Saturday, 31 December 2011

Malcolm X's Speech To The OAU 1963

From Organisation Of Pan-African Unity:

On July 17, 1964 Malcolm X, acting in his capacity as "observer", distributed this memorandum to delegates of the Organization of African Unity meeting in Cairo, Egypt. A clear indication of his growing "internationalism", it represents his most powerful formulation about the struggle being over "human rights" rather than "civil rights" also it represents Malcolm's awareness of the fact that we needed a international voice. I believe if Malcolm had lived longer, we would have membership in the African Union today. So what has changed? We need a voice and say in the African Union today. The Organization of Pan African Unity will submit a petition to join into the African Union, so our voices will be heard. So members of the African Union, we give you a message that was delivered to you in 1964 and we hope that it will make a difference, so that African Americans can have representation into the African Union.

Speech to the OAU:
The Organization of Afro-American Unity has sent me to attend this historic African Summit Conference as an observer to represent the interests of 22 million African-Americans whose human rights are being violated daily by the racism of American imperialists.

The Organization of Afro-American Unity has been formed by a cross section of America's African-American community, and is patterned after the letter and spirit of the Organization of African Unity.

Just as the Organization of African Unity has called upon all African leaders to submerge their differences and unite on common objectives for the common good of all Africans, in America the Organization of Afro-American Unity has called upon Afro-American leaders to submerge their differences and find areas of agreement wherein we can work in unity for the good of the entire 22 million African Americans.

Since the 22 million of us were originally Africans, who are now in America, not by choice but only by a cruel accident in our history, we strongly believe that African problems are our problems and our problems are African problems.

We also believe that as heads of the independent African states you are the shepherds of all African peoples everywhere, whether they are still at home here on the mother continent or have been scattered abroad.

Some African leaders at this conference have implied that they have enough problems here on the mother continent without adding the Afro-American problem.

With all due respect to your esteemed positions, I must remind all of you that the Good Shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep who are safe at home to go to the aid of the one who is lost and has fallen into the clutches of the imperialist wolf.

We in America are your long-lost brothers and sisters, and I am here only to remind you that our problems are your problems. As the African-Americans "awaken" today, we find ourselves in a strange land that has rejected us, and, like the prodigal son, we are turning to our elder brothers for help. We pray our pleas will not fall upon deaf ears.

We were taken forcibly in chains from this mother continent and have now spent over three hundred years in America, suffering the most inhuman forms of physical and psychological tortures imaginable.

During the past ten years the entire world has witnessed our men, women, and children being attacked and bitten by vicious police dogs, brutally beaten by police clubs, and washed down the sewers by high-pressure water hoses that would rip the clothes from our bodies and the flesh from our limbs.

And all of these inhuman atrocities have been inflicted upon us by the American governmental authorities, the police themselves, for no reason other than that we seek the recognition and respect granted other human beings in America.

The American Government is either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property of your 22 million African-American brothers and sisters. We stand defenseless, at the mercy of American racists who murder us at will for no reason other than we are black and of African descent.

Last week an unarmed African-American educator was murdered in cold blood in Georgia; a few days before that three civil rights workers disappeared completely, perhaps murdered also, only because they were teaching our people in Mississippi how to vote and how to secure their political rights.

Our problems are your problems. We have lived for over three hundred years in that American den of racist wolves in constant fear of losing life and limb. Recently, three students from Kenya were mistaken for American Negroes and were brutally beaten by the New York police. Shortly after that two diplomats from Uganda were also beaten by the New York City police, who mistook them for American Negroes.

If Africans are brutally beaten while only visiting in America, imagine the physical and psychological suffering received by your brothers and sisters who have lived there for over three hundred years.

Our problem is your problem. No matter how much independence Africans get here on the mother continent, unless you wear your national dress at all time when you visit America, you may be mistaken for one of us and suffer the same psychological and physical mutilation that is an everyday occurrence in our lives.

Your problems will never be fully solved until and unless ours are solved. You will never be fully respected until and unless we are also respected. You will never be recognized as free human beings until and unless we are also recognized and treated as human beings.

Our problem is your problem. It is not a Negro problem, nor an American problem. This is a world problem, a problem for humanity. It is not a problem of civil rights, it is a problem of human rights.

We pray that our African brothers have not freed themselves of European colonialism only to be overcome and held in check now by American dollarism. Don't let American racism be "legalized" by American dollarism.

America is worse than South Africa, because not only is America racist, but she is also deceitful and hypocritical. South Africa preaches segregation and practices segregation. She, at least, practices what she preaches. America preaches integration and practices segregation. She preaches one thing while deceitfully practicing another.

South Africa is like a vicious wolf, openly hostile toward black humanity. But America is cunning like a fox, friendly and smiling, but even more vicious and deadly than the wolf.

The wolf and the fox are both enemies of humanity, both are canine, both humiliate and mutilate their victims. Both have the same objectives, but differ only in methods.

If South Africa is guilty of violating the human rights of Africans here on the mother continent, then America is guilty of worse violations of the 22 million Africans on the American continent. And if South African racism is not a domestic issue, then American racism also is not a domestic issue.

