Friday, 30 August 2013

August 28 2013 - Dealing With Hands Off Syria Demo, Martin Luther King, Paul Stephenson And The Bristol Bus Boycott, Look How Far We've Come!

This video captures the Aug. 28 2013 Hands Off Syria demonstration in front of Downing Street which featured speakers including Jeremy Corbyn MP, Diane Abbott MP, Tariq Ali, Sean Oliver, etc opposing what was a seemingly imminent war/strike on Syria. 

It’s also a reminder that the Con-Dem Government defeat on Thursday is not the end of the matter. Immediately, US intentions are of concern, hence the No Attack On Syria demonstration this Saturday August 31, 12noon at Temple Place near Temple (For more information contact: John Rees 07951 535 798 Chris Nineham 07930 536 519). Also, a picket of the London US embassy is planned for Tuesday September 3 at 5.30pm. For more details:

Oh gosh – my first vblog (well, of sorts)! Wednesday August 2013!, London, England…

 I knew I was going to be bombarded with Martin Luther King ‘I Have A Dream’ 50th anniversary stuff all day! Started the morning listening to Henry Bonsu and Juju on Colourful Radio. I was so glad the interviewed Paul Stephenson OBE. Because I’m on a mission to let people know that we’ve had, and continue to have, African British led civil rights activism in Britain!

And if we’re going to talk about MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ and the March On Washington For  Jobs And Freedom, at least let’s make one important link to England – the day the Americans marched, and MLK made that famous speech – August 28 1963, was the same day the Bristol Bus Boycott officially ended!

What boycott? I hear some ask – well, check out 2013 history focus Paul Stephenson & The Bristol Bus Boycott (the other is John Archer – London’s First African Mayor):

I’m also conducting video interviews for the Look How Far We’ve Come… project, which aims to map our African British histories from the lens of racism. Henry Bonsu has already been interviewed. Earlier in the afternoon, I interviewed trade unionist and maverick politician Kingsley Abrams in Brixton. From that interview, I dashed to Downing Street, only to find the organizers were setting up.

So I took a leisurely walk across the Thames into the Southbank Centre to catch some of the Apples And Snakes/Architects Of Our Republic’s organized MLK ‘I Have A Dream’ inspired poetry and performance. I was asked by the young Mellow 9 production crew filming the event my views on MLK’s speech.

I made them know that it was meaningless just spouting out whichever bits we remember, if it makes no difference to lives. If we are having problems getting jobs, accommodation, or feel there’s no equality, then it  doesn’t mean much.

Of course, I couldn’t help pointing out that was a British civil rights moment worth celebrating too – not surprisingly, the Bristol Bus Boycott did not register immediately, though the got the point of exposing that link to the American seminal moment.

Went back to Whitehall, where things were about to kick off with Stop the War Coalition chair Jeremy Corbyn MP about to introduce his comrade in the House Diane Abbott, who wore her left badge with pride. Her short, but on-point speech was followed by Tariq Ali, and a succession of activists of various shades and union bods.

Keep off Syria, and the call for parliamentarians, particularly Labour’s leadership, not to back PM David Cameron’s desire for military action against Syria, was the common thread. But no sooner had civil disobedience been urged by Sinn Féin representative Sean Oliver than those who wanted more than just talk, took over one side of the street, and the seeming no-action by the police emboldened other to take over the other side. The end result was traffic being directed to do a U-turn in either side of the demonstrators.

We were reminded to get on to our MPs make sure they did not vote for war on Thursday (this I did, except my MP apparently was investigating the situation, so could not declare an unequivocal position as of Thursday morning!)

I decided I would go on the No Attack On Syria demonstration convened by CND and Stop The War Coalition for this Saturday August 31, 12noon at Temple Place near Temple tube station. We’ll be passing Parliament and Downing Street on the war to central London. Join, if you can! 020 7561 4830,

Rounded off the evening by returning to the Southbank, where there were more poetry performances, and a mini march from Jubilee Gardens to the front of the Royal Festival, where the poetry performances went up notch as the evening got darker, and was superbly wrapped up by veteran socio-political spoken word dons The Last Poets!

