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Ferguson UK tour goes ahead despite health setback

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the campaign group Black Lives Matter, has stepped in at the last minute to take Rev Sekou’s place in order for the tour to go ahead

A SERIOUS and sudden illness has prevented a leading campaigning American clergyman from flying to Britain to lead the Ferguson Solidarity Tour.

Rev Osagyefo Sekou, who has supported the black community in Ferguson since the shooting of Michael Brown five months ago, was taken ill hours before he was due to board a plane to London.

But Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the campaign group Black Lives Matter has stepped in at the last minute to take Rev Sekou’s place in order for the tour to go ahead.

And she is due to speak on his behalf at a public meeting to be held in Birmingham tomorrow night. (Wednesday January 28). It will take place at The Drum, the UK’s premier black-led arts centre, in Potters Lane, Aston from 6pm.

Before the meeting, Cullors, a much-respected abolitionist, will meet Birmingham-based community activists and families who have lost loved following their deaths in police custody.

She is due to meet with them privately at Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Handsworth, led by Pastor, the Rev Bryan Scott.

She will speak with the relatives of Mikey Powell, Julian Webster and Kingsley Burrell, who have all died between 2003 and 2011 following contact with police. No one has so far been held responsible for their deaths.

Cullors will also meet veteran civil rights campaigner Maxie Hayles, who chairs BARAC Birmingham – Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts; Tippa Naphtali, chair of the campaigning group 4WardEver UK and Desmond Jaddoo, founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum.

She will share the stage with these speakers at The Drum meeting, which will highlight the injustices faced by the black community in America following a number of shootings of black unarmed people, who include the teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Cullors, who has been involved in support and solidarity work said: “In the UK you have a black presence that is part of a colonial past comprising immigrants, in contrast to the blatant slave history in the US.

“You also have ‘colour’ that is more than just black in terms of the giant colonial past. But you still have systematic oppression and state sanctioned violence. We are in an historical moment where we can make great shifts both inside and outside US borders to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter around the world.”

Rev Sekou has since put on Twitter that he is now making a good recovery and at home resting, adding that he is ‘so sad’ to miss the UK-Ferguson Solidarity Tour, while thanking those who have stepped in at the last minute to replace him.

Sekou, of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, America’s oldest inter-faith peace organisation, has strong ties to Ferguson and has spent months supporting the black community during their protests in the town and has been affected by tear gas several times.

He said the level of police oppression there was ‘unbelievable’ adding: “I need a gas mask more than I need a collar to be able to do the work I feel called to do.”

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