We beseech independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations, on the grounds that the United States Government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and the property of 22 million African-Americans. And on the grounds that our deteriorating plight is definitely becoming a threat to world peace.

Out of frustration and hopelessness our young people have reached the point of no return. We no longer endorse patience and turning the other cheek. We assert the right of self-defense by whatever means necessary, and reserve the right of maximum retaliation against our racist oppressors, no matter what the odds against us are.

We are well aware that our future efforts to defend ourselves by retaliating- by meeting violence with violence, eye for eye and tooth for tooth-could create the type of racial conflict in America that could easily escalate into a violent, worldwide, bloody race war.

In the interests of world peace and security, we beseech the heads of the independent African states to recommend an immediate investigation into our problem by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

One last word, my beloved brothers at this African Summit: "No one knows the master better than his servant." We have been servants in America for over three hundred years. We have a thorough inside knowledge of this man who calls himself "Uncle Sam." Therefore, you must heed our warning. Don't escape from European colonialism only to become even more enslaved by deceitful,"friendly" American dollarism.

May Allah's blessings of good health and wisdom be upon you all.

Friday, 30 December 2011

TAOBQ Competition 1

Competition! Opportunity to win prizes! Competition!!!

Happy new year! This is an opportunity for only those who’ve booked to attend the You Are African/The African Or Black Question event on Jan. 20 2012, as that’s where the winners of this mixed bag of goodies can receive their prizes!

Entry is only be email, and you must add your name. You can enter more than one competition. Competition closes Jan. 19 2012. Hint: All the questions are from ‘African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent’ book.

Question 1: (Opportunity to win Proud To Be African T shirt from Chidi of Proud To Be African clothing)
Who said: “We are Africans, and we happen to be in America. We are not Americans. We are a people who formerly were Africans who were kidnapped and brought to America”?

Question 2: (Opportunity to win a copy of ‘African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent’ book by Kwaku & Ms Serwah published by BTWSC)
Who said: “Wake up Africa! Let us work towards the one glorious end of a free, redeemed and mighty nation. Let Africa be a bright star among the constellation of nations”?

Question 3: (Opportunity to win a copy of ‘Marcus Garvey: A biography’ book by Eric L Huntley published by Bogle-L'Ouverture Press)
Who said: “All people of African descent are African, whether they live in North or South America, the Caribbean, or any part of the world are Africans and belong to the African nation”?

Question 4: (Opportunity to win a copy of ‘Voice From Afar: A Ghanaian Experience’ available from BTWSC)
Who said: “For us Africans, literature must serve a purpose: to expose, embarrass, and fight corruption and authoritarianism. It is understandable why the African artist is utilitarian”?

Prizes to be collected at the You Are African/The African Or Black Question event on Jan. 20 2012, 6-8.30pm @ Westminster City Hall. Please note that event is free, but pre-booking is essential. BTWSC & Bogle L’Ouverture books and cards will be on sale

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Background: UN's 2011 International Year For People Of African Descent

Through making my guerilla documentary 'The African Or Black Question', and talking to people on African history or identity issues, it soon become clear that most people were simply not aware of UN's 2011 International Year For People Of African Descent initiative.

Considering the initiative was declared in 2009 (one of the outcomes of the 2001 Durban The World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which came from the UN's 2001 International Year of Mobilisation against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance), and launched in December 2010, it's somehow amazing that as I write this towards the end of 2011, the initiative seems to have passed by most people, hence the title of the first TAOBQ  press release.

So here's an accessible background culled from the UN/UNESCO/OHCHR online resources.

On 18 December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year beginning on 1 January 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent (PDF). The Year aims at strengthening national action and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent. This includes their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.

Around 200 million people who identify themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent. In proclaiming this International Year, the international community is recognising that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

The main objective of the Year is to raise awareness of the challenges facing people of African descent. It is hoped that the Year will foster discussions that will generate proposals for solutions to tackle these challenges.

Framework for Action: 4 objectives 
1. To raise awareness concerning the challenges faced by people of African descent as well as their contribution to the societies in which they live;

2. To contribute to raising the capacity of people of African descent and those working on this human rights issue;

3. To use Multi-partner forums to discuss the challenges facing people of African descent and arrival at proposals for solutions;

4. To have a coherent and strategic programme that effectively addresses the issue of people of African descent during the International Year and beyond.

Below are two videos, one shows the launch of the 2011 initiative in December 2010 and the other, the official closure in December 2011:

Special Event: Launching of the International Year of Peoples of African Descent 10 December 2010

If it passed you by,  you can catch this 40 minute video showing the  December 2010 launch of the UN's International Year For People Of Descent initiative and its aims.

Closure of the International Year for People of African Descent 06 December 2011

Running nearly 3 hours, you best make time to watch this reflective in chunks. It covers the closing event which takes stock of the initiatives and activities that were undertaken by Member States, United Nations bodies, specialised agencies, intergovernmental organisations, as well as civil society, including Non-governmental organisations and organisations of people of African descent during this year...


Did You Know There Were Africans In England Before The English And That An African Dynasty Ruled The Roman Empire From England Before The Anglo Saxons?

