Thursday, 5 May 2016

Africans For JC Values Conference Provided An Illuminating Experience

Africans For JC Values Conference Provided An Illuminating Experience

May 4 2016

The Africans For JC Values Conference had an action-packed programme which went beyond drilling down Jeremy Corbyn's 'Standing To Deliver' 10-point plan.

Africans For JC Values (AFJCV) secretary Awula Serwah preceded her welcome address by asking the early attendees to give a quick introduction.

Among the early attendees were Brent Councillor James Allie, political commentator Ayesha Hazarika, and reparations activist Kofi Mawuli Klu

Unite union executive Kwasi Agyemang Prempeh provided a brief introduction, followed by solidarity salutations from a number of social and community groups.

Esther Stanford-Xosei of GAPP (Global African People's Parliament) provided an incisive and succinct address, which covered reparative justice. Sally Callaway of Camden Momentum and Women Of Colour Global Women's Strike emphasised the importance of addressing refugee and migrant issues within African (or "people of colour") led organisations

Jan Pollock of London Disabled People for Momentum Caucus reminded groups to look to the past, when self-organised groups co-operated with other groups across different equality interests. Raj Gill of Ealing Momentum urged the audience to join the Labour Party in order to support the socialist fight.

Glasses or no glasses, community activist Beverley Wong managed to pack a lot into her golden minute, whilst one of the many points raised by Mary of the All Africa Women's Group was the right for refugees to be able to work in order to contribute more meaningfully to society.

For Zita Holbourne, a co-founder of BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), it was not rocket science that the Conservative government's austerity policy was going to have a dis-proportionate impact on African and Asian  workers. Hence the need for a campaigning organisation such a BARAC.

The presentations began with equality campaigner Linda Bellos making a quick presentation on the importance of understanding the Equality Act 2010. She advocated that parliamentarians and councillors familiarise themsleves with formal training on the Act.

AFJCV chair and former councillor Nana Asante, with the help of two short videos, took us through the Explaining How The Parliamentary System Works/How Does One Become A Councillor Or Parliamentarian? presentation.

She also helmed the key presentation, Digging More Deeply Into 10 Points Jeremy Corbyn (JC) Is Standing To Deliver. But before that, there was a whirlwind round of a mixture of serious and light-heartedness.

History consultant and conference chair Kwaku picked up the pace with the Importance Of Language & Quiz. Using African instead of "black", African History Month instead of Black History Month, enslaved instead of slave, were some of the points highlighted in the Language session, which was culled from the 'Look. How Far We've Come: Race/Racism Primer'. Though the Quiz was inspired by the Marcus Garvey quote on history reproduced in the accompanying image, there were light moments and contemporary music questions.

During the Young-ish Person's segment, Destiny read out two quotes by Barak Obama, whilst Rochelle read a Desmod Tutu quote, which comes from the 'African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent' book co-edited by Kwaku & Ms Serwah.

Ricardo Twumasi, a BHFNC research officer who's also defending his doctoral thesis this week, spoke on 'Why I Joined The Labour Party’, and Momentum.
Social commentor and political activist Patrick Vernon spoke in his capacity as chair of Labour Party's Race Equality Advisory Group on Where Is The Labour Party At With Is Racial Equality Strategy?. "Race is back on the agenda under Jeremy Corbyn," he said, before urging the audience to get involved in the party's consultation, so that they can influence Labour's race equality processes and commitments, and key policy areas such as health, housing and international affairs.

Vernon also quoted a tweet sent earlier by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, which is reproduced below. Fine words, but expect to hear the case for incluson of Afriphobia!

Former Black Sections chair and journalist Marc Wadsworth spoke on What Lessons Can We Learn From The Labour Party Black Sections? What one can learn from the LPBS experience is to self-organise, then set out policies and aims - a manifesto - before looking for people to fill roles or representation, to move the manifesto forward.

He admitted that a lot of the gains made in the 1980s/90s have been lost. "We need to be vigilant" urged Wadsworth, in order to regain some of the lost ground, He even showed an old anti-racist T-shirt produced by NALGO (National and Local Government Officers' Association now part of UNISON)  and pointed to trade unions as one of the key stakeholders that can "help fix" things.

Mr & Mrs KB Asante, who came from the Gold Coast (present day Ghana) to Britain in the late 1940s to study mathematics and statistics, and nursing, respectively spoke on Students & Politics In The 1940s/1950s. Although active in the Gold Coast Students Union (GCSU), Mrs Asante recalled how she and others from other countries would express solidarity with students from any colonial country, such as Kenya, which was fighting for independence.

