View from the House: Still a way to go in the fight against racism


- Credit: Lyn Brown

Every year, I attend a service at West Ham Parish Church to celebrate Black History Month.

It’s a lovely service, full of joy and festivity. It’s a real delight to be there.

Newham has always been a diverse place, receiving migrant communities from all over the world.

That was a major selling point in our winning bid for the Olympic Games.

Pride in who we are wasn’t always part of our civic life.

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When I was young, the council had an openly discriminatory housing policy.

Temples, mosques and Gurdwaras were frequently prevented from opening.

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Government policy meant no school could have more than one-third “immigrants.”

Black and Asian children were bussed around Newham, in order to comply.

My teenage years were interspersed with reports of racial violence.

In May 1974, the fascist National Front received 29 per cent of the vote in a Plaistow Ward and 25pc in Canning Town.

My mum and dad confronted some aggressive racist men, to stand with our black neighbour, defeating those trying to drive her away.

In Newham there was inspirational resistance by black and Asian people, when our communities were threatened by this violence and racism.

We marched in our streets, and organised. The Newham Monitoring Project was established, creating a 24/7 helpline for those facing racial violence and harassment.

It’s this resistance, solidarity and beautiful brave diverse community I celebrate and give thanks for each year. I am proud to be part of it.

Our celebration of how far we have come is tinged with an understanding of how far we yet have to go.

Like many Londoners, I have family who are part of the Windrush generation.

They came to Britain as British citizens, believing, despite the struggle with racism, they could make this country their home, fit for their children and grandchildren.

They have been betrayed and made to feel like criminals.

So our fight against racism and fascism continues.

Let’s celebrate how far we have come, but recognise there’s still a real job to do.

Let’s unite and recommit ourselves to fight the awful scourge and blight of racism in our society.

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