Remembering

the Black People’s Day of Action

To commemorate the 40th anniversary, Goldsmiths academics have collaborated with community groups to organise a range of activities to engage the public with the history and legacy of the Black People’s Day of Action.

2 March 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the historic ‘Black People’s Day of Action’ when an estimated 15,000 people from all over the UK marched in solidarity with the victims of the New Cross Fire and their families.

Described as ‘the largest black demonstration’ in British history, the Black People’s Day of Action march began in New Cross, filing past 439 New Cross Road, the site of the fire that led to the tragic deaths of 14 young people, towards Hyde Park via the Houses of Parliament and Fleet Street.

Organised by the New Cross Massacre Action Committee led by John La Rose and Darcus Howe, delegates delivered letters to then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan Commissioner. According to organiser, John La Rose, the purpose of the demonstration was;

“To show the determination of the black population that they will not be killed, maimed or injured with impunity and that if the state would not protect its citizens then the black population and its allies in the country would.”

The reporting of the day’s events in The Sun newspaper was officially censured by then regulator the Press Council, who found that The Sun’s coverage was ‘damaging to good race relations’, the first ruling of its kind.

The Black People’s Day of Action was a pivotal turning point in the black community’s struggle for justice and civil rights in Britain.

The above account is based on extracts from ‘Longest Journey: A History of Black Lewisham’, by Professor Joan Anim-Addo.

The Black People’s Day of Action: A March for Justice

Exhibition, Catford Broadway Theatre from 2 March

This exhibition presents a body of photographs taken by academic and writer, Vron Ware, documenting the Black People’s Day of Action on 2 March 1981. The images bear witness to a historic moment of community organising and resistance in post-war Britain.

Prof Les Back
Department of Sociology

The projects

Discover what collaborations between academics, students and local Black-led organisations have created to remember the New Cross Fire and the Black People’s Day of Action, as well as how you can get involved. 

To find out about how the funded projects were chosen visit the Grants and Funding Public Engagement page.

Voices from the Black People’s Day of Action

Photography: Vron Ware, courtesy of Autograph ABP. ‘The Black People’s Day of Action 02.03.1981’ by Vron Ware is available to buy now.


Professor Les Back with Nacheal Catnott (True Colour Collective) and the George Padmore Institute (GPI)


Based on community responses to the 2017 exhibition 13 Dead Nothin Said, Les Back and Nacheal are collaborating on a film centring the voices of those who attended and remember the Black People’s Day of Action.

Filming in lockdown has posed many challenges but with help from the GPI they have recruited some fantastic interviewees and have also been able to collaborate with Kalbir Shukra on her education project, planning to make the videos available in the workshops.

If you have a story related to the Black People’s Day of Action or want to know more about the project, contact: Les on L.Back@gold.ac.uk or Nachael on nachealartistandfilmmaker@gmail.com

New Cross Tragedy

Dr Richard Shannon with Decolonising The Archive (DTA)

Three workshops on writing for audio aimed at Lewisham’s black community were held online, involving writing and production exercises. The workshops prepared participants to enter an open competition to write a 30 minute audio piece for podcasting with one of the UK’s leading black writers, Roy Williams, chairing the judging panel.

The team is thrilled to announce that the winning piece is:

‘In the Mix’ by Bonsu Boaten and Nnenna Samson, which you can listen to now

If you want to hear more, the documentary ‘From Resistance to Traranscendace: Remembering The Black People’s Day of Action’ is also available

Respect the past. Create the future. The Bronze woman: the first public statue of a black woman in England, unveiled in Stockwell memorial gardens in 2008.

When We Were Young…
Now We Are Young

Dr Kalbir Shukra with the Lewisham Young Mayor’s Programme

A series of workshops will create a space for intergenerational exchange to reflect on examples of black political activism in Lewisham up to the present day.

This project is guided by a steering group of young people and adults from the local community who have discussed how to remember both the New Cross Fire and Black People’s Day of Action, taking into account the challenges posed by Covid-19 restrictions.

The steering group co-produced material, including the postcard opposite, for two workshops that the project team put together and piloted with Lewisham Young Advisors.

The first workshop will be available for delivery to groups by March.

Goldsmiths students can deliver the workshop to the group online between March and June or provide support as well as a facilitator pack.

The workshop takes 1 to 1.5 hours and includes options for discussions throughout. A PowerPoint is supplied with optional embedded audio narration to guide people through the presentation, and there is an accompanying worksheet that is to be completed digitally or on paper. 

Please contact katy.brown@lewisham.gov.uk if you have a group that would be interested in the workshop.

Black History in Lewisham: Exploring our local history in schools

Department of History (Dr Tara Povey et al) with Decolinaising the Archive (DTA), Lewisham schools, the Migration Museum and Layers of London

Take the Quiz-Storians quiz now! 

For the 40th Anniversary, the department of History teamed up with DTA to create a fun, online quiz to find out what the public already knew about local Black History in Lewisham. 

It launched on 25 February and there were prizes donated by local businesses for those who completed the quiz on launch night.

Following research by the Runnymede Trust which found that many school history teachers want to teach more black history, but lack the resources or training to do so with confidence, final year Goldsmiths history students will collaborate with local teachers in Lewisham schools to create learning packs and toolkits. Insights from the quiz will inform what is included in these resources created for schools. 

The project aims to foster a forum for school-age learners to engage with and learn about the Black People’s Day of Action, and an exhibition – online or in person at Lewisham’s new Migration Museum – will also be created on local black history.

Remembering the Black People’s Day of Action: Oral History Workshops

Department of History (Dr Hannah Elias et al) and the George Padmore Institute (GPI)

A series of oral history workshops focusing on remembering the New Cross Fire and Black People’s Day of Action. The aim of which is to gather memories, in collaboration with the GPI, of lived experience and preserve them for future generations.

Some of the recordings will form part of a free digital resource that can be used by teachers, students and researchers.

If you’re interested in learning more about the project or want to get involved contact Hannah on H.Elias@gold.ac.uk

Black People’s Day of Action Scan-Athon

Dr Janna Graham and Dr Jorella Andrews with the Deptford People’s Heritage Museum

A series of workshops and educational activities on how the New Cross Fire and Black People’s Day of Action relate to the legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Deptford, the hard-won battles to end the trade and the ongoing legacy of these struggles in the contemporary issue facing the Deptford community.

A ‘scan-athon’ will encourage Deptford residents to share their memories and materials, contributing to the newly founded collection of the Deptford People’s Heritage Museum.

A series of collective visual engagements, or mini residencies, will make use of the emerging archive, facilitated by staff and students from the Visual Cultures Department, community members and the organisers of the People’s Heritage Museum.

To get involved contact Janna on J.Graham@gold.ac.uk

Contact

If you want to get in touch with Public Engagement at Goldsmiths,
email: Engage@gold.ac.uk