HOMEGOING: Many turned out to say goodbye to Darcus Howe
LOCATING ALL Saints Church for the service commemorating the life and achievements of Darcus Howe was not a difficult task due to hordes of diverse supporters spilling out onto the nearby streets after speakers such as Howe's daughter Tamara and his peer in 'the struggle' Stafford Scott had said their bit.
Walking towards the imposing Clydesdale Road Catholic church, smells of fresh herb, the hypnotic pounding of nyabinghi drumming and myriad, often animated conversations would greet you. Once the right corner was turned, a sea of people were seen milling around the parked funeral cars -
some dabbing their eyes with tissue, others laughing and many greeting long-lost acquaintances.
Once inside, the traditional church was packed to the rafters, with a throng of 'later-comers' craning their necks at the back of the room, where it was standing only, in addition to those who had remained outside.
Father John Brownsell presided over the religious part of the service, before the Mangrove steel pan players (who are aptly-named, as Howe was one of the Mangrove Nine) played lively calypso melodies which got much of the congregation bouncing to the beat and could be heard all the way outside by those who were reasoning in the sunshine whilst awaiting the coffin to return to its hearse.
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn expressed his condolences via a handwritten note which was read out:
"Dear Leila (Howe's widow)...I'm so sorry I've been unable to be with you and the family today.
"From rural Trinidad to urban Britain, few people understood empire as thoroughly as Darcus.
"His lessons should last to ensure future generations do not feel the scourge of racism."
Racial equity campaigner and Guardian newspaper contributor Stafford Scott shared his experience of his late friend:
"It is an honour to be here and give this tribute to Darcus.
"It's easy to be the angry black man, which I've done...what isn't easy is paying tribute to Darcus...I've done tributes for others...it isn't easy, especially in a room full of people that know me.
"I had the privilege of knowing him for 29 years and I remember the exact date we first met - it was 29 March 1988. He phoned my office wanting to speak to me and I said to my colleague, 'Darcus who?', then she said, 'No, Darcus Howe..!' and he said, 'Yo Stafford...you remind me of myself when I was younger', then my colleague said, 'If Darcus calls you listen' and I said, 'Why?' - 'He was one of the Mangrove Nine', - well, I was one of the Tottenham three so he multiplied what I did!
"The renegade wouldn't have burned down places [referring to the Tottenham riots after the killing of Mark Duggan], he would have been strategic.
"I've lost most of my mentors...he was a colossus. We have big shoes to fill."
Howe's daughter, who is one of seven surviving children, Tamara, also spoke:
"I know death comes to all of us, but I was not expecting to be standing here. Not today. Not Now. Not yet. But, dad was predictably, unpredictable – a man who did things in his own way and in his own timing.
"Like many of you, I’ve been moved by the countless tributes, celebrating his life and achievements. A paladin of justice, a courageous campaigner, a fearless warrior.
"But he was also a family man – a loving husband, father, papa, brother and son. A hugely positive and pivotal force in all of our lives. So, if I may, I’d like to spend the next few minutes reflecting on the private man and the immeasurable impact he had, and will continue to have, on us – his Tribe.
"Because of dad, I can stand here today and say with confidence, that we know who we are, we know where we came from and we know where we are heading. He gave us a sense of identity and self. An authenticity and integrity that rejected compromise. Black was beautiful and come what may, we were here to stay.
"We have inherited his ease of presence – moving effortlessly between one world and the next. Dad was an egalitarian in every sense of the word."
"I remember sitting on the steps in the Harp in East Dry River, Trindad’s equivalent to an inner city council estate, writing furiously as he dictated his article for the New Statesmen. It was early carnival Monday, the sun was hot and the article was late – as usual. Dad rattled through his prose between swigs of White Oak, bantering with his fellow Renegade and dear friend, Dr. Rat. I watched in awe - this was versatility at its best.
"Alongside confidence, came courage. We were raised to challenge misplaced authority. To hold our corner. To stand firm. 'Interference shall be met with gunfire', he would bellow.
Dad was fiercely protective, but his own bravery inspired us to fight our own battles and we were all too aware that enlisting his back-up would come with the severest of consequences, as he would constantly warn ‘all heavens will fall.’
Now, this may come as a surprise to some of you, but dad had moments of self-doubt and would often seek reassurance after a public engagement or the launch of a new TV series.
"He taught us humility and self-awareness and on those odd occasions when we over-played ourselves he would quietly whisper ‘behave - and people will get to like you’.
Yes, dad was bold and courageous, but when we gathered at his house, the home he had built with his loving wife Leila, he showed us nothing but love and tenderness. He used to joke that he’d received enough ‘licks’ for all of us, grandchildren included.
SUPPORT: Writer Farrukh Dhondy speaking at All Saints Church (photo credit: Delroy Constantine-Simms
"When you sat with him he saw you. I mean truly saw you. We used to laugh and say he was an obeah man, because he’d know what you were thinking before the thought had even crossed your mind. He would ask a seemingly innocuous question, or watch the angle at which you sat in a chair - subtle observations that somehow gave him a profound understanding and a genuine appreciation of each and every one of us.
HEARTFELT: Paul Field and Paul Bunce, Darcus Howe's biographers (photo credit: Delroy Constantine-Simms)
KIND-HEARTED: Sheila Graham, who spoke of Darcus Howe's loving nature and the favour he did for a friend (photo credit: Delroy Constantine-Simms)
"He was the beating heart of this family and It pains me to imagine a world without him – a tribe without its chief.
'Yes the Viking has gone to Valhalla, but his legacy- his fighting spirit – well that will stay right here in each and every one of us."
To read about the Brixton leg of the funeral procession, click here.
Pick-up a copy of 'The Voice' newspaper next week for more on Darcus Howe's funeral procession route, exclusive interviews with those who were personally impacted by the man and exquisite photos documenting the day.
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