Particularly for those Africans who claim British citizenship, next time one of your racist compatriots give you one of those "Why don't you go back to where you come from?", here's a brief historical background you can take from for your retort

Especially if that racist is English, let him or her know that Africans have been in England centuries before the English!

If that sounds too fantastic, here are the facts:

The British Isles used to be a Roman colony. To shore up their defences, not to mention collect taxes, they oversaw the building of Hadrian's Wall, which cut across north of England. The Wall, which was built in the early 2nd century had Roman garrisons stationed by it, which included African soldiers.

Septimius Severus ruled as a Roman emperor from 193-211AD. He was actually an African born in Libya, who moved his seat of power to England in 208AD - he died in York. His rule was succeeded by his sons, Caracalla and Geta, who continued the Severan Dynasty.

The Severan Dynasty lasted until 235AD. And when did the Anglo-Saxons, from whom came the English, arrive on the English isles? The 5th century! Now, who's the Johnny Come Lately, eh? This gives a new meaning to who can claim to be British, or "more" British!

Click to check the 'Were there some Black Kings in Old Scotland?' thread.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

TAOBQ Press Release: Missed Opportunity of UN initiative prompts campaign on African identity

Missed Opportunity of UN initiative prompts campaign on African identity

TAOBQ campaign highlights issues around African identity and postulates that people of African heritage in Britain should be called African, instead of black

December 25, 2011

2011 was declared by the United Nations (UN) as the International Year For People Of African Descent. This prompted history consultant and community activist Kwaku to start 'The African Or Black Question', a guerilla documentary which solicits the views of a diverse group of London’s African community on the UN initiative and the preferred descriptor of their racial identity.

The documentary, filmed in the latter part of 2011, shows that the UN initiative seems to have passed by mostly un-noticed, and was a missed opportunity to put the African identity on the table for discussion. In the course of making the documentary, the aim has morphed into the TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) campaign, which postulates that people of African heritage in Britain should be called African, or terms like African British or African Caribbean, where geo-specificity is necessary.

The film will be premiered as part of the You Are African discussion, a free event taking place at Westminster City Hall in London’s Victoria area, on Friday January 20 2012, 6-8.30pm, where attendees and special guests will discuss issues around African identity (booking via

The TAOBQ campaign provides an opportunity for us to begin to claim our African heritage by proudly describing ourselves as African, and refusing to be described by a colour, which has negative connotations, such as black market, black sheep, blackmail, and black Monday.

Black is a term that does not recognise the African identity or connection with the African continent. It was once a powerful and unifying political term, which embraced “ethnic minorities” such as Africans and Asians. However, the latter have in recent years forged a separate identity, whether or not they were born in Asia, which has led to classifications such as Black And Asian, and Black, Asian And Minority Ethnic.

Who does the ‘Black’ in these cases represent?

Whilst TAOBQ has no issues with ‘black’ in relation to an all-inclusive term for political solidarity among British ‘ethnic minorities’ or ‘black music’ describing a music genre, the campaign is advocating that people of African heritage be identified as African, instead of the meaningless ‘black’.

TAOBQ recognises that as a consequence of displacement within the Diaspora, or the nature of formal British school education, some of us may have no knowledge of our African history and do not identify with Africa.

However, it’s worth pointing out what African American historian Dr Carter Woodson, who championed the Black History Month initiative, once said: "Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history”*.

Hence it is incumbent upon us to study some African history outside of formal education and African/Black “History” Month. There are libraries (those that still exist) and reputable websites, with free resources to improve our knowledge of African history. BTWSC and many other community organisations provide accessible African history programmes and courses.

Although we have an association with the production of an African British role model project**, we recognise that biographies need not be just of notable Africans in order to resonate with Africans. However, there is immeasurable worth, particularly to young Africans, when the subject is of African heritage.

If the subject has an African name, then their identity is obvious. However, if the name is European and there is no related image, then one would not necessarily know that subject is African. For example, few Africans take pride and inspiration from the achievements of 19th century Chartist and workers’ rights activist William Kofi, because with his name spelt William Cuffay (Cuffy, Cuffey etc), instead of Kofi, they do not realise he was African.

For these reasons TAOBQ suggests the following recommendations:

1. People of African heritage be described as African, instead of black.
2. The opportunity for study of African history be made more accessible.
3. People of African heritage consider adopting African names in order to assert their African identity***.

You are welcome to get involved and help bring about a change in how African people are described.

For more information, contact:
Search TAOBQ on the social networks


  1. The You Are African event is open to Africans and non-Africans, as awareness of the TAOBQ campaign issues must be raised both within the African and host communities, particularly within the media, statutory, community and educational organisations.

  1. TAOBQ is meant to be a year-long campaign, ending December 2012, by which time it is hoped that the recommendations would have started a consciousness and debate in and outside the African communities in Britain.

  1. During the campaign period, TAOBQ will continue to engage using on and offline opportunities to highlight the core issues. Updates will be posted on, and social networks such as FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube – follow us by searching on TAOBQ.

  1. A number of debates on African identity have been arranged on community radio stations for December 2011, and the first offline event is set for January 20 2012 – we expect to do more in 2012, and potential partners and media outlets are welcome to get in touch.

  1.  We also want to use the medium of theatre to discuss the issues – so if you are a drama or theatre company, we are looking for a partner to produce a play based on a completed script.

