|Josette Fraser on the March for Justice in Birmingham|
The Black community’s history as a people both in here the UK and the wider world can be viewed as a series of on going struggles for equality and freedom. That history is punctuated with critical moments that represent significant and important milestones in our fight for justice and equality.
The ending of slavery, the right to vote, the campaigns for the independence of former British colonies, the civil rights struggle, the ending of the colour bar, the murder of Stephen Lawrence all represent such key moments.
Of late over the last decade marching lost its meaning and with the Public inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence many Black activists simply laid down their banners and placards assuming that racism was defeated they went back to their home and families.
In 2011 the tragedy surrounding the deaths of three Black men in close succession, Smiley Culture, Kinsley Burrell and Demetre Fraser has reignited the black community’s passion for justice . Battered by the cuts and thousands of black men and women being made redundant, savage cuts to the black voluntary sector has left us dazed but determined to fight back.
Whilst the twin headed hydra of crime and poverty has unleashed a bloody war among our young people.
Despite this there is something moving within the black community, and I have never seen such anger and outrage. Packed public meetings and passionate demands for justice are the canary’s in the coal mine. Largely unnoticed by the mainstream politicians and the press the black community is returning to its campaigning roots. There is a feeling in the air that compels us to march for justice.
Tired of the constant attack on our culture ,exhausted by the state mis-education of our children, desperate to secure our children’s future, against a backdrop of our communities slipping silently into a social abyss as a result of consecutive Governments neglect, we are now awaking from our slumber to take to the streets.
Saturday 2nd July 2011 the city of Birmingham saw unprecedented scenes as the city that is now the black deaths in custody capital of the UK came to a standstill. Over 1000 people gathered from around the country to march in support of the Kingsley Burrell Campaign for Justice. Kingsley died after being forcibly arrested by the West Midlands Police earlier this year.
The march was vibrant and dynamic. We were led by a sound system pumping out revolutionary reggae anthems. There were families with children and a broad range of campaigns representing a number of Asian and white communities who joined the march in solidarity. It was a fatalistic sight made more glorious by the wonderful sunshine and the myriad of red, gold and green banners and flags.
We made our way from Hockley, Kingsley’s family home to the HQ of the West Midlands Police in the centre of town. Half way through the march the Sikh Gudwara on Soho Road in a touching gesture of solidarity provided refreshment to the marchers as we passed their temple.
When the police started to try and kettle our march we immediately sat down and occupied the road determined to stay there until the police backed off. They did so and we continued with our march.
We brought Birmingham came to a complete standstill as we marched and chanted for justice. There were speeches at the HQ of the West Midland Police from all the family campaigns who spoke eloquently and with a searing pain that left and indelible mark on all who heard their testimony.
We committed ourselves to the long hard road to justice recognizing the challenge and the difficulty we were no less inspired. We have had virtually no real press coverage of this hugely successful march the media black out was almost total. But go and look on Facebbok to witness what happened for yourself and what you will see will amaze you.
The Black community now sees itself self in a fight for its very survival. Saturday we marched for justice and tomorrow we march for peace aimed at stopping the madness of youth violence. We march today in order to secure our future.
As the mother of Demetre Fraser told the marchers at the rally,
“I looked at the papers when Kingsley died and I felt for his mother. I put the paper down and decided to do nothing about it. Yesterday its was Kingsley, before that Smiley today its Demetre and I am that mother. Tomorrow it could be you”
Why are we marching again? Because justice demands it, our history dictates we must, it’s in our political DNA and our future that we do so. The mainstream press and politicians don’t get it but they never do. The marching season is back in fashion and poor black and white communities are taking to the streets demanding justice.
(First published at OBV: Operation Black Vote http://www.obv.org.uk/ )