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Sam King MBE

Sam King MBE 

BHM2021 – Day 13

“Mr Windrush”

“My performance was far above these petty non-entities. I held fast to my integrity.”

“I was not welcomed by some; not a smile crossed the faces of those who were too busy guarding the overtime. I spoke only when necessary. “

Sam King was born in 1926 in Jamaica and worked on his father’s plantation business. However in 1944 he decided to join the Royal Air Force and serve under Britain during world war two in England and Scotland. He returned to Jamaica but a hurricane had destroyed much of his family’s plantation.

So King was one of the 492 passengers whose transatlantic voyage on the Empire Windrush in 1948 symbolised the earliest wave of post-war Caribbean migrant labour to Britain. He reinlisted in the RAF and served until 1953 and applied to the Metropolitan Police but was unsuccessful.  Additonally there was a lot of racial discrmination in trying to purchase a house and one bank advised he return to Jamaica whilst requesting a mortgage. However the house owner was disgusted by this and supplied the mortgage to King making them the second Black house owners in Southwark. He was finally successful in the Post Office and became involved in the postal union as well as organising community initiatives. 

King also knew Claudia Jones and helped her launch the West Indian Gazette as well as organise first Caribbean style carnival before the Notting Hill Carnival.  His commitment to community relations assisted with the Notting Hill Riots and again with National Front in the 1970s and 1980s. He then was elected as a councillor and then went on to become the first black mayor of the London borough of Southwark, in 1983, and helped pave the way for the Notting Hill carnival, Britain’s first multicultural street festival. 

In 1995, he and Arthur Torrington set up the Windrush Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to keeping alive the memories of the young men and women who braved the high seas to come to Britain after the war. He spoke enthusiastically at community events and schools about his experiences. In 1998 he received the MBE as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for Windrush. He published his autobiography, Climbing Up the Rough Side of the Mountain, the same year. In 2016 he passed away before the anniversary of his arrival on Empire Windrush and just after he received the freedom of the borough of Southwark. At his funeral, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“…He educated Londoners with Caribbean food, Caribbean culture, Caribbean music. London is a better place, Britain is a better place, thanks to him and his family.”

Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

 

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Eric Irons OBE

Eric Irons OBE

BHM2021 – Day 11

“This plaque is a wonderful way to secure the legacy of our father, Eric Irons, as a man who devoted his whole life to serving people of all colours, religion, age and the whole community,” his sons said in a joint statement about the news…”

“Eric Irons OBE is perhaps the ultimate example of Nottingham’s rebellious and pioneering spirit.”

“There was racial tension and motivation at its core. There was suspicion and mistrust on both sides”.

“The work of Eric Irons in bridging cultural differences by helping a cautious and fearful migrant community to make a home and a local white community to accept them is hard to overstate.”

“I have been asked on several occasions to reflect on my time in the RAF and on whether colour and racial prejudice existed. The answer is simply yes even though as an institution in theory prejudice was not tolerated. I met some wonderful people in the RAF but the Force also reflected society and the people were

no different from those we met in everyday life”.

Eric Irons was born in Jamaica in 1921. He joined the Royal Airforce in 1944 and after serving in world war two he decided to stay in Nottingham where he married and settled.

Irons was committed to tackling racial inequality and campaigned for social justice for Black people in terms of employment, health and education. He setup the Colonial Social and Sports Club in his house to help build community cohesion locally. He also setup a committee to look at race and those in positions of leadership in terms of employment opportunities. Irons liaised and with some negotiation with Nottingham City Council managed resolve some issues with more Black people being employed in a wider range of roles.

In 1958, racially motivated riots took place in the St Ann’s district of Nottingham which received local, national and international attention. Irons then worked with the council to address concerns and issues for the Black community. He also worked with services and the Consultative Committee for Coloured people to address the West Indian High Commission who were investigating the riot.

In 1962, Eric Irons became the first Black magistrate in Britain and served for 29 years. Also for all this efforts in campaigning for social justice and racial equality, he was awarded an OBE in 1978 and was later awarded an honoury degree for improving race relations in Nottingham by the University of Nottingham. He passed away in 2007 and was commemorated as a champion for social justice in Nottingham with an acquired portrait of Irons in the National Portrait Gallery and a memorial plaque in Nottingham.

Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

 

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Sergeant William Robinson Clarke

Sergeant William Robinson Clarke

BHM2021 – Day 7

“The Pioneering Sgt William Clarke”

William Robinson Clarke was born in Jamaica in 1895. He became a mechanic and learned to drive before many during that time. When learning of the start of World War 1 in 1914, Clarke with his own money travelled to Britain to enlist and support the British war effort. 