  1. Whilst we reject the ‘black’ terminology, we fully support the global African sentiments expressed in former Wailer Peter Tosh’s African' song: "As long as you're a black man, you're an African..."

  1. *‘African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent’ (Ms Serwah & Kwaku, 2010 BTWSC)

  1. ** ‘NARM (Naming And Role Model) Highlighting African British Male Role Models 1907-2007’ (Kwaku, 2010 BTWSC)

  1. *** If we are unable to go the whole hog, like actor/playwright Kwame Kwei Armah (formerly Ian Roberts), having just one African name can make the same point. Despite the opportunities offered by DNA in tracing one’s genealogy, one does not necessarily need to go through the expense of tracing lineage to a particular area in Africa in order to find a name. If one accepts that one is African, then with the help of books or online searches, one can choose an African name one likes. An easy start may be to investigate the day names given based on day of birth in Ghana.

Monday, 12 December 2011

An African Name Asserts One's Africanness And Makes Racial Identification Easier

In my African history writings and teachings, I have always referred to Jamaican heroine and maroon leader as Nana, a good Ghanaian name befitting her status as an esteemed elder and leader, instead of the English corrupted version, Nanny.

Recently, I discovered that even students who had been taught about Chartist leader and workers' rights activist William Cuffy, were not aware that he was African. This is why I now spell his name Kofi, a typical Ghanaian name, instead of the better known corrupted version. This way there's no confusion that he's African.

This is why we recommend that Africans without African names should consider adopting an African name in order to assert their Africanness, and also make their racial identity obvious without the aid of a photo or a video.

Copied below is a letter I wrote to The Voice newspaper in response to the 'What's In A Name?' article by historian SI Martin, plus another letter I wrote responding to a number of issues, including a response to my first letter.


'Embrace Your Roots'
November 17-23 2011, p.13

I read Steve Martin’s ‘What’s in a name?’ with interest, and would like to add to his query. I appreciate the fact that European or so-called “Christian” names were imposed on our diasporic brothers and sisters as part of the process of stripping them of their identity. What is however interesting from Martin’s piece, is the fact that after the abolition, when it would seem they had a choice because they were supposedly free, the number of people in Barbados, for example, who had African names actually fell, compared to during the period of enslavement!

Sadly, a similar situation has taken place on the African continent, where European colonisation, plus so-called “Christianisation”, meant Africans were either forced to or chose to adopt partially or fully European or “Christian” names. Hence it’s common for Africans, including present day presidents, to be called names like Goodluck Johnson or John Atta Mills. How many people from the Indian sub-continent, which was colonised by Britain, have European names such as John Patel, or Paul Gladstone, for example?

Names, and the correct spelling of names, are very important. During my African history presentations, I spell Jamaican national hero and Maroon leader not as the corrupted Nanny, but Nana, which befits her African royal roots in Ghana. Recently, I heard someone say that they learnt about William Cuffay, the British Chartist workers’ rights activist, but never realised he was African. It is for this reason that I now spell his name Kofi, the correct way of spelling the Ghanaian day name – the same goes for Nana’s brother who is better known by the corrupted spelling Cuffy.

I’m presently in the process of making a documentary focused on African identity, and have two questions especially aimed at my diasporic family: particularly in 2011, the UN Year For People Of African Descent, are you ready to embrace your Africanness, by calling yourself African instead of black, and like Kwame Kwei Armah, by either swapping your European names in favour of African names, or at least adding an African name to what you have?


BTWSC (Beyond The Will Smith Challenge) project designer

(Unpublished 12 December 2011)
I would like to briefly respond to three items in recent editions. Although the headline (Re: 'We're Not A Black Band - We're JLS!') was not from a direct quote from the band, I think it’s a bit naïve of them to think race does not play a significant role in the success of artists. For example, it does determine the level of marketing budget, and the openings available to an artist.

People may not say it to them directly, but I wonder what makes Oritsé Williams think that people seeing JLS do not think “that’s a black band”? Or has commercial success meant they’ve transcended the race issue, as opposed to their pre-X Factor days, when the same group, then known as UFO, were a “black band” involved in the Urban Voice competitions?

Interestingly, in the same paper, there was a piece on jazz musician Soweto Kinch (Re: We Shouldn’t Be Ashamed To Say ‘Black’). I concur with Soweto when he says “we can be very apologetic because the word ‘black’ is often seen as political and no one wants to rock the boat.” I have no problem with a music genre called “black music”, but I prefer people of African heritage to be called African, African British, or African Caribbean.

Finally, regarding Lorraine’s letter (‘Africans Unite’), which was in response to my letter (‘Embrace Your Roots’), despite the opportunities offered by DNA in tracing one’s genealogy, I do not think people necessarily need to go through the expense of tracing their lineage to a particular area in Africa. It’s important to accept that one’s African, then through books or online search, choose an African name which one likes. An easy start may be to investigate the day names given based on day of birth in Ghana.


BTWSC (Beyond The Will Smith Challenge) project designer

Using The Census To Determine Diversity And Ethnic Shift

We have covered briefly the main point of the census. Leading on from that, copied below is an item from Linstock Communications' blog entitled 'Why the census is the best measurement of the UK’s ethnic diversity', which argues that the census is the best source for tracking diversity and ethnicity.

