Saturday, March 27, 2010

"We No Longer Own It"

The following, by BBC presenter Dotun Adebayo, was, according to 'Damon', a commenter at the Pickled Politics site, printed in the Voice newspaper in September 2008.

Damon's view of it : "It seems all kinds of people can feel this ”loss of hegemony”. When it’s articulated by the white working class (in places like East London) it’s usually called racism."

He also posts it somewhere Laban doesn't hang out at a great deal, the Billy Bragg forum.

I'll let it speak for itself, but I wonder - what would have been the career trajectory of a white BBC presenter writing such a piece, lamenting the loss of an earlier (John Major's ?) Brixton, mourning his dashed hopes that the area "would ever be white" or complaining that "all the shops are now owned by"? Would they still be at the BBC ?


There used to be a time when everyone knew that Brixton belonged to us.
We fought for it, and made love for it.
Some of us even died in that corner of the landscape that would ever be black.

It didn’t mean that white folks weren’t welcome, all that it meant is that they KNEW it was ours, the same way as when I go to Norfolk or Suffolk, or any of the shires, I know that it’s NOT ours.
I’m on my ‘p’s and ‘q’s when I go up country, because I don’t have the backative to claim it as mine. And all the youts know this, so they’ve got the bottle to shout out ”N*****!” from across the road when they see you walking down one of their village streets or quiet country lanes.

I don’t have a problem with that because I KNOW when I venture out there I’m in a white mans country and the white man makes the rules.
Brixton was different though. Babylon THOUGHT he made the rules until Brixton made a stand against the so-called Operation ‘Swamp 81′. As the late Bernie Grant MP would say, the police got a ”bloody good hiding” that time.

There were of course casualties on both sides. But at least the message was clear all around the country that Brixton belonged to us. And so did Tottenham. And so did Hackney and Stonebridge and Peckham and Handsworth and Moss Side and Cheetham Hill and St Paul’s, so on and so forth.


Where ever you had an inner city, you had a corner of England that would be forever Jamaican or Nigerian or Bajan or St Kittian. We didn’t just put down roots, we put down down-payments on those areas, or at least our parents did. And like the law states, if you own a piece of this green and pleasant land, it’s yours.
Nobody can take it away from you (unless you divert the mortgage payments to buy a Ferrari).
But 27 years on, Brixton no longer belongs to us. I went down there the other day and discovered another country. Oh, we were still evident. It wasn’t like ‘’spot the black man” but we no longer own it.
The bars, the clubs, the resturants and shops no longer belong to us. With the exception of a pattie shop or two, Brixton belongs to everybody but us. It’s the same in Tottenham and Hackney. We spend most of the money, but virtually the only things we own are barbershops and hairdressers.
We’ve got ourselves to blame. Look at the Asian community. They came here at more or less the same time we did. They didn’t just put downpayments on the areas they claimed, they bought them outright.
Often jointly, communally, together as one family. So when you go to Southall, Alperton, Ealing, Whitechapel, and the other London areas they own, it’s all about Indiashire, Londonistan and Bangla-Brick Lane. They own the houses, the businesses AND the councils.
So who do you think makes the rules in those areas? It’s not the Women’s Institute and the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, I can tell you. Forget the local parish church and the sound of Bow Bells, it’s the Hindu temples and the mosques that call the shots, and if the Imam wants to call the belivers to worship at five in the morning, that’s up to him.

Like I said, we’ve got ourselves to blame. We had it all in the palm of our hands and we threw it away. We could have been contenders. We could have controlled entire neighbourhoods, businesswise and otherwise.
We should be in control of our local councils in those areas where we are/were the majority.


But after the street battles that won us our victories of the past (and not just us, because let’s face it – Asian communities benefited from the blood we shed in the eighties - (not the two Asian people burned to death in Handsworth Post Office - LT) we rested on our laurels. Like ex-slaves, we indulged our new found freedoms far too long and partied until it was 1999. By then of course it was too late.

During the eighties and nineties more drugs were pumped into the black communities of Britain than ever before. I lived in and worked in Brixton at the time. Previously it had been all about the good sensi (or collie or lamb’s bread, as it used to be known). After the riots of 1981 and 1985, we began to see the emergence of hard drugs – heroin, speed, then cocaine, and then, of course, crack.

The drugs did their job, They subdued our people into submission. Those very same crack addicts that you see in ‘black’ neighbourhoods are the same guys who used to live on the frontline ready to protest at the injustices we suffered. Those injustices are still here, but if you ask the warriors of old to come out and demonstrate, they’ll fall prostrate, begging for one more hit.

You see, in winning the streets we really didn’t win anything. The streets belong to everybody, whatever your local gang might think. Real power and real wealth is all about who controls the means of production, the judiciary and executive.

The Nigerians of Peckham know this. They are the new Jamaicans. It remains to be seen whether they will be seduced into not buying the freehold of that corner of south east London that will forever be ‘Lagos’.

There's enough material here for an entire conference.

(cross-posted at Biased-BBC)