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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power