Linstock was the PR company used by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) in 2010 to raise awareness within the African community regarding the then upcoming 2011 census. One of the techniques they used to achieve their remit was to get British rapper Ghetts to record a song and video entitled 'Invisible', which highlighted some of the reasons for completing the census.

The item copied from Linstock's blog shows how the database of a credit company is used to track the diversity and ethnic make-up, and shift - apparently, there's a growing move from inner London into the suburbs. Worrying, that data is used to extrapolate the ethnic spread by linking surnames to postcodes/localities. As is pointed out in the piece, this is very flawed - a significant amount of Africans, be their continental or diasporic, have European surnames, so how can their names alone indicate their ethnicity?

Reason why one of the TAOBQ recommendations is that if we don't already have one, we adopt an African name, which should positively establish our racial identity without any guesswork! Click to see Kwaku's letters on African names.


18 april 2011
Why the census is the best measurement of the UK’s ethnic diversity

It is widely acknowledged that the UK is becoming more ethnically diverse, and the 2011 Census is expected to verify this by showing an increase in the ethnic minority population from 7.9% to 15%. As we await the results of the census, which will be released from September 2012, it is useful to assess the merits of other data sources that highlight changes to the UK’s ethnic and cultural landscape.

Most recently, Experian, the credit agency, carried out an analysis of Britain's ethnic minorities for the Observer Newspaper. The analysis used Experian’s Mosaic database, which matches more than 50 million surnames to postcodes, to paint a picture of Britain’s second and third generation migrant communities. By tracking surnames Experian deduced that migrant communities, driven by economic empowerment, are moving away from inner London and relocating to the suburbs.

Experian’s analysis is food for thought and supports the findings of research that has already been conducted in this area by Leeds University and Tim Butler, professor of Geography at Kings College London. However, Professor Richard Webber, who developed the Mosaic database, concedes in this article that surnames are merely “useful indicators of people's origins”. This calls into question the validity of the research methodology employed by Experian, as well subsequent assertions made in relation to Britain’s ethnic landscape.

Unlike Experian’s methodology, the 2011 Census asks individuals to define their own ethnic group either by using one of the prescribed categories, or by filling in the write-in box, immediately boosting the accuracy of the data by replacing “useful indicators” with hard facts.

With its focus on data supplied by the individual and the inclusion of a number statuses including ethnicity, the census is unlike any other data source that currently exists. Not only does the census provide an in-depth analysis of the state of the nation required by central and local government, businesses, charities and research organisations; it remains the true yardstick for assessing the scale and scope of Britain’s ethnic diversity.

Bieneosa Ebite, Linstock Associate

Sunday, 4 December 2011

ONS Missed An Opportunity To Include African British In 2011 Census

The census is the tool used by government, statutory bodies and commercial organisations interested in the demographics of the nation, or specific localities, in order to justify a whole range of policies, from political to financial. It’s not just a matter of head counts – in 1991 ethnicity options were introduced (Black Caribbean, Black African etc). However, another option was created post-census to accommodate the ‘Other Asian’ category was created from answers provided in the  ‘Black-Other and ‘Any other ethnic group’. Which shows that if the ONS (Office For National Statistics) is so minded, it can use African British, instead of the Black British terminology.

The government and statutory bodies in particular rely on data extrapolated from the census to make projections in their resource allocations. In 2010, the ONS proactively engaged with the African community to raise awareness of the census, through targeted media coverage, workshops, and they got rapper Ghetts to record a song and video called 'Invisible', which highlighted why we had to complete the 2011 census.

Click to see The Making Of The 'Invisible' video. Click to see the full 'Invisible' video.

Below is coverage on the 2007 testing of the format for the 2011 census forms culled from, with the addition of a UK ethnicity classification, which shows the Scottish census as the only one which provides an African, African Scottish and African British options - it seems the only reason a similar option is not included in the census form for England and Wales is financial.


ONS test launch excludes African British community
Mon 10 July 2006
African British is to be excluded as a category from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2007 test questions for the 2011 census. The label 'black' British used is to be used in its place.
The ONS 2007 test which will target over 100,000 respondents is said to focus on the operational aspects of the census, whilst a smaller focus group approach targeting 30 respondents will provide a more personal, detailed evaluation on issues such as ethnicity and identity.

The 2006 census test in Scotland successfully eradicated ‘colour coding’ in the ethnicity category, much of this is credited to grass roots opposition followed up by a responsible action plan following true grass roots consultation. In England the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is vehemously opposed to the use of the word African to describe African people and uses its influence to advocate ‘blacks’ or ‘Afro-Caribbean’ (sic).

Scotland leading the way
Scottish 2011 Census has African, African Scottish and African British classifications, unlike the English and Welsh census.

Scotland is not the only nation to move towards the rejection of odious colour-racial ideology in recognition of more accurate and respectful ethnicity and cultural identifiers. England is also behind nations such as Canada’s who in 2001’s census posed a question that asked “which ethnic or cultural group(s) did this person’s ancestors belong?”. Canada government state it has been recording ‘information on… ancestral origins… since the 1901 Census to capture the changing composition of Canada’s diverse population”.

