Celebrating 50 years of impacting Britain's heritage 
 
Protocol demands that I should address you as my lords, ladies and gentlemen, but I shall set protocol aside and address you as, ‘Family and Friends’. On behalf of the Executive of the West Indian Standing Conference (WISC), I bid you welcome.  Today, 24 May 2008, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of campaigning and championing the principles of Race Equality in the United Kingdom.
 
The concept of race equality was designed by its originator, Joseph Alexander Hunte, as a panacea to halt the spread of racial riots of 1958 in Notting Hill, London and Nottingham.  In the wake of his death in 1983, Robbie Robinson, then Deputy Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), designated to Joe Hunte the accolade, “Father of Community Relations” for his hypothesis, delivered in 1958:   
 
“In a democracy, the Government of the day has a responsibility to create an environment in which all its people, irrespective of race, colour, class, creed, gender, sexuality, or disability are given equal access to education and equal access to participate in the creation of the wealth of the nation.”
 
As a consequence of the hypothesis and the campaign led by WISC, the UK witnessed the advent of the 1965 Race Relations Act.  That Act gave rise to the Race Relations Board.  A revision in 1968 led to the creation of the Community Relations Councils (CRCs).  A further revision in 1976 led to the creation of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).   Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 established in 2000, the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). On an International scale, WISC’s influence has impacted on Europe through the Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals. This came about when WISC complained in 1988 when a coach load of Caribbean Africans with British Passports were denied entry into France on a shopping trip.  As a consequence, the objectives of the Community,   amended by the European Union Treaty, was designed to create an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, fostering closer relations between the States belonging to the Community, ensuring economic and social progress by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe, encouraging the constant improvement of the living conditions of its peoples, preserving and strengthening peace and liberty and promoting democracy on the basis of the fundamental rights recognized in the constitution and laws of the Member States and in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
 
In October 2007, the Labour Government under the Leadership of The Rt. Hon Tony Blair combined the three Commissions to create the Single Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).
 
WISC argues that the advent of race equality, beginning with the 1965 Race Relations Act has significantly enhanced the socio-economic and socio-political heritage of the United Kingdom.  It significantly enhanced the way in which socio-economic and socio-political decisions are made.  In every institution and every business, the laws professing equal opportunity have become the catalyst for relationship changes, and enhancing the manner in which people are managed, enlightened and developed.  People have been given rights which they never had before to protect them not only in employment but every human relationship context.
 
The CEHR has redefined the six strands under which people are protected as: race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and faith. Although Trevor Phillips, a man of African Heritage is Chairman of the CEHR, there is a significant weakness in that race has not been given a permanent place on the governing body, as has gender and disability. 
 
One must remember that this remarkable piece of legislation arose from the racial riots essentially in Nottingham and Notting Hill in 1958, and the killing of Kelso Cochrane in 1959 in circumstances quite similar to that of Stephen Lawrence.  WISC argues that the quest for race equality and equal opportunities have created a major industry, in which it is now illegal for job vacancies to carry the following statement, “No coloured person need apply.” Or “If you want a nigger for neighbour, vote labour”
 
Family and Friends, I have to thank the Prime Minister The. Rt Hon. Gordon Brown, the Leader of the Tory Opposition Rt Hon. David Cameron and the Leader of the LibDems, the Rt Hon Nick Glegg for acknowledging WISC’s contribution to the advent of Race Relations in the United Kingdom.  Their letters, copied in the brochures make interesting reading. In my role as Chairman of WISC, I would ask everyone to buy a copy. We need your money because WISC is not grant aided. The money we earn comes from our social enterprise.
Special thanks must go to our Director, William Trant OBE for his leadership and management of that enterprise.
 
WISC is now seeking funds to carry out a study to measure the financial, commercial, political and social advances since 1965 in United Kingdom.  Here I wish to recognise Mrs. Sarah Hunte-Copeland, daughter of Joe Hunte and her husband Robert. Family and friends for Joe Hunte, please salute his daughter Sarah.
 
WISC has always addressed the two essentials in Joe’s philosophy - our exclusion from education and from effective participation in the creation of wealth. 
 
Here, I want to recognise my dear friend, Rev. Hewie Andrew, Head of the Queen Mother Moore Complementary School established in 1981.  The QMMS has motivated over 4000 young people of African Heritage, most of whom, were excluded from mainstream education.  QMMS has enabled them, to rekindle the thirst for learning and going on to higher education. QMMS’ young people, who were told by their teachers, that they would come to nothing but they were as ‘thick as a brick’. Those very young people have achieved excellence by becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, and professionals in a variety of disciplines.  Many past students return to QMMS as goal models to the present crop of young people. Friends and family, please salute, Rev’d Hewie Andrew. 
 
Whilst I am on education, I want to acknowledge Hewie’s company of friends.  They are teachers from St Martins in the Fields School for Girls in Tulse Hill, London.  The school’s Ofsted assessment in 2007 has been designated as ‘outstanding’. More importantly, about 90% of the young people are of African Heritage.  The ‘outstanding’ accolade illustrates that in the right environment, created by the Head, Lesley Morrison and sterling team of teachers, our children can with great ease, attain excellence in learning.  Family and friends, I want you to recognise once again Rev Hewie and his company of remarkable teachers from St Martins in the Fields.
 
QMMS and St Matins are two models of excellence led by people of African Heritage.
 
We have come a long way from the days of overt psychological abuse in which it was acceptable to write the following:
 
“Rooms and Flats to let, No children, no Irish, no dogs, no coloureds”
   
Job Vacancies were stamped N.C.P in the Labour Exchanges now called ‘Job Centres’. It did not mean National Car Park. It meant ‘No coloured person” wanted
 
Or as the Tories banner headlines in the 1964 election “If you want a nigger for neighbour, vote Labour.”
 
Immigration: WISC gave evidence to government to try to mitigate the severe discrimination inherent in the 1962, 68, 71 and 1981 British Nationality Act.  In this regard WISC was centrally instrumental in having the fees for 1981 British Nationality Registration reduced from £175.00 to £60.00 per person for the transition period 1983-88. We had argued that we were already British Citizens. Like me, many of us, who came to Britain, pre 1962, came with a passport under the 1948 British Nationality Act which recorded me as Clarence C Thompson, Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. In the discourse, David Waddington, Minister for Immigration at the Home Office, made the derogatory remark, “The problem with you blacks is that you do not like paying for any thing.”
My response was, “Minister, had you read our history, you would not have made such a silly statement.” All those who bought their new British Citizenship at £60 owe WISC a debt of ‘Thanks.’ 
 
The 1981 British Nationality Act, discriminates because Section 44 states, “A child born after January 1 1983 to parents who are not registered as British citizens does not have the right to become British.”  The Government has squared the circle by allowing those children to achieve British Citizenship through naturalisation, registration or adoption. To me it is inconsistent because the 1971 Commonwealth Immigration Act adopted the principle of “partiality” giving automatic citizenship to people from the old Commonwealth who can prove, that they have either a parent or a grand-parent born in the United Kingdom. That is the signature of racism at government level.
 
Police Relations:  WISC submitted evidence of racial harassment exercised in the SUS law, as the single causal factor in 1981 riots in Brixton to the Scarman Inquiry.  Over the decades, WISC’s discussions and negotiations with the respective Commissioners of the MET, but especially, Sir John Stevens, have led to changes in the mode of arrest and brought about a model for minimising the incidence of deaths in custody. In that regard the Commissioner took WISC’s advice to establish medical centres in police stations in the Metropolitan area as a preventative measure of care to those detained.
 
Employment:      WISC rose to the challenge for equality in employment for employee of African Heritage.  One significant case was WISC’s conflict with London Transport in which an employee of African Heritage was denied promotion.  WISC campaign and negotiations led to the appointment of the first Inspector of African Heritage in 1968. After that landmark victory, the broad sheets carried articles on the ‘first black head teacher, first Black woman MP, Dianne Abbott to the first black Chief Constable’.   It was quite an achievement when Baroness Amos was made leader of the House of Lords.  For historical correctness, I want to inform you that the first MP of colour was Shapurji Saklatvala. He won North Battersea for Labour in 1922 with 50% of the turnout at 56% of those eligible to vote.
 