Mr Asante ponted out that whilst studying at Durham University he engaged with students and locals of the mining town. It was natural for him to join the Labour party and he became secretary of the Socialist Society. Having read the Socialist rites of passage - Harold Laski's 1925-published 'A Grammar Of Politics', in addition to attending meetings in the university and studying political issues, he travelled to Yugoslavia and Sweden to help with community projects.

He joined the Socialist group which demonstrated against the imposition of a charge of one shilling (5p) on medical prescriptions by the embryonic National Health Service. Upon qualifying, they returned home, where they served their country for many years, and continue to do so. Mrs Asante rose to become a senior public health professional, whilst Mr Asante worked in diplomatic service and politics included working as an aide to Ghana's first prime minister and president Kwame Nkrumah and Secretary for Education.

Although the Discussion segment was cut short in order to end on time, not only were the main points touched upon: Importance of joining the Labour Party and helping it to reclaim its socialist roots, so that the onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell is reduced and focus is on challenging unfair Conservative policies; and a Labour win for a fairer Britain. With all the presenters being on hand, attendees were able to have their questions or comments responded to within this segment, or in the impromtu post-event networking in and  out of the premises.

Whilst the general consensus was that the conference had been an illuminating experience, with a broad theme of activism running through the programme, attendees did not seem to be in a hurry to leave after Awula Serwah's rounding up Vote Of Thanks!

AFJCV's first meeting was on Dec. 10 2015 in Brent. In Jan. 2016 it organised a networking dinner in Croydon, and officially launched in Feb. at the Houses of Parliament with John McDonnell MP as our host.

This is what McDonnell said at the well-attended event: “This is what the media and others don’t get. Yes, we're trying to get the Labour Party to be the next government, of course we are. That’s important, but we're trying to build a social movement that will support that progressive government, because if you don't do that, they’ll destroy us.”

He pointed out that it was through the launch of AFJCV and the building of other grassroots social movements that their plans can come to fruition.

AFJCV aims to galvanise Africans, be they from the African continent or the Diaspora, who believe in a new kind of politics and society, subscribe to the Jeremy Corbyn (JC) 10 point plan, which was explained in detail at the conference. AFJCV provides a platform for Africans to have a voice and highlight issues of particular concern to them.

“We want to create a society that is radically fairer, more equal, more democratic, that is based upon prosperity, but a prosperity that is  shared by everybody." continued McDonnell.

“So Africans For Momentum I think is a really good initiative, because if you look at our work over the years, it's been about confronting racism, discrimination in all its forms in society, but also argue not just for equality, but for social justice as well. 

“As many of you have been involved in this over the years, it is making sure that in addition to securing that social justice  for ourselves, making sure that we assist others in securing that social justice. It’s on that basis of solidarity that we’ve come together. So I really welcome this initiative. I think there’s a real opportunity.” 

He also urged support for the Corbyn leadership in order to weather the onslaught from the establishment, press, other political parties, and some within the Labour Party “who hadn’t yet come to terms with Jeremy being the leader.”

“A Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and John McDonnell as chancellor offers the best prospects for a better Britain for the majority of the population, and not just for a few,” asserts AFJCV secretary and conference organiser Awula Serwah.

“It will be a government committed to investment and growth, not austerity, ending zero hours contracts, and strengthening the National Health Service, which we all rely on, rather than dismantling and privatising it. Which ever way you look at it, the majority of the population, including most Africans, will benefit from the ten points Jeremy Corbyn is standing to deliver.

“But it’s not going to happen, if we don’t rally round the Corbyn-McDonnell leadership. We cannot afford to lose this unique window of opportunity,” adds Serwah. “As John McDonnell pointed out in his speech at our launch, they are facing an onslaught from sections of the media and others outside and within the Labour Party.”

If you have any ideas and can help with the organising of what should be the next AFJCV event, please let us know by contacting Awula Serwah via
We'd like to commit more to the AFJCV work, so to improve our human and financial resources, we'll soon launch a crowdfiunding appeal to cover one full-time worker and admin. Of course if you have deep pockets or connections to donations, you're welcome to get in touch!

AFJCV background video:
AFJCV launch video:

AFM/AFJCV Launch Harrow Times coverage:

Croydon networking article:

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