One of the problems in England seems to stem from the fact that the ONS defines ethnicity as a ‘label’ used by a group to define itself. They argue this point based on the fact that a majority of African Britons are taught to refer to themselves as ‘black’ Britons and this definition is erroneously ratified by the CRE and permeated by major media and educational institutions. The ONS is also concerned about the financial costs involved in producing a census which uses more paper for extra questions.
LIGALI Comment

As an African British organisation, Ligali is one of many representing the case for eradicating colour coding and replacing it with more accurate ethnicity classifications. During our ONS meetings with the Census Diversity Advisory Group (formally SPAG) we have raised the moral incongruity of the perpetuation of racist ideology irrespective of its widespread institutional usage. To its credit our concerns have been acknowledged with the ONS agreeing to help organise consultation events in tandem with grass roots organisations from both ‘pro’ and ‘against’ camps to discuss this specific issue. Nonetheless, the failure to use the upcoming census test as an opportunity to test the African British v ‘black’ British question reveals that whilst the ONS recognises there is a need to move forwards and challenge this intellectual impasse, it lacks the political courage to do so. The irony of this matter is that whilst the ONS seeks to be ‘inclusive’ at all costs recognising the likes of ‘Jedi’ Britons in its coding framework, it is perpetuating the socio-political exclusion of those who self define as African British.

2005: 'African British' Identity Tops Poll

This 2005 piece is taken from, an African human rights organisation. Its founder Toyin Agbetu highlights a couple of polls that had ‘African British’ as the preferred terminology for identifying Africans in Britain. Toyin ends with a piece that lays out Ligali’s position on the matter.


African British identity tops poll
Submitted By: Ligali Media Network
Date: Sat 30 April 2005
The name African British has topped two community polls for the preferred term to describe people previously mislabelled ‘black’.
African British has been the preferred name advocated by the Ligali organisation to describe all British nationals with antecedents originating directly from Africa or indirectly via African diasporic communities, such as those in the Caribbean and South America. The label ‘Black’ has been the subject of much debate over recent years, with many people citing the need to move away from a label that disengages African people with their place of cultural and historical origin.

A poll on the online Village forum, part of the Blacknet website, revealed that at least 40% of respondents preferred the name African British while 24% opted for the label ‘black’. Currently, the African Foundation for Development also has a poll running on its website posing the question should we adopt the term African British? At the time of writing, the poll revealed that 50% of participants voted for African British while 32% of people voted against.

The increasing awareness and usage of the term has seen individuals including journalist, Henry Bonsu and organisations such as AFFORD, the African British IT Association and the youth organisation Insaka asserting and self-defining themselves as African British.
AFFORD Identity Poll 2005
AFFORD Identity Poll 2005
Blacknet Identity Poll 2005
Blacknet Identity Poll 2005
LIGALI Comment

Accepting Africa is an integral part of our identity and culture has been one of the primary reasons that we took the stance to reject the label ‘black’ in favour of African to describe our identity. While some people will inevitably find the shift away from ‘black’ - a term that was previously a word of power - a difficult process, it is nevertheless inevitable that we reassert our identity in order to complete the revolutionary cycle back to our original identity. The English language has always been a tool of oppression for African people and the association with the word ‘black’ and its respective metaphorical and social connotations was never an accident. Black has become what ‘negro’ and ‘coloured’ were to their respective generations: redundant, inaccurate and disengaging.

A small minority of people have claimed that there is a need to ‘reclaim’ the racially offensive N word in order to take control of its meaning and turn it into a powerful form of reference. These misguided individuals have inevitably failed. Not only can you never really reclaim something that was never yours but it has led to racist minded people using the word more and more with the defence that ‘Black people use it too’. If we are to reclaim anything, let it be positive and connected to our true origin and heritage; Reclaim Africa by being African, reject colonisation of the mind through language by rejecting ‘black’.

One of the greatest African American activists, Malcolm X recognised the importance of language. While he had not yet fully rejected the label ‘black’ before his untimely death, he did recognise the importance of the African identity;

We, Afro-Americans, people who originated in Africa and now reside in America, speak out against the slavery and oppression inflicted upon us by this racist power structure…
…[The] term, "negro," is erroneously used and is degrading in the eyes of informed and self-respecting persons of African heritage. It denotes stereotyped and debased traits of character and classifies a whole segment of humanity on the basis of false information. From all intelligent viewpoints, it is a badge of slavery and helps to prolong and perpetuate oppression and discrimination.

Persons who recognize the emotional thrust and plain show of disrespect in the Southerner's use of "nigra" and the general use of "nigger" must also realize that all three words are essentially the same. The other two. "nigra" and "nigger" are blunt and undeceptive. The one representing respectability, "negro," is merely the same substance in a polished package and spelled with a capital letter. This refinement is added so that a degrading terminology can be legitimately used in general literature and "polite" conversation without embarrassment.

