By Thomas L Blair 8 April 2017 copyright
Scholar-streetfighter Darcus Howe led Black youths struggle against “vulgar racism.
Health worker Pansy Jeffrey opened the first centre for Caribbean elders.
Different paths you might say. Yet, both were innovators and motivators in the riotous Sixties and Seventies when being Black was taboo.
Darcus, at the notorious Mangrove 9 trial was “a living embodiment of the struggle against police racism and injustice. Even more importantly, he was the embodiment of the idea that police racism could be challenged successfully”, said Diane Abbotts MP.
Born in Trinidad in the dying days of British colonialism, Darcus railed against the redolent smell of white privilege and Black subordination in British society he called “vulgar racism”.
As the modern age of Blacks in Britain unfolded, Darcus condemned “The everyday abuse black people would get from strangers on the street and the police alike would shock you today. But I never once believed what they wanted us to believe – that we as black people are inferior to whites – and fighting my corner at the Mangrove trial was part of that.”
In contrast, Pansy Jeffrey, from the Colony of British Guyana, set up the Pepper Pot Centre for Black elders. She saved many first generation emigrants from discrimination, isolation, depression and loneliness. Crucially, Pansy was a peacemaker after the Notting Hill riots, and supported the first Notting Hill Carnival. A trained nurse and race equality campaigner, she helped found major community and political action organisations — the Community Education Trust, the Notting Hill Social Council & Notting Hill Housing Trust.
Speaking at her 90th birthday party, Pansy’s son Howard said the centre is “a model of excellence” for the delivery of culturally specific services. Furthermore, “It empowers African and Caribbean older people to take charge of their own lives after sacrificing so many of their youthful years for the United Kingdom.”
Darcus and Pansy may have trod different paths until their death in 2017. He was a doughty public intellectual for Black and oppressed peoples worldwide — and a devoted follower of the pan-Africanist C L R James. He sparked revolutionary expectations and won youth’s applause. She, like her contemporary, the radical Claudia Jones, sharpened the Black communities’ responsibility for voluntary action and self-determination, and gained the best wishes of The Queen.
Moreover, Darcus and Pansy were part of a new wave of thought and action. They offered inspiring solutions to Black peoples problems. Trans-Caribbean and pan-African in vision, they reignited the torch of resistance and mutual aid lit in the anti-Colonial struggle.
What unites Darcus and Pansy’s struggle is a quality of monumentality and permanence. They exposed the folly of silence in adversity. They aimed to change attitudes and policies in government and society. As such, their lives and missions are key resources for Black British social, cultural and political development.