GATHERING: A section of the crowd at the Black Cultural Archives tribute to Darcus Howe
LORD PAUL Boateng has described the late civil rights activist and broadcaster, Darcus Howe, as a fearless warrior against racial injustice and Britain’s black community will be forever indebted to him.
He was speaking at a special tribute evening hosted at the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in Brixton, south London on Sunday, 9 April, one week after Howe had passed away aged 74.
Lord Boateng was the keynote speaker at the open house event which drew about 200 people who listened to various tributes and testimony to Howe’s life and work and also from his family who outlined his funeral plans.
In a riveting 15-minute talk, Lord Boateng, one of the first four pioneering black MPs elected to Parliament in 1987, said Howe had a popular saying ‘no peace without justice’ and that is true today just as it was true then.
“Darcus is at peace now, but I have never met a brother who has fought for justice as much as he did. He was a man who stood four squares in the community, not when it was convenient but whenever it was necessary and by all means necessary.
TRIBUTE: Lord Paul Boateng with Black Cultural Archives director Paul Reid looking on at his right
“I will never forget the first time I met Darcus when I was 20 years old and I had visited the offices of Race Today, the newspaper he edited in Kings Cross. Race Today was like an oasis, it was where we went for the truth and sustenance. Darcus filled any room, not just by the strength of his personality but from a power that came with a moral vision and a set of values that is second to none.
“Darcus saw what we as a community might be that and he identified the barriers to us fulfilling our potential and was going to tear down those barriers so we might be free, so that we might be whole, so that we might walk tall. That’s what Darcus did for us and we should remember that above all else.
“We remember how warm and welcoming he was. He always made you feel that you were special, he always made you feel he had time for you. He always made me feel that I could be somebody and I will remember him for that.”
Lord Boateng continued:
“Darcus had a true sense of culture that managed to embrace the Caribbean, Africa and the classic writers like Shakespeare, he was a stranger to none of this and he showed it in his writings and in his discourse in what he had to say. That richness came from true culture and he never was afraid to share it and to celebrate it, so all those things we remember of Darcus.
LEGACY: Former UK Black Panther Minister Sonia Reid
“My abiding memory of Darcus which I will never ever forget is when he led the march in 1981 from New Cross to Hyde Park because that was the mobilisation of the black community like we had never seen before and had never seen since. It was the ultimate mobilisation around a grave injustice after the house fire in which 13 black people died.
“For all those who say there was no injustice, for all those who say it was just an accident, I say you lied. I say there was an injustice and we lived that injustice and to deny that injustice is to deny the truth and Darcus spoke up always for the truth.
“During the 1981 march, there were thousands of us, black, white, young and old it didn’t matter, what united us and what brought us together was Darcus’ organisational capacity, but also the truth that lay at the heart of the struggle that black lives matter. Oh yes, we were saying it then and people denied it then as they are denying it now. That black lives and all lives matter and we can all come together in order to uphold the sanctity and value of life.”
Lord Boateng concluded by saying:
“Darcus, you were a great warrior , we will never ever forget you. We owe you. Go well dear brother, go well.”
REFLECTION: Neil Kenlock speaks about Darcus Howe’s life
Earlier, BCA director Paul Reid welcomed the ever-growing crowd and said that the tribute to Howe was a gathering of the community in the same way if someone had passed away in the Caribbean or Africa people would be going around to the house to show their respects. It was in the same atmosphere that the BCA was opening its doors for the community to gather and pay respects to Howe.
“We decided that we needed to gather just like this in a space for us to have some conversation and to be together and reflect on the memory of Darcus. It can be difficult sometimes when people are trying to grief and express their condolences but where do we gather like this in numbers anymore?”
Also paying tributes were several former UK Black Panthers who were members along with Darcus Howe who stood up against racial injustice back in the 1960s and 70s. Among those who spoke was renowned photographer Neil Kenlock who reflected on Howe’s life.
“I was in the local core in Shakespeare Road while Darcus was in the central core in Oval Road. He was a mentor of the new recruits especially after he went on trial at the Old Bailey and successfully defended himself when he was charged along with the Mangrove Nine. He was a fearless and great man.”
One of the female members paying tribute was Minister Sonia Reid who said Howe was an inspiration because he taught them how to fight racism where they can.
“We fought not with weapons or violence, but we fought intellectually, learning our rights and defending ourselves when we are challenged. We challenged racism, injustice and all the things that made us feel lesser than human.
REMEMBERED: Darcus Howe
“Here I stand today still challenging, still questioning, still saying the things Darcus said in those days. We as a people need to stand and believe in ourselves, we need to know our rights, we need to get educated because education is the key that will open the doors for us to stand and be treated as human beings. Darcus was a very bold and confident man and that’s what made him win his case when others taught it was impossible. That’s the legacy Darcus has left for us.”
Also giving a short address was Darcus Howe’s wife Leila who said the family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community and was thankful for all those who came out to pay tributes.
His son Darcus Deese, who is an executive at Island Records, also said the family was amazed by the support from the ordinary people on social media which just showed what Darcus Howe actually meant to them and the community.
“We are forever grateful for that,” he said.
The tributes ended with a minute’s silence in memory of Howe followed by a musical rendition of the Bob Marley classic Get Up Stand Up which had everyone joining in on their feet.
The family also announced that the funeral will be on Thursday, April 20 starting from his home in Norbury at 10.00 am and will head to 165 Railton Road in Brixton, the former offices of Race Today, to lay a wreath and from there will proceed through Brixton and then on to Ladbrook Grove, Notting Hill, west London for service at All Saints Church where there will a be celebration of his life.
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