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:

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