If one can explain the insistence of blacks – in its full political definition – to claim their rights and be counted in the history of the United Kingdom or anywhere else, it would probably be best explained in these words: HERE TO STAY, HERE TO FIGHT. We are not leaving no matter how much we are pressed. We are here to stay, here to fight for our humanity and to reclaim our history. This, among other things, formed part of our discussion today as part of the panel/interactive circle on the book Here to Stay, Here to Fight: A Race Today Anthology.
Here to stay, Here to Fight is an anthology that draws together a group of essential writings from Race Today which were until now only available in a handful of archives. “From 1973 to 1988, Race Today, the journal of the revolutionary Race Today Collective was at the epicentre of the struggle for racial justice in Britain. Placing race, sex and social class at the core of its analysis, it featured contributions from some of the leading voices of the time: C. L. R. James, Darcus Howe, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Walter Rodney, Bobby Sands, Farrukh Dhondy and Mala Sen and many more. Be there!”
We had Leila Hassan (one of the editors) and Claudius Hilliman, as well as members of the Race Today collective at the Debating Chambers of Falmer House, the University of Sussex for an intimate talk on the book as well as events of the collective.
Claudius spoke of his entry into the collective as well as the issues that were prevalent in their days, that is from 1969 to the 80s. Leila added her voice on the publication and ideology that informed the collective’s struggles and movements. Both of them spoke about Darcus Howe, who was the main person behind the movement who was greatly influenced ideologically by C. L. R. James. They were also inspired by the black movements in the United States of America, Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcolm X, the Black Power movement, among others. In 1981, there was the New Cross fire, suspected to be arson executed by a white supremacist, that led to the death of 13 black people. There were protests premised on this, especially the Black People’s Day of Action, which led to black people being more conscious of what was happening to them and standing up for themselves. This had an impact on the collective as they continued to also work on different campaigns for the rights and voices of the black people (Asians, Africans and other ‘minority’ ethnicities) to be upheld. It was not an easy battle as they tried to remain politically conscious and be relevant for their people. They made it a duty to try to conscientise people to stand up for themselves and making them to take action for what they could without waiting on others. They also campaigned and went on protests. On occasion, Leila and Jean Ambrose (who was also present at our meeting) had pee spilled on them as they protested in front of a police station. Jean also had to come to work on several occasions with her child and put him close by as she tried to typeset really fast in order to ensure printing schedules of the journal were met.
After the presentations, those present engaged with the guests on their activities as well as spoke of race, protests and ideology in contemporary times. Onyinye Nkwocha spoke of the rising individualism/selfishness that made ideology and standing up to evil to be somewhat hard. Catherine Hiza gave examples of people who easily switched loyalties on the slightest provocation or opposition. Bunmi, who was also present, spoke of how it was hard for some people to fully identify with struggles. There were conversations on how social media can help bring better or more far reaching movements but it was generally agreed that the human connection was something important that could not be substituted for anything else.
At the end of the event, it was agreed that there is a need for more collaborations and everyone present to take leadership stances to help create a society we want.
We got all the books that were available and really suggest that you should get to read the book too! We spoke about how we can work to be better and make life better.
The Black History Project events at the University of Sussex is the Students’ Union ways of encouraging diversity and creating a space for more voices to be heard. It has run, this year, since November and continues.
Tomorrow is Black History Day at University of Sussex. All day, there would be an exhibition at the Common Room of Falmer House while from 5pm onwards, there will be music, space for networking as well as socialising. We strongly advise that everyone should dress culturally all through the day, especially in the evening. The best dressed will get a prize! So, see you tomorrow.