Black For a Cause

Why I wrote Black for a Cause

                       Why I wrote ‘Black for a Cause’

 I wrote this book for 4 principal reasons:

1          To tell the story of my wrongful arrest and imprisonment in 1972 for crimes I did not commit.  (Chapters 1/2)

2          To attempt a placing of  the 1972 ‘mugging scare’ within the context of (a) the antagonisms between black     malesand the police; (b) as a strategy by which young black people were criminalised by the police and  courts; and (c) the emergence of Black for a Cause as a record of resistance put-up by black males against those attempts to criminalise them. 

 3        To reveal the work undertaken by the Fasimba in the name of the Black Cause  and to expose a hidden aspectof Black British history. To share with black communities what we in the Fasimba envisioned as our duty in that Black movement: organising to change black people’s perceptions of themselves as a prerequisite to changing their situation.(Chapters 3/5/6)

 4         To connect the organisational activities of the Black Power movement in the 1970s to the struggles of our    ancestors against enslavement and institutionalised cultural negation during the 18th and 19th centuries.  This I conceptualised as rejecting the ‘ethics of subservience’ coded into the Wedgwood ‘anti-slavery’ logo which seemed to define the British view of black resistance and emancipation from slavery; and to signal the need for the opening-up of new territories of understanding, of moral and ethical conduct among black descendants in Britain, and to foster in particular the re-education of our young people - our descendants and our future.   (Chapter 7)

In short, the book opens up an angle of vision on our past, present and future.

 Naming the Book

Between 1970 and  1971 Fasimba members came across an album called ‘The Last Poets’ by the group of the same name: The Last Poets.  The meaning, origin and naming of the group is as important as the issues dealt with in the words and music, and the ways in which these were presented to black descendants in the modern world.   The reference to ‘the last poets’ comes from the South African revolutionary poet, Keorapetse Kgositile, who expressed a belief that he was living in the last era of poetry before violence would become the chosen weapon of dissent and change:

"When the moment hatches in time’s womb there will be no art talk. The only poem you will hear will be the spearpoint pivoted in the punctured marrow of the villain... Therefore we are the last poets of the world. " 

This album became popular amongst members of the Fasimba as it carried social, cultural and political messages that seemed to resonate with concerns amongst young black people in Britain.  The track most listened to was the devastating ‘When the Revolution Comes’ and was taken as an apocalyptic warning aimed at those ‘coloured’ people created by white society, whom the Poets called ‘niggers.’  The Poets made reference to Keorapetse Kgositile’s sentiment in that track when they state:

"When the revolution comes, guns and rifles will be taking the place of poems and essays....”  

The word ‘revolution’ means a ‘turn around’ and refers to a sudden and fundamental change [or reversal] in power structures and relations, with or without the use of violence.  The track ‘Niggers are Scared of Revolution’ points to those black people  frightened by the prospect of such a change in the structures and power relations, especially those which kept black people generally oppressed,  peering at the world though  the lens of a 'frogs perspective' - that is to say, those people suffering from ‘mental slavery.’

Given these historical, cultural and political  dimensions, the question of what it meant to be black in the 1970s and how those meanings were mobilised and represented in organising for change in post-colonial Britain, answering these questions was a necessary part of the telling of the story. Because we identified as black it was important that the book clarify and position what being black meant to us.  

A Black identity was not just a question about what you are identified as but, more properly, what that identity identifies with; that is, the Cause around which being black was to be mobilised: the mobilisation of our blackness around the Black Cause was to privilege Black emancipation as integral to Human emancipation. We were, therefore, Black for a Cause...Not just Because. Ours was a chosen and self-generated Cause; a Cause larger than the boundaries of your individual black identity.  This Cause was the basis of a connectedness to African peoples, to the peoples of the Third World and to other oppressed groups on the World stage. A Black identity was not just the opposite of a white identity but a symbol of a righteous and global political Cause.

