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Voice35Years: Fired for being black

DISGRACEFUL: The front page detailing the terrible ordeal of Sandra Luke

THE FRONT page headline on the 15th edition of The Voice published December 15, 1982 read ‘Fired’ which told the harrowing story of 22 year-old Sandra Luke who was dismissed from her job as an illustrator with a fashion firm, simply because she was black.

A sub-headline on the page said: “It’s not only harder to find a job if you’re black – it’s harder to keep it’. Luke had been working at a West End salon for only two months when she was asked to leave.

The Voice report said Luke, who had only just graduated from the London College of Fashion with a diploma, was taken on as an illustrator at the John Howard of Brighton fashion salon for a trial period.

Luke said she enquired when she first joined the company if the firm ever had a black person working there and the answer was no. The only black people working for the company at the time were two youngsters who loaded the vans at the back of the shop. She said part of her job was to sketch items for people, but when she did that, the supervisors kept her in another room so the customers would not see her.

Luke told The Voice that while her work was satisfactory, she noticed that the job was advertised in the Evening Standard. It turned out that the new person who was taken on was white. Not long after Luke was called into the management office and told that as production was down, she was going to be let go on the basis of ‘last in, first out’.

When she pointed out that she was not the last person employed and the new girl was, the management simply replied that the white girl had more experience. The Voice story said Luke, who had turned to the Commission for Racial Equality for assistance in demanding justice for losing her job in this manner, felt she was victimised because she was black.

“I think they were only using me to fill a gap until they could get somebody white to work for them,” she told The Voice. Also featured on the front cover was a picture of Jeff Thompson who had visited The Voice office to show off his medal after he was crowned Heavyweight Champion at the World Karate Championships in Taiwan as part of the Great Britain team, which won the team title and two individual gold medals.


KARATE KING: Jeff Thompson at The Voice office after winning world heavweight gold in karate

The headline read ‘The Champ’. Thompson’s story continued on the back page in which he said he intends to become an ambassador for his sport.
“There is a lot more to karate than the old ‘chop-chop’ image the general public has,” Thompson told The Voice.

“Practitioners of karate are athletes in their own right as shown by the results in the championships.” The lead story on page two carried the headline ‘The scandal we weren’t to know about’, which revealed that the government was on the verge on implementing an ethnic monitoring scheme in unemployment offices throughout the country, but without letting unsuspecting applicants know this was the intention.

The Voice story said the government, through the Department of Employment, had attempted two pilot schemes of what they termed ‘ethnic monitoring’. The first involved applicants filling out a form giving details of their origin of birth while the other scheme had clerks in the unemployment office filled out the form.

The form had four categories: West Indian/African, Asian, Other and Refusals. Just by looking at the applicant, a clerk could fill out the form without the applicant knowing what was happening.

The Voice quoted Malcolm Rennard, section organiser for the Clerical and Public Servants Association who said the union is against the scheme. “If ethnic monitoring is to be done, it must be done on a voluntary basis with the full knowledge of the claimants.”

Over on page three, another story about police brutality dominated the page, but this time it was the celebratory news that a jubilant Patrick Wilson, a disabled man, was cleared on charges of obstruction and assaulting a police officer at the Tower Bridge Magistrate Court.

The charges stemmed from an incident in the Old Kent Road when Wilson, who was severely handicapped, had driven his girlfriend to work, but shortly after leaving her office, his car was chased by a police car and he refused to stop until he had witnesses.

When the car finally stopped, he was manhandled by the police despite his obvious disability and he in turn bit one of the officers before being arrested for obstruction and assault. However, when the case came to court both charges were thrown out and in discharging, the magistrate said: “No credence can be given to the evidence of the police officers involved.”

Over in The Buzz entertainment section, the reggae singles chart had Dennis Brown in the number one spot with his popular song If This World Were Mine, while Gregory Isaacs was still holding down the number one spot on the album chart with Night Nurse.

In the soul chart Marvin Gaye lead with the hit single Sexual Healing, while he also topped the album chart with Midnight Love.

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