Campaigner Darcus Howe dies

Posted by The Skibbereen Eagle | April 3, 2017 0

Farewell to Darcus Howe one of the Mangrove Nine.  He was a brave & fearless campaigner against racism, Police violence & corruption and one of the many strong and honest voices to spring from Trinidad.

His campaigning for Civil Rights frequently led him to protest against the racism and corruption of the police in their dealings with minority communities.  Darcus Howe, the broadcaster, writer and civil rights campaigner, has died aged 74. His family announced his death in a statement released on Sunday that read: “Darcus died quietly and unexpectedly in his sleep on the evening of Saturday 1 April. Our private grief is inseparable from our public pride.”

Howe, originally from Trinidad, lived in Brixton, south London, for 30 years and was well known for his Channel 4 series Black on Black and late-night current affairs programme The Devil’s Advocate. In a hugely varied and influential journalistic career, he was also an editor of Race Today, wrote columns for both the New Statesman and the Voice, and served as chair of the Notting Hill carnival. His television work included the multicultural current affairs documentary The Bandung File, which he co-edited with Tariq Ali, and more recently White Tribe, a look at modern Britain.

Howe was a member of the British Black Panther movement and one of the “Mangrove Nine”, who were arrested and charged after protesting against repeated police raids on the Caribbean restaurant Mangrove in Notting Hill, west London, in 1970, where he worked on the till. The restaurant had become a meeting place for black people, serving as what Howe called the “headquarters of radical chic”. It was raided 12 times between January 1969 and July 1970 by police looking for drugs, and so 150 demonstrators marched on the local police station in protest, a demonstration that ended in violence. Six weeks later, Howe and eight others—the Mangrove Nine—were arrested for riot, affray and assault.  He and four of his co-defendants were acquitted of all charges after a 55-day trial in 1971 at the Old Bailey, which included an unsuccessful demand by Howe for an all-black jury, and fighting in the dock when some of the defendants tried to punch the prison officers. The judge stated that there was “evidence of racial hatred on both sides”—the first acknowledgement from a British judge that there was racial hatred in the Metropolitan Police Service.

In 1981, he organised a 20,000-strong “Black People’s March” in protest over the police handling of the investigation into the New Cross fire in which 13 black teenagers died. The son of an Anglican priest, Howe first came to the UK aged 18 and had planned to become a lawyer, but instead found his calling as a journalist and activist involved in the struggle for racial equality.

His campaigning over 50 years on Civil Rights, Racism, Policing and corruption has been substantially vindicated and has changed Britain for the better over that time. He has been a strong and stalwart voice for respect and inclusion for minorities when both were far from accepted.

Howe was interviewed by Fiona Armstrong for BBC News on 9 August 2011 at the time of the 2011 England riots. During the interview, Armstrong twice referred to him as “Marcus Dowe”, then asked: “You are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself.” Howe denied this, saying: “I have never taken part in a single riot. I’ve been part of demonstrations that ended up in a conflict. Have some respect for an old West Indian Negro, and stop accusing me of being a rioter. Because you wanted for me to get abusive, you just sound idiotic—have some respect.”  The BBC apologised for any offence the interview caused,  and said “it had not intended to show him any disrespect”

To the very end Darcus Howe was an uncompromising champion for racial justice and fierce opponent of police brutality.

Darcus Howe (26 February 1943 – 1 April 2017) British broadcaster, writer, anti-Racist and civil liberties campaigner.

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