Sunday, 29 January 2012

Conservative Party Woo African Votes In 1983

Nearly 30 years ago the Conservative Party made a bold effort to woo African voters, who had traditionally voted for the Labour Party. This 1983 poster was created by the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, which also created the famous 'Labour Isn't Working' poster that depicted a long, winding queue to the Unemployment Office.

Monday, 23 January 2012

TAOBQ Press Release: Attendees Affirm We Are African


Immediate Release

From being called Africans, Negroes, Moors, Blackamoores, Coloureds, Blacks, attendees at the first TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) event declare: “We Are African”

At the first TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) event held last Friday (Jan. 20), a motion moved by Southwark Cllr Martin Seaton asking the attendees to affirm they were African was carried unopposed.

This comes at a time when the issue of racism, racial identity and terms like “black community” have been in the media spotlight due to the recent court case regarding the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and Diane Abbott’s tweet controversy, which started with someone questioning the blanket expression “black community”.

The TAOBQ is a year-long campaign which focuses on three key points: People of African heritage to be referred to as African, or British African rather than black; African history to be made accessible and mainstreamed; and Africans without African names to consider adopting African names for easy recognition of their race/ethnicity.

The TAOBQ event, which consisted of the screening of ‘The African Or Black Question’, a guerrilla film examining the African racial identity by TAOBQ campaign co-ordinator Kwaku, and a discussion entitled ‘You Are African’, took place at Westminster City Hall.

The documentary film, which features randomly chosen subjects, including some well known figures such as former Brent South MP and junior minister Dawn Butler, defence lawyer Courtney Griffiths QC, political activist Lee Jasper, community activist Toyin Agbetu, and historians Dr Kimani Nehusi and Dr Lez Henry, examines not just racial identity. Each contributor also opines about the United Nation’s declaration of 2011 as the International Year For People Of African Descent, which passed by many unnoticed.

The well attended event facilitated by Kwaku, included Butler, Agbetu, Southwark Cllr Michael Situ, veteran community activists Eric and Jessica Huntley, NUS Black Students’ Officer Kanja Sesay, pan-Africanist journalist Mandingo, verteran photographer James Barnor, and Windrush Society founder Arthur Torrington CBE.

In a small way, this event links back to another meeting in which Africans convened in London to take charge of their identity and destiny – the 1900 Pan-African Conference, which took place at the nearby Westminster Town Hall (now Caxton Hall).

“Last year, I had to present a programme at Westminster City Hall marking August 23, which British institutions call Slavery Memorial Day, but which conscious Africans call the International Day Of African Resistance Against Enslavement on account of the UN having chosen that date because it was the start of the Haitian Revolution,” says Kwaku.

“A day or two before that event, I thought I’d film a documentary focused on asking Africans in London their thoughts on the UN initiative, and their views on whether they preferred to be called African or black?

“We’d planned on having a number of events discussing the African or black identity issue. But since Cllr Seaton, without prompting from us, brought forward the issue, which was carried unopposed, we’ve decided to move to the next stage. This includes workshops to examine what it means to be a global African. We expect to have some concrete outcomes from these workshops, to help move forward the African communities in Britain.”



High resolution photos available upon request

TAOBQ background resources”

1.           TAOBQ campaign issues must be raised both within the African and host communities, particularly within the media, statutory, community and educational organisations.

2.           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.

3.           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.

4.           Whilst we reject “black” as a race/ethnicity descriptor, we are not against “black” as a singular, unifying political descriptor

5.           The first offline event was January 20 2012 – we expect to do more events in 2012, and potential partners and media outlets are welcome to get in touch.

6.            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.

7.           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.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Engaging With The African Identity

An updated version of a Voice Opinion piece by Kwaku

I’d like to begin by looking back at last year. The United Nations (UN) declared 2011 the International Year For People Of African Descent (IYPAD). On August 23, I presented a programme at Westminster City Hall to mark International Day Of African Resistance Against Enslavement - as an Africanist, I don’t call it International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, as suggested by the UN, or Slavery Memorial Day, as favoured by British institutions.

After that programme ended, I began filming a guerrilla documentary motivated by the IYPAD initiative, which I thought provided a good opportunity to investigate the issue of the African identity. Each contributor was asked whether they were African or black, and if they knew about the IYPAD initiative. Sadly, IYPAD was a missed opportunity to address the issue of African identity.

If we lived in our motherlands, say, Ghana or Jamaica, perhaps the issue would not be so pressing. However, for those of us living in the diaspora, it’s something we need to deal with. Racial identity is crucial to a people’s psyche and progress, and it is for this reason that I believe we should address the issue.

Non-Europeans in this country have historically been called black. Between the 1960s to 1980s, politically active Africans and Asians came together under the political black banner to fight racism. Organisations such as Southall Black Sisters, and Labour Party’s Black Sections, were made up of Africans and Asians. Black Sections counted the Asian politician Keith Vaz among its crop of four black MPs from the 1987 general election.

But in recent years black organisations have launched under terms such as Black and Asian, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. The Asians, whether or not they were born in the UK, have claimed a separate identity. So why don’t these organisations just change Black to African?

Our African identity in no way devalues the battles that have been fought and won by Black organisations and movements. The African-Americans describe themselves as Africans without rejecting Black Power. And by the same token, I’m not against organisations that go under the political Black, so long as African members are not described as black.

Some of us prefer to be described as West Indian or Caribbean. One can argue that the West Indians are actually the Europeans who went to the Caribbean as planters, business people and enslavers, whilst the enslaved Africans there were called African or negro.

The term Caribbean does not necessarily refer to people of African heritage. Strictly speaking, it refers to the Carib people. But even if it’s widened to cover people living in the Caribbean, then that includes Asians and Europeans. So unless it is qualified, as in African Caribbean, it could mean anything.

There is the argument that Africans born in the UK are British. That can be correct with regards to nationality, but not ethnicity/race. An African born in China is still African, and not Chinese. As Malcolm X said, if a cat gives birth in an oven, it produces kittens, not biscuits.

I’ll highlight two groups who prefer to be called black, British, or anything else but African. The first group actually have parents who come directly from the African continent. The main reason for this dis-engagement with their African identity is rooted firstly in poor knowledge about Africa and its history, and secondly the negative imagery and stereotypes associated with Africa.

These reasons also apply to the second group, who have their antecedents located in the Caribbean. But it’s compounded by the notion that Africans sold their forebears into enslavement, they’ve never been to Africa, they don’t know which part of Africa they come from, they can’t speak an African language, or that they have European blood.

There are some Africans who live on the African continent who do not speak any African language. Does this mean they are not Africans?

Yes, some selfish and mis-guided Africans were involved in the enslavement of fellow Africans. But there are traitors within every ethnicity/race. For example, there were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis, but I wonder if there are Jews who disassociate from their Jewish heritage because of the behaviour of the Jewish collaborators.

Putting aside offsprings of relatively recent mixed heritage relationships, one wonders what’s so unappealing about the African identity that some people whose phenotype is unmistakably African, but have a drop or two of European blood rooted in enslavement, prefer to disassociate from their African identity, whilst clinging to the vestiges of enslavement/colonialism and questionable associations with the oppressors.

Racial identity should be tied to land, and there is no land called Blackland, Blackistan, etc.

Incidentally, it is worth remembering the National Front or other racists don’t distinguish between Africans born on the continent, Africans from the diaspora, or Africans born in the UK with British passports, or those with some European blood!

I’ll end by referring to the IYPAD. The expression “African descent” is beginning to fall out of favour. There are those trying out expressions such as “African ascendant”. Interestingly, Dr Runoko Rashidi states in the TAOBQ film that African descendants are the Europeans (and I imagine any other race/ethnicity  that’s come out of Africa). These days I choice plainly African, African heritage, or global African.

Kwaku is the founder of Music Congress and leads on The African Or Black Question (TAOBQ) campaign and its You Are African discussion and film screening on Jan. 20 2012 at Westminster City Hall.

22/01/2012 Update: Following the first TAOBQ event on January 20 2012, the campaign has moved past discussing whether or not one is African. For those at the event who passed unopposed the motion that they were African, and all other like minded people, the next step is to deal with TAOBQ: What It Means To Be A Global African? provisionally set for April 2012.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

BOGLE L'OUVERTURE/BTWSC Books And Resources For Sale Stall

Here is a list of books and other resources available for CASH sale at our events (please note that some may be single items or very low in stock):

From BTWSC stock:

African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent (Kwaku, book £8). Click for more info

Voice From Afar (Asante, book £10). Click for more info

NARM Role Model Book (Kwaku, book and DVD £5 p&p per item). Click for more info

BTWSC Because... Youth Crime (BTWSC, book £5)

What They Said I Should Be: The Story Of Female Movers & Shakers (Kwaku, DVD £10)

Brent Black Music History Project (Kwaku, book & DVD £5 p&p per item). Click for more info

It's Cool To... Care About The Environment (Kwaku, DVD £5 p&p). Click for more info

It's Cool To... Recycle (Kwaku, DVD £5 p&p) Click for more info

From Bogle-Louveture stock:
plus a selection of cards (75p each)

author title  price (£)
jordan Great Abollition Sham 9.99
huntley Two Lives: Florence Nightingale & Florence Nightingale     3
walker Roots of Black History 8
huntley chedi jagan 3
rodney Groundings with brothers 5
LEVI Journey as wire bend 5
safo cry a whisper 5
gilroy black teacher 5
daniels domestic 10
rodney How Europe underdeveloped Africa 20
siddiqi feast of nine virgins 5
bloom ackee 5
hinds journey to illusion 5
thomson a journey to haiti 10
ross tynter bender 8
haynes the book of night women 9
henfrey coming home 5.95
salkey the one 2
levy small island 7.99
salkey caribbean folk tales 5
huntley Marcus Garvey 3
Trotman Proverbs of Guyana 10
abiola Reparations 10
A. Salkey joey tyson 3
farki karl Black 3
salkey anancy score 5
salkey anancy traveller 6
rajendra child of the sun 5
bloom touch mi tell mi 5
Gilroy Gather the Faces 5.95
Gilroy In Praise of love & children 7.99
Kalu Lick Shot 3
hosseani a 1000 splendid suns 10
walker colour purple 5
soyode messenger boy 5
bainbridge injury time 3
elder african survivals 5.95
blackman trust me 3.99
Shillingford Most wanted 3
when will I see again 10
home again 9.99
ngozi. Adichiehalf of a yellow sun 5
thomson The Dead Yard 10
Ross A way to catch the dust 9
Briscoe Beyond Ugly 5