The term "negro" developed from a word in the Spanish language which is actually an adjective (describing word) meaning "black," that is, the color black. In plain English, if someone said or was called a "black" or a "dark," even a young child would very naturally question: "a black what?" or "a dark what?" because adjectives do not name, they describe. Please take note that in order to make use of this mechanism, a word was transferred from another language and deceptively changed in function from an adjective to a noun, which is a naming word. Its application in the nominative (naming) sense was intentionally used to portray persons in a position of objects or "things." It stamps the article as being "all alike and all the same." It denotes: a "darkie," a slave, a subhuman, an ex-slave, a "negro."

Afro-Americans must re-analyze and particularly question our own use of this term, keeping in mind all the facts. In light of the historical meanings and current implications, all intelligent and informed Afro-Americans and Africans continue to reject its use in the noun form as well as a proper adjective. Its usage shall continue to be considered as unenlightened and objectionable or deliberately offensive whether in speech or writing.

We accept the use of Afro-American, African, and Black man in reference to persons of African heritage. To every other part of mankind goes this measure of just respect. We do not desire more nor shall we accept less.

Source: Program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

‘Black was our poker branded label, African is our liberated name’ – The Ligali Organisation

TAOBQ Required Viewing: UK BHM Champion Goes Back Into History At Start Of 2008 BHM Keynote Speech

If you want to get a fuller understanding of African/Black History Month in Britain, these three videos of Linda Bellos delivering her keynote speech at a 2008 BHM event in Norwich, is required viewing.

As the leader of Lambeth Council, and chair of the London Strategic Policy Unit, she along with others, including the Unit’s workers, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo and Ansel Wong, were those who championed BHM in Britain in 1987. In addition to talking about the genesis of BHM, she covers areas including the value of respect within African societies; use of enslavement as opposed to slavery; and using African, rather than Black at a time when the separation of the Asian means the Black solely refers to Africans.

Watch and learn.


TAOBQ Required Reading: The Term Black And Asian - A Short History/The British Identity

These two thought-provoking 2006 pieces - Linda Bellos' take on the split from political Black to Black and Asian, and Tony Malone's identity-questioning take on Britishness - have been retrieved from Bellos' offline blog, and is required reading, along with the videos of Bellos delivering a powerful keynote speech at a 2008 African/Black History Month event.

From offline blog by by Linda Bellos

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The term Black and Asian - a Short History

In the circles in which I mix, there has been a bit of a buzz in the air about the term Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME). It is new and, as far as anyone can tell, it does not seem to have been the subject of much consultation. The London Development Agency and the Greater London Authority have adopted the term, so we must assume that it is official. 

I have a problem with the new term on several counts. Firstly, it has the potential to be divisive, especially without the consultation or explanation. Secondly, it is long, and is likely to be challenged by any other group that does not feel that included. For example, the growing Chinese community may feel excluded. Perhaps most importantly, BAME begins to set up a hierarchy. 

The solution to a society in which communities develop and change is not to make the list longer, but to come up with a term that is inclusive of all people who are subject to racism because of their race, nationality, ethnic group or their colour. 

The term Ethnic Minority would do it, but this would require some of us to be confident enough to feel we can compete with other groups and not be marginalised. Given where we are now in 2006, the community of African and African Caribbean people is well established and largely accepted by British society. Numerically there are many more people of Asian than African origin. But this never been a problem or an issue when we had a politics which was about fighting racism. But if we have moved on to a new phase in which we compete with each other to demand separate representation because an Asian person does not (cannot) represent an African person and vice verse, than we are in trouble. 

People of African and Asian heritage have long worked together in the UK in the common struggle against racism, imperialism and oppression. Even before the Pan-African Congress, held in London in 1902, the were countless recorded examples of unity and solidarity between those seeking liberation form British rules in the Caribbean, India (as was) and Africa. 

More recently, especially in the late 1960’s through to the mid 1980’s, we progressives called ourselves Black. This was not only because the word was reclaimed as a positive, but we also knew that we shared a common experience of racism because of our skin colour. This much was largely true of struggles against racism and other manifestations of discrimination. 

When we started Black Sections in the Labour Party in 1984, we saw it as a struggle for representation for African, Caribbean and Asian voters and members of the Labour Party. We worked successfully to increase our presentation at both local and national level. And before history gets rewritten, let it be remembered that Dianne Abbott, Keith Vaz, Paul Boateng and the late (great) Bernie Grant were selected for winnable seats directly as a result of our campaign, as were thousands of councillors from Rochdale to Lewisham. 

But, as soon as we began to be successful, we saw two major onslaughts on us. The first was the opposition from the Labour party, including the famous response from Roy Hattersley that “his Asians did not want Black Sections”, and the creeping use of the term Black and Asian. 

I have no objection in principle or practice if Asian people want to describe themselves as Asian, and increasingly some will and must define themselves as Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan. It is inevitable that this should happen and it should not raise objections. Our sense of self and sense of place is important to all human beings. But the term Black and Asian is an insult to those of us who are being described not by our geography, but by our skin colour. 

Black remains a political term that we should be encouraging, if it means being united by a common experience of racism and commitment to fighting that racism. The terms Black has a proud heritage, one we should wear with honour and pride. But if Black now means Caribbean or African, I reject it entirely. I am insulted and slighted by it since it means, in the context of “Black and Asian” that I come from no place. Where on the map is Black? I know where Asia is, but Black is not a place. It speaks of no history and defines us only in terms of our skin colour. 

