PROGRESS: The fundraiser in Camden generated money for Haitian causes
150 PEOPLE packed a church in London’s Camden Town earlier this month for a fundraiser to help Haiti after the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew in October. Over £2,300 was raised by the event to assist the people of Haiti.
In 2010, Haitians had suffered a devastating earthquake; followed by alleged mis-management of millions of pounds generously donated by the public and finally a cholera epidemic in the same year.
Many of the fundraiser's attendees were vocal about what they felt were the colonial undertones of much of Haiti's current suffering and expressed their opposition to racism and imperialism as well as their admiration of the Haitians for ending slavery with a revolution that created the first independent black republic in 1804.
The fundraiser appealed for practical help as well as took the time to tell the story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of black people who in the 1970s, successfully defeated an attempt by the police and Crown Prosecution Service to criminalise anti-racist struggle. Discussions around the Mangrove Nine and Haiti proved to be a rousing combination. The trial of the Mangrove Nine, (seven men and two women charged with affray, rioting and conspiracy) was a British historical landmark, setting legal precedents and winning the first judicial acknowledgement of racism within the Metropolitan Police. It followed arrests at a peaceful demonstration which took place in August 1970 against constant police harassment of The Mangrove restaurant, a popular eating and meeting place for the local community.
Keynote speaker Altheia Jones-Lecointe (pictured above), one of the Mangrove Nine, an activist since she was a student in the 1960s and a founder of the UK’s Black Panther Movement (BPM), gave a spellbinding account of how the Mangrove defendants organised their response to injustice with the community. The BPM prepared for the trial by studying The Black Jacobins, CLR James’ account of the Haitian revolution. Jones-Lecointe and Darcus Howe defended themselves, the other female defendant Barbara Bees was represented by (now QC) Ian Macdonald (pictured above), the fundraiser's other keynote speaker.
Macdonald worked on legal strategy with all the defendants, and it was clear from both his and Jones-Lecointe's account, that this political co-operation had enabled the winning creativity of the defence. Husband Eddie Lacointe suggested that a daily bulletin of court proceedings be circulated to keep supporters informed. The community united behind the trial, packed the public gallery and held a picket outside every day.
Jones-Lecointe reported that the police regularly arrested one or two picketers, leading to the group's decision to implement a women-only picket which seemed to astonish the police, who subsequently stopped making the arrests.
Macdonald revealed that lawyers acting for the other defendants did not want to organise collectively and shied away from spelling out any allegations of racism. The now-QC also described how he challenged having an all-white jury and won a few black jurors which was virtually unheard of in 1970's Britain and was made even more difficult since the legal right to challenge jury selection had been curtailed.
Jones-Lecointe had returned to the Caribbean with a PhD in the late 1970s and lectured on Biochemistry at the University of the West Indies. Her Mangrove background shaped her career decisions and she expressed that "being a scientist was not very useful to the Caribbean people at that time", telling the audience how she retrained in medicine to become a consultant haematologist.
Speaking about her return to Britain, the PhD spoke of how the growing movement lead by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, both anti-racists, was tremendous and urged people of colour to join that movement.
In the concluding segment of the evening, the diverse audience listened to a performance by the Burru drummers and were moved by Linton Kwesi-Johnson’s wonderful reading of his own poetry and that of John Larose. The audience insisted on an encore and he obliged to thunderous applause. Kwesi-Johnson was one of the activists supporting the Mangrove Nine at the time of their trial.
Twenty groups and individuals sponsored the event, including the Bakers’ Food & Allied Workers Union, Caribbean Labour Solidarity, Greater Manchester Momentum BAME Caucus, Sixteen Films (I, Daniel Blake), and Benjamin Zephaniah.
£2,300 was raised for the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF), which takes no financial cut and pass all donations directly to people in Haiti who they deem most in need.
Make your own donation to Global Women's Strike who were in attendance and are also collecting donations to pass on to direct recipients of aid in Haiti.
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