Sunday, 17 August 2008

A Bitter Pill To Swallow!

I know the music is about spreading and sharing the love, but back in '76-'77 there wasn`t a whole lot of loving going on!!
My own naivety with the social issues of the day was soon to be smashed and in a positive way... I`d always been brought up in an atmosphere of racial and religious tolerance. My father was a left-wing union negotiator in the printing industry and was involved in all the early CDN marches and Anti-Apartheid Movement, with my sister sitting on his shoulders on demo`s in Trafalgar Sq. Of course the events of `76 at the Notting Hill carnival, were still fresh in peoples memories. The anger young black men had been suppressing for years over the notorious "Sus laws" under which anybody could be stopped, searched and held, even if only suspected of planning a crime.....Exploded...(does it have any resonance for today?)

It was a milestone in race relations in Britain. For me, my own experience with the Queens Metropolitan constabulary was to follow...One evening strolling back with the boys to Fitzrovia, after an evening of playing tunes from my bedroom widow to the local urchins below, i used to get quite a crowd out front to the consternation of the neighbours!
Passing the White House Hotel on Osnaburgh Street, two huge PC Plods approached...."Oi, what the fuck you up to N**gers"....screamed one, I could hear Mickey D whisper "Oh fuck, here we go"..."Nothing Constable, just walking home" I Chirped..."Who the fucking hell was speaking to you, you little shit" came the reply from Plod..It was the first time i had had any meaningful interaction with Her Majesty's law enforcement, outside our local beat bobby who knew everyone's first names on the estate and was more like a tough patriarch in a uniform, than a real policeman..

Now i knew something was not right..They grabbed both Timmy and Mickey and threw them up against the side wall of the hotel and preceded to frisk `em...continually barking obscenities at them, me standing there in total shock..after a few minutes that seemed like eternity, i got up the courage to speak.."Whats going on, why arn`t you frisking me"..."cause you are not Black".....said plod, and immediately continued, "But if you fancy it, i can duly oblige, now fuck off and go home"....."No" i return the verbal, "I 'm not going anywhere, I'm going to watch you and report your actions to my old man", (who subsequently wrote a letter of complaint to the chief constable at Albany Street station a week later).....The seeds had been sown, my own education into the oppression the black youth of Britain were experiencing day to day was cemented...The indignation and humiliation felt by my spars overwhelmed me.....Plod, of course finding nothing on three 16 year kids after the shake down, gave a swift boot up the arse to Timmy and told us to watch ourselves.....Then waddled off towards Longford Street.

For a short while we just stood there staring at each other trying to piece together our emotions...Mickey broke the silence, "second time this week". Racism was again on the agenda in British society, the economic climate of despair and discontent, so readily used by the National Front, the British fascist party of the time, to breed hatred and intolerance in the communities was soon to be challenged. The politics and music of a generation that came together as an outlet for change was to manifest itself in the Anti-Nazi League and the Rock Against Racism (RAR) concerts that pulled thousands and was crucial in educating young people especially the punks to anti-racist politics...But we knew the fight had to be taken to the streets and that's where we were heading to Lewisham..

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