Drums and dance mourn Bernie Grant's London life
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 19 April 2000
They gathered on the steps of Haringey civic centre to pay their respects to their former leader Bernie Grant. As the rain spattered lightly on the London pavement, a trio of gospel singers sang a lament. "Teardrops will never stain the streets of the city," it went.
There were a dozen cars in Bernie Grant's funeral cortege. His ornate coffin lay in the second, covered with red roses, yellow marigolds and green palm leaves, the colours of the Guyanan flag.
On one side of the car "Bernie" was picked out in red flowers. At the back "Dad" in white roses. One mourner said: "We are here because like everyone else in the country we believed he was a superhuman being and that is all that needs to be said."
The convoy made its way slowly through the streets of Tottenham, gathering people in its wake. Past his former office at 247a West Green Road, pausing at the Global Trade Centre, which he founded, and again at Tottenham Town Hall where he held his surgery every week.
Past Bruce Grove near hisoffice at 577 Tottenham High Road and his former home in Rheola Close before turning into Lordship Lane and the Broadwater Farm Estate.
Here, where Mr Grant famously applauded the "bloody good hiding" sustained by police during the 1985 riots, a crowd waited to pay their respects.
Led by two men carrying a homemade banner with the words: "Hon Bernie Grant RIP", the dancing women wore red and black, the colour of mourning, and the men with drums beat out a traditional royal court dance, played when a great figure dies.
Nana Duodu Afare, the leader of the drummers, said: "Bernie Grant means a lot for us. He inspired the black community to set a good example, for black people to believe that this is not a strange land and you can fit in if you contribute without prejudice."
Faced with such strength of feeling, Mr Grant's widow, Sharon and their three sons could no longer remain in their car. Wearing their red and black armbands, they moved among the crowd that pressed around them, shaking hands and offering condolences.
Then, there was a minute's silence before the cortege moved off towards Alexandra Palace and the funeral service.
That is where the politicians, including Paul Boateng, Oona King and Keith Vaz, and the other dignitaries waited to pay their final respects to the man who fought so hard for a fairer deal for the black community.
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