Historically there was rules to prevent people from different ethnic backgrounds from joining the British armed forces. Before 1940 the British Forces had something in place called the ‘Colour Bar’ for the army, airforce and navy. This stipulated that only British men of European descent could be officers in her majesties armed forces. Yet in October 1939 the British government temporarily removed  the formal, codified military ‘colour bar’. The British armed forces grew, and the casualties began to rise, the Colour Bar was relaxed allowing Clark to join the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. He began as an air mechanic and then was posted as driver in France. 

The in 1916 he began training as a pilot and became qualified in 1917 and was promoted to Sergeant. He was the first Black pilot to fly for Britain in 1917. However in July 1917 he was attacked by German fighters and described in a letter to his mother (found later): 

“I was doing some photographs a few miles the other side when about five *** scouts came down upon me, and before I could get away, I got a bullet through the spine. I managed to pilot the machine nearly back to the aerodrome, but had to put her down as I was too weak to fly any more… My observer escaped without any injury.”

William was hospitalised but recovered from his wounds and returned to duty with the RCF until 1919 when he was honourably discharged and received the silver war badge. After full recovery her returned to Jamaica worked in the building trade. He remained active as a veteran and became Life President of the RAF Association’s Jamaica Branch and passed away on 1981. At the funeral, a Professor at the University of the West Indies, spoke about the pilot’s bravery: 

“The episode in 1917 in which Pilot Clarke while on an operational flight was attacked by German fighters in the air, and though severely wounded, nevertheless managed to fly his R.E.8 aeroplane back to a relatively safe crashing-landing behind the allied lines, places him in that special category of the genuine war hero.” 

William Clarke certainly paved the way for thousands upon thousands of men and women, whose skin colour had once barred them from pursuing a military career, to choose their destiny and fight for their country.

Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

John Alcinder

John Alcinder 

BHM2021 – Day 6

“Dr. Alcindor’s achievements in the medical and military fields, as well as his ardour for racial equality, are a testament to the impact one can have on society regardless of origin. His story will serve to inspire future generations.”

[ Reshma Bissoon-Deokie, acting high commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago]

Dr John Alcindor as born in 1873 in Trinidad.  He was educated in Trinidad and won an Island Scholarship to study medicine at Edinburgh University in Scotland. After graduating he worked in hospitals in London and starting his own practise in 1907. 

Alcindor was also very active and joined the African Association in the 1890s. He was involved in the early Pan African Conferences. He was an activist for racial equality which was something he had experience of through his career. He had to overcome prejudice and discrimination to help others during the First World War.  Acinder had a medical degree and experience of working in several London hospitals, but was rejected by the Royal Army Medical Corps when the First World War broke out in 1914. He wanted to help the war effort by using his skills. However he was rejected outright by the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 because of his ‘colonial origin’, a cruel racist snub. Nevertheless Dr Acinder selflessly  was determined to play his part and signed up as a British Red Cross volunteer. He treated countless wounded soldiers at London railway stations as they returned from the battlefields. The British Red Cross awarded him a medal for his life-saving work.

Following the war, Dr Alcindor, a resident of Paddington,  was the senior district medical officer for the area. Renowned for his devotion to patients, whatever their origin or race, he became known locally as the celebrated ‘Black doctor of Paddington’ and passed away in 1924.

He was also involved in other areas of work including  research and published articles on cancer, influenza, tuberculosis and syphilis. His research also set the groundwork for the correlation between poverty, low quality food and unbalanced diets in poor health.

But in 2014, on the 100-year anniversary of the start of the war – the good doctor finally was awarded the recognition he had so long deserved. A  heritage blue plaque* was unveiled in his honour at a Paddington health centre.

The inscription reads: ‘Dr John Alcindor 1873-1924. Physician, Pan-Africanist and WW1 local hero’.

Despite the obstacles he faced, Dr Alcindor found a way.

Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

Sarah Remond

Sarah Remond

BHM2021 – Day 5

“My strongest desire through life has been to be educated.”

“When I walk through the streets of Manchester and meet load after load of cotton, I think of those 80,000 cotton plantations on which was grown the $125m worth of cotton which supply your market, and I remember that not one cent of that money ever reached the hands of the labourers.”

“While our mother never excused those who unjustly persecuted those whose only crime was a dark complexion, her discipline taught us to gather strength from our own souls; and we felt the full force of the fact, that to be black was no crime,”

“…I dread starting for many reasons. I do not fear the wind nor the waves, but I know that no matter how I go, the spirit of prejudice will meet me”

“…prejudice against colour has always been the one thing, above all others, which has cast its gigantic shadow over my whole life.”

“Let no diplomacy of statesmen, no intimidation of slaveholders, no scarcity of cotton, no fear of slave insurrections, prevent the people of Great Britain from maintaining their position as the friend of the oppressed negro.”

Sarah Parker Remond was born a free African American in Massachusetts in 1826 and known activist, lecturer and abolitionist. She gave her first public speech at the age of 16 against the institution of slavery and she was the younger sister of Charles Lenox Remond (Orator and Abolitionist). 

She committed her voice to raising awareness about the slavery abolitionist movement in the US and became a lecturer. Her persuasive speaking style was powerful and was described by William Lloyd Garrison as “calm, dignified manner, her winning personal appearance and her earnest appeals to the conscience and the heart.”

Remond was becoming renowned for her lecturing and was invited to Britain to raise awareness about abolition of slavery. She enlightened and shocked British listeners about the treatment of slaves and the racial discrimination of free and freed Black people in the US. She toured England, Ireland, Scotland and appeared at times with Frederick Douglas. Whilst speaking she also let on the sexual exploitation of Black women whilst in slavery.  She was also involved in feminist causes and was thought to be the only Black woman in British history to sign the very first women-only, 1866 petition requesting the right of women to vote as part of the British Suffrage movement. 

In 1867 she moved to Florence in Italy and studied medicine and became a doctor, practising medicine for 20 years. While settled in Italy she also married and moved to Rome. She passed away in 1894 and one notable tribute was the University College London renaming their Centre for the Study of Racism & Racialisation the Sarah Parker Remond Centre.


Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglas

BHM2021 – Day 4

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.”

“Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”

“Thus is slavery the enemy of both the slave and the slaveholder.”

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”

“A smile or a tear has no nationality; joy and sorrow speak alike to all nations, and they, above all the confusion of tongues, proclaim the brotherhood of man.”

Frederick Douglas was born into slavery in 1817 in Maryland, US. He learnt how to read at 12 from his slave holders wife and taught other enslaved people to read. Douglas attempted to escape slavery a few times and eventually was successful when he boarded a train to Maryland and eventually reached the abolitionist David Ruggles home in New York. He then married a free black woman from Baltimore, Anna Murray who strengthened his inspiration for freedom through her status. In 1843, he joined the American Anti-Slavery Society’s “Hundred Conventions” project, a 6 month tour around the US, speakign about his experience as a slave. After he wrote the first of his three autobiographies.

Douglas also travelled and toured Great Britain and Ireland and met Irish nationalist and abolitionist Daniel O’Connell. He felt his experience as a person of colour on the isles was much better than how he was treated in the US. He also delivered one of his most famous speeches, the “London Reception Speech” when in England. He also stayed in Scotland and was considered one the earlier abilitionists to delivery antislavery speeches and develop the campaign, earning him the appointment of ‘Scotland’s Antislavery agent’. Douglas’s influence and presence has been commemorated with plaques in Ireland, a plaque, mural in Edinburgh. During this time, Douglass’ British supporters gathered funds to purchase his legal freedom.

When he returned to the US in 1847 he started to publish his own abolitionist newpaper. He also became a supporter of the rights of women and stated it was only fair to award the right to vote for women as well as for Black men. Douglas also advised against the unfair treatment of Black soldiers to President Lincoln during the Civil War. Later he became the first African American to be nominated as Vice President and appearing on the presidential ballot in 1872. He passed away from a heart attack in 1895 in Washingotn DC. Frederick Douglas’s most important legacy was the use of his words to fight for the freedom and rights and prove :

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

Mary Seacole

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Mary Seacole
BHM2021 – Day 3

“I am not ashamed to confess that I love to be of service to those in need of a woman’s help. And wherever the need arises, on whatever distant shore, I ask no greater or higher privilege than to minister to it”

“I must say that I don’t appreciate your friend’s kind wishes with respect to my complexion. If it had been as dark as a n******’s, I should have been just as happy and useful, and as much respected by those whose respect I value: and as to his offer of bleaching me, I should, even if it were practicable, decline it without any thanks..”

“ I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related to those poor mortals you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns. Having this bond, and knowing what slavery is, having seen with my eyes and heard with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors, is it surprising that I should be somewhat impatient of the airs of superiority which many Americans have endeavoured to assume over me.

“Doubts and suspicions rose in my heart for the first and last time, thank Heaven. Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?”

Mary Jane Seacole, (23 November 1805 – 14 May 1881) was a Jamaican-born woman of Scottish and Creole descent. She was a British-Jamaican healer, nurse, and businesswoman who set up the “British Hotel” during the Crimean War.

As a child, the young Mary was very interested in medicine, and learnt many traditional Caribbean and African medicines and was schooled and trained as nurse.

In 1821, she visited London for a year and the people at the time had a range of attitudes towards racial issues. Some, like those campaigning to abolish slavery, believed in the equality of races, others sought to prove the Negro race were scientifically inferior. Mary experienced a range of different attitudes, when seeking employment as an official nurse in the Crimean War.

During the Crimean war, she provided aid, help for wounded soldiers and nursed many of them back to health. Sometimes known as ‘the Black Florence Nightingale’ she too was a pioneering nurse and heroine of the Crimean War. Coming from a tradition of Jamaican and West African “doctresses”, Seacole showed her “compassion, skills and bravery while nursing soldiers during the Crimean War”, using herbal remedies. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton. Regardless of her gender and race. she defied conventions and expectations. She deserves to be recognised for her solutions based approach as she said:

“Beside the nettle, ever grows the cure for its sting.

Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

 

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano
(1745 to 1797)

BHM 2021 – Day 2

***Trigger and Content Warning – Slavery and Abolition Experience***

” It is hoped… to remove the prejudice… against the natives of Africa on account of their color.”

“Should they too have been made slaves? Every rational mind answers, No.”

“ But is not the slave trade entirely at war with the heart of man? “

“This degrading necessity, which every black freeman is under, of advertising himself like a slave.”

“Tortures, murder, and every other imaginable barbarity and iniquity are practiced upon the poor slaves with impunity.”

As part of history its important to go back and hear from those voices of change. Here is a voice of a man who wrote and campaigned against slavery in 18th century Great Britain. He created awareness about the experiences of his enslavement and his subsequent freedom and, most importantly, his mission to see the slave trade ended.

Olaudah Equiano (1975-31 March 1797) was a writer and abolitionist from Nigeria who was enslaved as a child in Africa where he was taken to the Caribbean and sold as a slave to a Royal Navy officer. He was then sold twice more but then bought his own freedom in 1766 for £40. As a freeman in London, he was part of the abolitionist group, Sons of Africa, where he was one of the leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780’s. He published his autobiography as a writer depicting the horrors of slavery which helped with pushing forward the British Slave Trade Act 1807. He was married with two children and died on 31 March 1797.

His most important work was his autobiography, a narrative and first account of his life experience of slavery which helped to impact the conscious of those who still relied on slavery. The book had two titles ‘The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano’, or ‘Gustavus Vassa, the African’ to reflect his African identity and slave identity.  Olaudah Equiano is the name he received from his parents in Africa. Gustavus Vassa is the name he was given by the master who purchased him as a slave. 

Despite all that hardship Equiano faced, he still had a hope for change:

“I thought whatever fate had determined must ever come to pass.”


Lets acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.

Madiba - Nelson Mandela

Madiba – Nelson Mandela

By Stuart Lawrence 

BHM21 – Day 1

 

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

 

I can only begin my journey with a man who without his support, we would never have raised awareness of what happened to Stephen nationally and internationally – Madiba , Nelson Mandela! It was the most humbling and honourable experience to have met him and spent time in his prescence. His support to Stephen’s case contributed greatly to British history.

Nelson Mandela was born on 18th July 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. He studied law and became one of South Africa’s first black lawyers. He joined the African National Congress party to support the resistance against the ruling National Parties’s apartheid policies after 1948. He was imprisoned for 27 years after being arrested and put on trial for treason.

During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain freedom. Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. After his release, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier.

He was a South African politician and an anti-apartheid revolutionary who became President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first elected black South African to be in office in a fully representative, multiracial election. His government focused on taking down apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, prejudice, and inequality. Nelson Mandela often referred to as Madiba – his Xhosa clan name. Nelson Mandela died on 5 December, 2013.  At his memorial, Barack Obama said:


“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela ever again, so it falls to us, as best we can, to carry forward the example that he set. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”


Let’s Celebrate Black History Month, please like, share to raise awareness and start the dialogues.