On the way home, tired as I was I scanned the day’s Evening Standard. Sure enough, nothing on the Bristol Bus Boycott, but there was three MLK articles, including a leader piece.

I managed to catch ‘Martin Luther King And The March On Washington on BBC 2, followed by MLK: The Assassination Tapes on BBC 4. The Beeb at least had a decent Bristol Bus Boycott piece on the previous day’s Newsnight, and the best online article on the boycott I’ve read thus far: Jon Kelly’s BBC News Magazine ‘What Was Behind The Bristol Bus Boycott?’:

Done. Finito!

TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question)

Postscript. Paul Stephenson is one of the subjects of the NARM (Naming And Role Model) project, which I produced for pan-London voluntary organisation BTWSC. A trailer can be found at Last year, the Harrow BHM group brought him down to London as a guest speaker. A had the pleasure of leading the Q&A session, where I probed a bit more in order to get a better grasp of the boycott. Some of the videos will be posted soon at

Earlier this year, we were back in Bristol to interview Mr Stephenson for my on-going project. The full title’s self-explanatory – ‘Look How Far We've Come: Racism, The Bristol Bus Boycott,  Black History Month,  The Black Sections,  And Where Are We In Today's Union Jack?’. Look out for Look How Far We’ve Come… Exploring African British Histories late October:, and Harrow African History Month’s ‘African British Civil Rights Since The 1960s’ launch on September 30 @ Harrow Civic Centre:

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Post-John Archer & Black Politics Presentation

Last week Tuesday’s John Archer & Black Politics presentation had one of the highest number of attendees for the history programmes at Battersea Library. I thank all who attended. Especially:

Sean Creighton, who contributed. Although Peter Fryer and several sources state that Archer’s mayoral vote was 40-39, Sean opts for the contemporaneous reports of the day, which indicate 30-29. Archer’s wife is often referred to as Bertha, an African Canadian, but Sean’s research shows his first wife was called Margaret, an African Canadian, whilst Bertha was the second wife, and English.

Knowing my stance in using ‘African’, and promoter of ‘black music’, Sean thought some clarification would be helpful. Well, there’s no confusion. Reproduced here from the TAOBQ (The Black Or African Question) blog is my position on the matter:

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 British “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.

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’.

Next on the roll-call is Allswell Eno, who’s behind the The bLack Of Respect campaign, which aims to  “restore our dignity as a race by getting people, chiefly ourselves, as well as institutions in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world to cease referring to us as ‘black’ and describe us by heritage, like every other race.” Please support the bLack Of Respect petition for institutions such Office of National Statistics and others that engage in ethnic monitoring to abandon ‘black’ for African, be it British African, British African-Caribbean, African-American, African-Brazilian etc.

Brother Omowale’s attendance was a timely reminder for me to attend the PASCF (Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum) workshop last Thursday on Kwame Nkrumah’s Consciencism philosophy. Although we only managed to read a few paragraphs on the introduction to ‘Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-Colonization’, I learnt so much about my former president because facilitator Brother Kwami made sure we understood the import of every sentence! Nkrumah did not use words “by heart” - each word was used purposefully.

If I was to sum up what I learnt - in a way Nkrumah is warning us about the mis-education of the then colonial African, who becomes learned through his engagement with Western philosophers and higher education, which if applied "wholesale" just props up the status quo i.e. Western capitalist and imperialist structures and viewpoints. It is the awakening or conscientisation which allows Africans to use that knowledge in a way that serves its people, rather than the colonisers.  

If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the works of Nkrumah’s and other political thinkers, this free, small class is highly recommended. It’s not a seminar, and be ready to be a pro-active participant. Participants are encouraged to study particular topics in order to lead a discussion. The next Consciencism workshop is this Thursday April 25, 7-9pm at WASP (the West Indian Association of Service Personnel), 163 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6DB (Clapham Common). Just turn up or email:

Nubian Jak almost gave the impression that my presentation was literally predestined, as that was the same day the news of the John Archer stamp was announced! I thought it was the Post Office that had introduced that horrible term ‘Afro-Caribbean’, but I was wrong – the Post Office’s website uses the African-Caribbean terminology. I suspect that ‘afro-‘ source must be the Daily Mail’s story, which has then been lazily regurgitated by other media!

