Accept African identity, Grant tells blacks: MP ignores criticism to preach to new constituency

BERNIE GRANT was again proclaiming the need for British blacks to accept an African identity yesterday. But this time only invited guests were allowed to hear the speech.

The publicity which followed his calls in the autumn for the Government to help black Britons who wanted 'voluntary repatriation', and for some of the Crown Jewels to be sold to compensate African countries for the activities of slavers, had been so bad that the 'white media' were banned from his meeting in Birmingham.

''When Asians and Jews want to talk they are left alone,' he said. 'When blacks get together everyone wants to know what's happening.'

Despite the secrecy, it was clear what was happening. Representatives from about 150 organisations were coming together to discuss a constitution for a British 'African Reparations Movement'.

The Labour MP for Tottenham's theme is that Britain is a dangerous place for blacks. British blacks should not just follow 'the methods of the 1960s and confront racists', but build a new agenda whichhad African identity at its heart.

The delegates in Birmingham yesterday included representatives fromthe Nation of Islam, the All African People's Liberation Front and the Ethiopian World Federation. After raising the issue of 'voluntary repatriation' at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference in October, Mr Grant was subsequently jeered and booed by young and largely black demonstrators at an Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) protest in Trafalgar Square and came close to making a public apology. Fellow activists made no secret of their horror. 'He's playing with fire,' said Palma Black, spokeswoman for the ARA. 'It's just giving in to the racists.' Embarrassingly, the only major politician to back him was Winston Churchill, a right-wing Conservative MP.

But over the intervening two months, he has grown in confidence. At meetings in Leeds, Manchester and London his message has been the same: blacks at best face a 'lousy' future and should look on themselves as Africans not Britons.

At a rally in Brixton, south London, two weeks ago, he emphasised African identity. 'I'm not talking to you about Indians, Bangladeshis or Pakastanis . . . I'm talking about black people of African origin. We fought the blackshirts, the brownshirts, the teddy boys, the skinheads of the National Front . . . and for a while things got better. Now they are back again calling themselves the BNP and black people are saying 'take your country, we don't want it'.'

He questioned the whole idea that it was possible to be a black Briton. 'We need to find those people who call themselves black Britons. We must give them our message and tell them we need them because they are black African people.'

Mr Grant has been attacked by his own party, and other anti-racist campaigners called his new black nationalist line 'dangerous', 'ill advised' and 'pandering to the worst manifestations of racism'.

But the uncomfortable truth for many on the left is that Mr Grant has found a constituency. Brixton has the fastest- growing black mosque in London. Every Friday, Uthman Ibrahim-Morrison preaches on the need for black separatism to a congregation of converts from Christianity. He rejected his Methodist family and a comfortable middle-class job which took him travelling around Europe in his early thirties.

'I saw what Europe had to offer - its short-sightedness, its consumerism, its shallowness. I wasn't satisfied. They were meant to be the most advanced and most enlightened people . . . but they were morally and spiritually empty. I said, 'Hang on, OK, enough is enough]' I started to study and came to Islam.'

The 'Africans of England', he proclaims, in an unusual interpretation of the Koran, must liberate themselves from the 'cancerous curse of the usurous economy' (paper money). They must also fight a 'false religion' (Christianity), the 'freemason programmers' (who control education, the media and just about everything else), 'Jewish structuralism' (which produces Marxism and most other modern ideas) and 'the wage slavery of the banking centre of the world' (the UK). 'Please don't mistake this for conspiratorialism,' he added, politely.

The mosque, which teaches that most of the African slaves transported to the Americas were Muslims whose descendants have subsequently lost their religion, has seen its membership grow from 20 people in the 1970s to about 300 today.

There are other black Britons who would not dream of converting to Islam or going to one of Mr Grant's meetings, but who have picked up on the idea of emigrating.

The Home Office-supported International Social Service of the United Kingdom receives about 100 enquiries a month from people wanting help to leave Britain. Many are pensioners who have worked here all their lives and plan to go back to friends and relatives. But others are young, British- born and well-qualified.

A spokeswoman for the service said that after racially charged events, such as the election of a BNP councillor or Mr Grant's original speech in October, calls from the young 'flooded in'.

Linda Deane was born in Lincoln and educated at Warwick University. Her father served in the RAF in Britain and the Far East and was relatively well off. Conventional wisdom would assume she would have a successful career in Britain. But last month, aged 30, she and her architect fiance emigrated to Barbados, her parents' native country.

'Europe isn't so hot any more,' she said. 'I just couldn't take the direct or indirect racism of England. When I waited to cross the street to my home, drivers would shout 'black bitch' at me. When I went into shops I would always be followed by the store detectives.

'I thought, there are so many troubles in life about jobs and money that at least if I went to Barbados I could get rid of racism and be treated as a first- class citizen. It would be one less hurdle to jump.'

Ms Deane emphasised that she could move to the Caribbean only because she had visited Barbados often and knew what she was letting herself in for.

Ken Douglas, president of the Association of Jamaica's Returning Residents, said that many who emigrated to the Caribbean came back to Britain. 'They did not realise that it's not just all sun,' he said. 'They did not know about the violence and the unemployment in Jamaica.'

But for all the caveats, the underlying fact that a minority of black Britons despair of this country cannot be hidden.

Ms Deane's sister, Sue Beckles, lives in Rugby. She has a master's degree and is married to a doctor.

'At the moment I don't want to bring my children up here,' she said. 'You watch the news about the growth of fascism and it's frightening. Everywhere ordinary people are becoming extreme and mainstream parties are losing out.

'I'll give Britain five years. If it doesn't get better we'll go.'

Additional reporting by Jason Conway and Jennai Cox

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride