men driving around in cars looking for a black victim. Our people are dying in prisons and mental institutions like never before.

So why have we got become so apathetic? Is it because we’ve been told that’s yesterday’s game? That we are not outside the tent anymore. That we are now around the table. That we don’t have to protest because now we can influence things?

Hell, even we have a black Cabinet minister, in Patricia Scotland. We are around the table, but is our presence being felt in the classrooms where teachers continue to kick brilliant young people out the school door? No, I don’t think so.

So, while we slowly build up our presence at the highest levels of decision-making, I would suggest that the rest of us don’t plug in, turn on and cop out.

The grassroots and the elite are different. The growing black middle class, and the not shrinking black underclass have different set of priorities. The youths being harassed by police today have a different experience to black MPs.

That’s why black political representation and community leadership are two separate things. We need both. One is not a substitute for the other. Our future cannot depend on the fortunes of an elite who in turn depend on the patronage of the super-elite. As a people, we need to do for self.

We need to reject the brainwashing that says that black doesn’t exist. Yet is there one black person who works in an institution who can tell me that institutional racism does not exist?

As Kwame Nkrumah never tired of pointing out: we may be independent but we are not free. In mind, or in wallet. When we allow ourselves the space to debate the state of black Britain, we know what’s wrong and needs to be fixed. But we’re putting too much emphasis on the state and prominent black people to deliver for us, when they either can’t or won’t deliver for us.


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