Talking about black music, my organisation, Music Congress, is the initiator of British Black Music Month (BBMM), which takes place in June into mid-July - expect a Nubian Jak plaque to be unveiled in London  during BBMM2013. BBMM2013 will also feature a Vinyl Memories event in Battersea Library, and I’ll be roping in two old mates who attended, Clive Allick and Mark Jackson, as guests on the Veterans’ Front Room: Vinyl & Music Industry Memories sessions that will take place on the weekends in Wembley.

It seemed like everyone else had something to sell or plug, apart from me! Sean is the publisher of those useful booklets covering the likes of composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Plymouth Labour activist Bill Miller. NARM role model Marc Wadsworth, who is mentioned in my presentation on account of being the biographer of John Archer’s one time comrade Shapurji Saklatvala, had copies of the ‘Divided By Race United In war And Peace’ booklet – you can see the trailer of the film at

Elder Clarence Thompson MBE, came very early and spent the time telling me and showing me material about things he had done, which he didn’t mention during my recent interview with him for the Look How Far We’ve Come project. He’s one of the unsung been there, done it type of fellow, whose history needs to be better known. He was given an opportunity to raise awareness and fundraise to help south London’s Queen Mother Moore move from a supplementary to a fulltime school, by selling a special badge and copies of his illustrated poem. The original is housed in the UN HQ.

Cllr. Tony Belton, who’s the councillor for John Archer’s old Latchmere, ward attended with Penny Corfield, who scripted the ‘Red Battersea: One Hundred Years of Labour 1908-2008’ DVD, which tells the story of Battersea’s long and chequered Labour party history. Naturally John Archer is featured. Penny was kind enough to give us a copy, and Cllr Belton sent me a copy of the John Archer portrait, which hangs in his hometown Liverpool. See the Battersea Labour website for details of how you can purchase a sleeveless version for £5.

Brother Omowale had flyers promoting his Pan-Afrikan People's Phone-In on Sundays 7-10pm (studio phone number 020 8144 4547). It can be heard via a link on the website.

To wrap up, it’s nice to see history teacher Dan Lyndon-Cohen kept the promise he made on the BASA e-list “to be more conscious in the future” by refraining from using “by people of Black and Asian heritage”. In his comment piece for History Workshop Online, ‘A Response to the Proposed National Curriculum in History’, he must be commended for using “people of African and Asian heritage”.

Nothing to do with history – well actually it does in a sort of round about way, and it focuses mainly on BASA interest areas, Africa and Asia, here are details of two Fairtrade related activities in Brent and Harrow: 

Fairtrade presentation 8th May 1-3:30pm
In the lead up to World Fairtrade Day, there will be a Fairtrade presentation by Cllr Nana Asante, Chairperson of Harrow Fairtrade Campaign and Brent Fairtrade steering group member, at the Luncheon Club, St. John's Community Centre, Crawford Avenue, Wembley HA0 2HX. The cost of the meal is £4 and the presentation will take place after lunch. For more information:

Fairtrade Pop-up Restaurant
Mark World Fairtrade Day at the Fairtrade Pop Up Restaurant at Stanmore Baptist Church, Abercorn Road, Stanmore, HA7 2PH on Saturday 11th May 1:00-3:30pm. It’s organised by Harrow Fairtrade Campaign in partnership with Mission Dine Club (MDC) and is an opportunity to fundraise for MDC & Harrow’s Foodbank, and raise awareness about Fairtrade. The cost is £6.50, but £5.50 if tickets are bought at Menu: Jollof rice & chicken and plantain, with vegetarian option, and dessert. For more information:

Lastly, lastly, lastly – I had an opportunity to watch the South African made feature film ‘Otelo Burning’ last Sunday. Although Flash Musicals Film Club’s regular spot at the their Edgware base is the first Friday of the month, from 6.30pm (£5 adults, £2 children, includes meal), they do the occasional Sunday special. This screening had the director and one of the cast, whom we were able to chat with. Whilst the film is said to be based on real life incidents around the time the country was about to move towards multi-racial elections and surfing, there’s a disturbing end bit, which was not based on an actual incident. It was so bleak, one wondered why the director swung her artistic licence in that direction, instead of offering some positivity or hopeful alternative.


