As a million black men marched in the United States' capital yesterday, more than 600 British black men and women were arriving at the community centre on Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London.
Although news of the national black unity rally in Britain, called in sympathy with the Million Man March in Washington DC, set nerves twitching among residents on the estate, the event passed without incident amid almost paranoid security. Everyone entering the hall was searched by Nation of Islam members. Some who left and returned were searched up to three times.
Local MP Bernie Grant addressed the meeting and received warm applause, the only sour note being boos and angry comments when he expressed regret about the death of Constable Keith Blakelock during riots ten years ago on the estate.
The Jewish Board of Deputies, concerned about overtly anti-Semitic comments by Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam's American leader, was willing to openly condemn the meeting, describing it as a "cynical" stunt. Keynote speaker, Minister Wayne X, the group's spokesman in the UK, described this as nonsense and cited the Ethiopian Jews: "If we were anti-Semites, we would be attacking our own people.
The Fruit of Islam, as the group's followers are known, see the estate as a ripe picking-ground. After the meeting they distributed membership leaflets and urged young men and women from Tottenham to join them.
The death of Cynthia Jarrett, a Broadwater Farm resident, during a police raid 10 years ago sparked off the worst race riots Britain has seen. PC Keith Blakelock was hacked to death and the estate has never lived down its reputation.
Perhaps as a direct result it appeared last night to be an ideal recruiting ground for Farrakhan's self-empowerment, self-help message. Unemployment among young black men on the estate is also disproportionately high.
Although millions of pounds have been spent improving Broadwater Farm, the young black men who hang around the shops on the estate feel little has been done for them.Reuse content