We have come a long way and we must fight to retain those achievements. In our midst this evening, we have our dear friends, Jeanette Arnold who is Chair of the GLA.
 
Housing:    It was a habitual practice to Local Councils to deny people of African Heritage, access to the housing list unless they can show evidence of having lived in the Borough for five years.  WISC alerted the Wilson Government to that discriminatory practice. The ignominy was inherent in notices advertising accommodation: “Rooms and Flats to let, No Children, No Irish, No Dogs, No Coloureds.”  That practice was terminated by law in 1968.
 
Other Issues: WISC has organised Seminars on the following issues:

Cuts in funding to the “Black” Community in which 95% of black led charities are not in receipt of grants
Evaluation of “Black Nurses’ contribution to the Health Service
Study on Caribbean diets with Manchester University which led to a video titled: ‘Healthy Eating’.  Copies of the Video are available from our hard working Director.

WISC  has submitted critiques on:

  • Stephen Lawrence Inquiry
  • Revision of 1976 Race Relations Act
  • Revision of 1983 Mental Health Act
  • Revision of Section 11 Funding
  • Immigration and Asylum Powers on Information (Sections 134 -139

WISC did receive a letter from the Jacqui Smith MP, when she was Parliamentary under- Secretary of State for Education, praising

  • WISC for its contribution to the education debate on Complementary schools education.
  • WISC has hosted seminars on:
  • Prostrate Cancer and Black Men’s health
  • Managing Diabetes
  • Stress Management
  • Strength in Diversity
  • Single

Commission for Equality and Human Rights
Creating a cohesive voice for peoples of African heritage (18 October 2006)
                            
Immigration and Asylum:
WISC continues to assist those clients who wish to have their leave to remain in the United Kingdom made permanent.
 
Working in the community
 WISC has supported the quest to establish Presentation Housing Association (1968), the Queen Mother Moore Saturday School (1981) and the 198 Gallery (1988).  WISC members are encouraged to become active citizens by helping to establish a number of frontline community organisations in their respective areas.
 
As an example, I work with the following organisations:

  • Queen Mother Moore School (1981)
  • The 198 Contemporary Learning and Arts (1988)
  • Whippersnappers
  • SHRREB
  • Code 7
  • Instant Muscle
  • Lambeth's Black Parents Forum

WISC is an umbrella to its 20 active member organisations.
 
In closing, I want to recognise the family of Rudy Narayan and friends.  Rudy recognised for his battles in court with judges who demonstrated both overt and covert acts of racism. 
Ladies and Gentlemen: Please honour the Family and friends, Rudy Narayan. 
 
I would say you that WISC needs you to be part of its vision for a Strategic Council to advocate for the advancement of all our peoples. Joe Hunte has left us the legacy of an inclusive principle which offers an embrace to all communities. It does not matter if you are African, Asian, Chinese, Irish or Greek.  We must continue to build stronger and cohesive bridges between the communities.
 
To fulfill the second part of Joe Hunte’s philosophy which relates to equal participation in the creation of the wealth of the nation; we have to become greater entrepreneurs to create the wealth to pay for our social and economic needs.  We must build social enterprises to pay for our social needs.
 
This celebration provides the opportunity to create sustainable community cohesion by bringing together leaders of a number of community groups who are engaged in enhancing the wellbeing of their sectors of the community. 
 
WISC believes that we should honour those who have worked in race equality and human rights to bring about the peace we now enjoy between the communities.  WISC wants your support to say, “Thank you;” by honouring those remarkable champions with a ‘roll call’ of those, past and present.
 
To the husbands, wives, and children of those engaged in this challenge to continue the campaign for the establishment of equal and fair treatment within the protocols of equality and human rights; I say. “Thank you, and I pray that God continues to strengthen your resolve to be great statesmen and stateswomen.”
 
Thank you. 
  
                                                                                      
Clarence C Thompson MBE
Chairman
 







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