John Archer and Paul Stephenson are NARM role models and the focus of BTWSC/African Histories Revisited’s 2013 African British history presentations. it will be 100 years since John Archer became London's first African mayor, and 50 years since Paul Stephenson successfully led the Bristol Bus Boycott. For more information regarding creating or delivering an African British civil rights history programme around these 2 NARM role models: For event details and bookings:

Friday, 18 January 2013

A Lot Of Noise About "Black History" But How Serious Are We Really About African History?

A Lot Of Noise About "Black History", But How Serious Are We Really About African British History?

By Kwaku
TAOBQ co-ordinator

Jan. 11 2013 Update:
Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equa
ino are included in the recently published draft National Curriculum (NC), but for those calling this a victory, please read history teacher Dan Lyndon's 'A Pyrrhic Victory' (also copied at bottom of this page), which points out the other African history elements that have been removed. Incidentally, four days after the Jan. 2 publication of OBV's 'Michael Gove dumps Mary Seacole', there were 43 comments. Within the same period since the triumphant piece 'We’ve won ! - Mary Seacole, Olaudah Equiano' was published, there's been only 3 comments. It makes me wonder if we really cared that much, except for the maintenance of the status quo i.e. have Seacole in the NC. As in my piece below, I think I'm right to say Gove really had people dancing on a pin - he's certainly played most of us!

Incidentally, the African experience is dealt with in the draft NC under: "The slave trade and the abolition of slavery, the role of Olaudah Equiano and free slaves". Hopefully you'd have noticed the oxymoronic expression "free slaves"!

It may be cold in January, but Education Secretary Michael Gove has got many people hot and bothered - Africans, non-Africans, historians, politicians, community leaders, unionists, left-wingers, multi-culturalists, feminists, race and diversity experts, and a number of other groupings that don't immediately spring to mind, are in a tizzle as he has them dancing on the head of a pin.

Why the fuss? Because a leaked document alleges that among the historic personalities being dropped from a Gove-ordered revision of the schools' history curriculum, are the only two African British personalities - the 19th century Jamaican-born nurse and entrepreneur Mary Seacole and the 18th century African born (in present day Nigeria) abolitionist and entrepreneur Olaudah Equiano. 

Not surprisingly, there were emails flying about regarding the matter, some pointing to the OBV (Operation Black Vote) led petition to oppose the removal of Seacole from the national curriculum.

My online search for the petition initially brought me to an OBV blog entitled 'Michael Gove Dumps Mary Seacole'. It was a piece that excellently made the case for Seacole's place in the curriculum. 

So even though I was later to sign the petition, I thought the issues were wider than Seacole or indeed Equiano, who I was the first to introduce into the discussions in my comments entitled Also Expunged Is Olaudah Equiano. Way Forward (also copied below). Thankfully whilst the petition is focused on Seacole, Equiano was added in an open letter by the petition organisers and their supporters. 

Then on the BASA (Black and Asian Studies Association)  e-ring for historians and teachers, I suggested instead of just focusing on the national curriculum, and who’s in or out, that the network could set up a complementary African history curriculum, which would provide a wider list and sources for anyone interested in African history. A meeting has been called to move this forward.

So TAOBQ has done its bit cutting through the noise and offering some useful suggestions. All that’s left to say is that how many of the people making noise, signing petitions and feverishly forwarding emails on the matter, really care about African history – be it what’s taught in the schools, or during Black History Month (BHM)?

Indeed, some people are not particularly interested. They just want things to be there. I'm reminded  of the time London Mayor Boris Johnson slashed the mayoralty's Black History Month budget. There was the expected hue and cry. Though I believe the majority of those making the noise had not even attended one of the Mayor's BHM events.

Over in Harrow, I know that the year the Council "forgot" to mark BHM, a number of individuals made enquiries and noise. However, when BHM was belatedly re-introduced, did these supposedly interested fans of BHM turn up? Nope.

If you’re interested in African history, then look beyond what’s on the national curriculum. Simply because it can not offer anything near passable or adequate coverage of our history. There are a whole range of resources and programmes that cover the breadth of our history. That’s something Gove can not control!

Throughout 2013, TAOBQ, BTWSC and African Histories Revisted will be delivering a number of African British history programmes highlighting NARM role models John Archer and Paul Stephenson. It will be 100 years since Archer became London's first mayor, and 50 years since Stephenson successfully led the Bristol Bus Boycott. For more information regarding creating or delivering an African British civil rights history programme around these 2 NARM role models: email:

Also Expunged Is Olaudah Equiano. Way Forward
Submitted by Kwaku (not verified) on Thu, 03/01/2013 - 21:59.

I came by this excellent article because I heard OBV has a campaign to pressure Education Minister Michael Gove from going ahead with his plans to remove Mary Seacole from the new History curriculum.

Whilst I am not against such a campaign, I would like to highlight the fact that the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano has also been moved out, or should I say, expunged, from the new curriculum. So my question is that would a joint petition for the two African British historic personalities be better than two separate petitions?

As it is, we are responding to a leaked draft, so there may a small window for the likes of Seacole and Equiano to be "re-instated" in the new history curriculum.

Abolition of chattel enslavement and immigration are said to be left in the new curriculum - not sure what's happened to American civil rights. The old curriculum allows for topics such as resistance against enslavement, but how many teachers would know, let alone teach about about Nzinga, Sharpe, Bussa, Kofi, L’Ouverture, Nana (Nanny) etc?

Immigration, for example, should not just be about "new" or "different" peoples coming to Britain, or the change of the cultural landscape. What about the impact on the social and political landscape, as a consequence of activism which brought in race relations laws, which begat the other equality laws.

The way forward? I don't think the school history curriculum can satisfy everyone. So I've suggested to BASA (Black And Asian Studies Association) historians and history teachers that politicians will always play yo-yo with the history curriculum, and that the way forward ought to include producing a complementary curriculum which those who are interested in African British history can refer to.

If people are interested in African British history, then as much as they should fight for maintaining or re-instating Seacole and Equiano, they should also look at the complementary curriculum from which they can improve theirs and their children's knowledge of African history whether through self-study, Saturday schools, community projects, or other informal learning routes.

Some of us are not waiting on the schools to do it all for us. I run African history projects through TAOBQ (The African Or Black Questions), Akoben Awards and BTWSC. Other community organisations doing the same include the likes of Black History Walks, Nu Beyond, Ligali, etc.

A Pyrrhic victory

Although the inclusion of Seacole and Equiano is welcomed, the new NC proposals are a disgrace. They represent the complete reversal of all the progress that has been made over the last decade in ensuring Britain's diverse history is recognised and taught in schools. The tokenistic reference to Seacole and Equiano ignores the significant contributions that have been made to this country by people of Black and Asian heritage and wipes out a presence that has been recorded since Roman times. The first time any student will even know of this presence, under the new proposals, will be after studying history for 7 years! and the first thing they will be taught is that Black people were slaves. Gone is the awareness of African civilizations, the Blackmoors in Tudor Britain, radicals such as Cuffay, Davidson and Wedderburn. Where will students learn of the writings of Ignatius Sancho, the performances of Ira Aldridge or Samuel Coleridge Taylor? How can they be inspired by the pioneering efforts of Walter Tull or Claudia Jones? This misguided, amateurish attempt to impose a narrow, Little Englander interpretation of history must be challenged with the same vigour and passion as the campaign to support Seacole.