In 1970, a full thirty years before The Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, sponsored by the Runnymede Trust and Chaired by Professor Bhiku Parekh published its report (which was speedily buried by the British establishment), the late CLR James ended a rousing address to three hundred black youths at the Metro Youth Club in Notting Hill with these words:
‘Your future is Britain’s future and Britain’s future your future. If you succeed, Britain will succeed. But, if Britain fails you, it will have a hell of a job saving itself’.
(In Police Power and Black People, 1972, Derek Humphry and Gus John, Panther Books Ltd)
Between November 2011 and October 2013 Race on the Agenda (ROTA) delivered the Shaping the Future seminar series, which considered some of the main challenges facing London’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children and young people and their families, following a difficult economic period and wide-spread policy reforms and public spending cuts.
In August 2014, Professor Gus John will have been 50 years in the UK, having arrived in 1964 as a theological student. In contributing to the seminar series, Gus drew upon his many decades of political activism, community development and academic research, including his tenure in the London Borough of Hackney as the UK’s first black director of education and his seminal study of youth policy and youth and community work in 16 towns and cities in England: ‘In the Service of Black Youth – a study of the political culture of youth and community work with black people in English cities’ (1981)
It is a ‘must read’ for Mr Michael Gove and his civil servants and advisers, for school managers, school governors, teachers, police and people involved in the criminal justice system, for parents and youth people irrespective of their ethnicity and in fact for anyone who has a concern to build a society in which all our children can flourish with stars in their eyes, rather than the dullness of despair and tell-tale signs of being tired of resisting and of the abandonment of hope and the death of aspiration.