On 27 September 2020, Janine Booth broadcasted an hour-long show on Facebook Live, tackling the two biggest issues of the year: the coronavirus pandemic and police brutality.
Legendary anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass (pictured) once wrote that ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand’. He was spot on.
The courts prejudge and penalise,
applying law, not playing fair,
convicting of 'joint enterprise'
Two words that catch and criminalise
the skin you're in, the clothes you wear,
they prejudge and they penalise
You're guilty in the system's eyes
and though they know you were elsewhere
convict you of 'joint enterprise'
One hundred years ago, an arts movement was forming in a mainly-black district of New York City. Later known as the Harlem Renaissance, it was primarily cultural but also inescapably political. Literature, poetry, jazz, theatre, sculpture and more articulated the lives and demands of African-Americans no longer willing to be grateful that they were no longer enslaved.
O black and unknown bards of long ago.
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel’s lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long.
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?
James Weldon Johnson
Back before barring blacks became banned
Bristol buses blocked brown-skinned blokes becoming buscrew
But better Bristolians batted back
bit the bullet and boycotted the buses
Bent-backed, booted bipeds bicycled,
as bitter brushes blazed between bile and benevolence
Bands of brave, belligerent banner-bearers
branded the ban biased, barbarous balderdash
This story of colour bars in the UK railway and bus industries begins after the Second World War, when Britain had a labour shortage and people moved to Britain in increasing numbers from Caribbean countries and elsewhere.
NUR Opposes Racism
Wrote poems in the rhythm of the blues
He gave folk the shivers
With 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers'
Speaking at an online meeting of rail workers in September, Janine Booth tells the story of the period after the end of the Second World War when black people came to Britain but met opposition from some white workers, until the 'colour bar' was defeated in 1966.
I have contributed this short article to Black History Month activities where I work.
Poems of the Harlem Renaissance
- recommended by Janine Booth