Anyone familiar with Britain’s imperial history from the receiving end will be familiar with ‘divide and rule’. Some of us remember the distinctions the British tried to draw between those of us from the Caribbean, those from Continental Africa and those from the Diaspora. But for those not aware, most of the people from the Caribbean did not go there on package tours. They were either indentured labour from India or China, or enslaved African men and women. 

My father was born in Africa and came to the UK during World War 2. Both he, and his children, experienced racism because of his heritage. He bequeathed a strong sense of pride in my heritage, all parts of it. 

When I had the opportunity in 1987 to introduce Black History Month into the UK, following the advice of Ansel Wong, I did so to encourage an awareness and celebration of the African and Asian contribution to British history. Black was inclusive then and it is still a political term. If there are people who feel that the struggle against discrimination is over, good for them. And if others insist that they have moved beyond the politics of solidarity, I cannot stop the tide. But I say this, please call me African. 

If, at the beginning of a new millennium, we need a new vocabulary to describe the rich ethnic mix of the UK, then let us begin it with inclusive consultation. Where, by the way will I find the race equality impact assessment done on the GLA on this renaming decision? 

Linda Bellos.

posted by Editor @ 11:59 AM

Friday, May 19, 2006
The British identity

In the news this week is a story that the British government is to review whether “core British values” should become part of the educational curriculum for all 11 to 16 year olds.

The United Kingdom is multi-cultural and has been for centuries. This is a strength which has developed even more significantly over the last century; leading the country to becoming one of the most advanced nations with regards to legislation, social attitude and awareness of diversity. It would be fair to say that most of the UK population has embraced diversity and change. Yes, there have been and still are issues around cultural difference and race, but these are being overcome through information and education. 

So what is ‘British’? Is it the way we celebrate our lives, culture and history, or how we describe ourselves on application forms?

Within the UK, Irish, Scottish and Welsh cultures have been celebrated ever more vigorously; Northern Ireland is fast developing its own national identity, different from the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK. In Scotland, people have long seen themselves as clearly Scottish, taking pride in their unique heritage, identity and cultural achievements. Wales too is fast regaining a strong sense of what it means to be Welsh while embracing its multicultural society in a devolved environment.

The missing country in this list is, of course, England. The English often fail to celebrate the distinct nature of Englishness, preferring, almost apologetically, to define themselves as British for the stronger sense of identity attached to the name. This feeling of disenfranchisement has been exacerbated by the high-jacking of the English flag by nationalist parties. As a result, many English people became embarrassed to identify as English. An symptomatic example of this is the way St Patrick’s Day is a widely celebrated holiday in England, while St Georges day is nearly forgotten. Since the World cup of 2002, however, the English flag has slowly been re-appropriated by the crowds and many people can again look upon it with pride. 

Because, contrary to the other countries of the Union, England finds itself the only one without its own representative chamber, the English will quite naturally find themselves disenchanted with ‘Englishness’ and look to other ideas of national identity. 

So without a sense of national identity where could a country look to get a sense of community. In London there is a sense of “London as community”, a serious of joined up villages with just over 8million people. It is almost a separate state from the rest of England, in the south and south west you have local revival movements trying to re-establish English culture as new, looking to France and Europe for ideas, or looking further into their own cultural history for inspiration of identity through county, with each regional area exploring and celebrating their own cultural and historical heritage. 

The recent lack of recognition of the national English culture has led to far right political parties trying to bolster their sense of identity with their use of the Union Jack. Added to this is the problem that, for many, ‘English’ means white, when, in fact, many members of the Black and Minority Ethnic groups will and can identify as English.

The effect of this is a confused and somewhat xenophobic social attitude, which, inadequately for many, fills the cultural void left alongside the Welsh, Scottish and Irish identities.

Recent government recommendations and suggestions at trying to instil a sense of British identity are all based on the premise that we don’t have a strong identity. The recent BBC ‘Greatest Briton’ programme and the recent Golden Jubilee celebrations prove there is both interest and a wealth of cultural heritage in Great Britain already, it just needs to be celebrated in a way which clearly separates it from Englishness and allows all areas of the UK to feel British.

The proposals set forward to teach British values classes, amount to little more than an exercise in patriotism and ethics. Teaching freedom and fairness, equality and history are not distinctive enough.

We all share British values, it is in our society’s laws and governance, but you can still have British values and still be a criminal or extremist.

We are all capable of wearing multiple identities. Coming from a ‘village’ known as Brockley, I am proud to come from the area and recognise its history, Brockley, is in South London, again I am proud of the cultural and historical strength of the South of London, then I’m a Londoner, another identity I wear that forms part of the identity of the South East of England, greater still is that all these identities are part of Englishness. In addition to this when needed, I identify myself as British, using it as a more inclusive term.

The re-invention of ‘British’ is not needed. It is there and it works, what is needed is a celebration of being Welsh, Irish, Scottish, White, Black, Christian, Muslim Gay, Lesbian, and English, reclaiming local, national and cultural identities, that celebrates the fact that British means a modern, proud and multi-cultural society.

Tony Malone

posted by Editor @ 2: