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IN PRAISE OF LONDON'S CAMDEN TOWN

 

By Sokari Ekine

 

Monday, November 17, 2008.

This year's Black History Month died and Black History Season was born - it's not quite clear how long the season lasts but most events are in October and November in the UK. The Inner London Borough of Camden have really made an attempt to put on a diverse range of events covering our hidden Black History for the season, from Africa and the rest of the Diaspora.

 

I am always fascinated by local British history. Black people have been in England for at least 500 years but there are records of Black people, some soldiers, some slaves with the Roman army as early as 300AD. Such as that of Camden, which is one of London's largest boroughs.

 

Recently, a London-based scholar Dr Hakim Adi gave a  short presentation on 40 years of Camden Black history from the 1920s to the 60s which was at the center of the struggle against colonialism.


The first African organisation was started in Camden, the Nigerian Progress Union. The famous West African Students Union (WASU) whose Vice President was the first leader of independent Ghana Kwame Nkrumah, started in 1925. Camden Road was a major sight of the anti-colonial struggle and independence movement right up until the 1970s.

 

The 1920s was a time when racism was legal in Britain and many of WASU members were involved in fighting the "colour bar" - a number of hostels were opened by WASU for students and any Black people visiting London; for example, Paul Robeson who wrote that it was in London that he discovered he was an African, stayed there as did my father and uncle when they were students. Other notable Black people who lived in Camden between the 1920s and early 1960s were George Padmore, Jomo Kenyatta and Claudia Jones who founded what is now Europe's biggest street carnival, the Notting Hill Carnival.

 

The United Committee of African Organisations (UCAO) was formed in 1958, and it was in June 1959, under the auspices of the UCAO that the Anti-Aparthied Movement began at Holborn Hall. Malcolm X spoke at their first Congress shortly before he was assassinated in 1965. In 1968, the UK branch of the Black Panther Movement was started in Camden.

 

Black people in Camden continue at the forefront of the struggle against racism - in the early 1980s, the Camden Black Workers was one of the first Black workers groups to form and challenge racism in the workplace; the Camden Black Parents & Teachers Organisation was created to challenge institutional racism at a time when large numbers of Black children were being labeled "educationally sub-normal (ESN) and excluded or placed in special schools.

 

The Nigerian-born Sokari Ekine is arguably the best female writer in Blogosphere. Educated in Britain and America, Ekine is a human rights and feminist activist. She blogs frequently as Black Looks.

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

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