Writing the Wrongs

Chapter 1 is written in a story-telling style, intended to draw the reader into the narrative as the story unfolds.  In a personal communication, one reader tells of his encounter with the Chapter as it unfolded: 

It is something that powerfully affects you when you read it and is a great work, both intellectually and in the way of a discovered piece of history...You have a feeling of dread, as a reader, that the behemothery all happened, and, with my vestigial liberalism, wanting it, at some level, not to have unfolded in that way - ie for justice to have been done, rather than denied. 

I therefore used this Chapter to exteriorise and expel the anger and frustration I had felt over the years about 'justice denied' and did this by telling the story as an unfolding series of events over which I had no control.   I spoke about the sense of dread that enveloped me and stayed with me for a long time, beyond the confines of the police station and prison.   Writing the book allowed me to give a “form of words” to feelings that had been hidden, locked deep within.  To counter the feelings of helplessness was one of the reasons  I wrote the book.  In my writing I sought to convey this feeling of dread and helplessness by exteriorising my thoughts about the fears and anxieties I held, not just about what had happened to me but also what might happen.  My captors were desperate. So was I. But we were desperate for different reasons and for different outcomes.

But then came a ‘moment’ during my second interrogation which amounted to a briefexperienceof ‘empowerment’ when I recognised that my captors were as desperate for me to incriminate myself as I was desperate to escape their design to incriminate me. I wanted elude their intentions but to do so in such a way that it would also trap them and expose their designs.  They had a high expectation that I would eventually submit (p285).  Of this ‘moment’ I wrote:

 Then it came to me. What the police did not know was that I had taken with me into the police station a ‘concealed weapon’ and I decided it was time for me to use it against my interrogators. It was an ‘instrument’ they did not know I had in my possession and one that no search could or would find, no matter how thorough. In fact it was a ‘weapon’ they didn’t even know existed in the form it did, least of all possessed by me. Because I was trapped in another situation with my back against the wall and with no place to turn, I drew this ‘weapon’ and targeted it on the police case. And they didn’t even know it was being used against them. They wanted me to make a statement under their conditions and the threats and beatings were being applied to force me to agree to make a statement under those conditions.  What I did was to sidetrack this by deciding to agree to make a statement but under my conditions; under conditions chosen by myself; conditions I had designed and defined as subversive. I believed that if I didn’t try to outwit them their plan might succeed. (p41).

It was what I described later as ‘wearing the mask of obedience’ to ‘reject the ethics of subservience’ (p289).  “The ethics of subservience I rejected demanded me foregrounding values and actions that would act to my personal disbenefit and as a disbenefit to the Cause for which I stood.”  This was what I called an ‘act of agency.  Ordinarily, agency refers to a state of being in motion, exerting power and the verbagency refers to this capacity to act. My use of the term ‘act of agency’ refers an action by which the subject engages with their capacity to act in a self-defined and self-generated fashion, focused on a desired outcome.

Acts of resistance to Power

I  made the point (p 282) that the wrong thing to have done in such a circumstance would have been to not oppose the plans and designs of your captors.  This form of resistance has been described as a ‘prototypical act’ 1 of resistance as it was aimed at “challenging or undermining the power relations, agents or claims” structuring our circumstance of captivity:

"My intention was to disrupt the power relations between my captors and myself and turn their deception against them by, first, gaining their trust so I could mislead them and get them to believe what they were being told by me was a ‘truth’ they needed to hear to complete their deception: a ‘confession’ of my guilt. But this was not a true confession but was a deception intended to tamper with the power relations in such a way that they were no longer acting as the ‘Power Broker’ but as the  ‘Dupe’ – the object of a deception they had designed to entrap us. It was a moment of ‘role reversal.’ It was a counter-deception “ (285).  As I go on to conclude, “the police were deceived by their own expectations of being successful in their deception" (p288).












1              Here I have drawn on a paper by Swedish Associate Professor of Practical Philosophy, Bengt Brulde, where he offers the following: "An act (or omission) is a prototypical act of resistanceif and only if it aims at challenging or undermining power (relations, agents or claims)."   This assertionis made in a short discussion paper entitled: 'The ethics of resistance: a few notes and questions' and found in BruldeRSEthics: Prototypical acts of resistance. 














Powered by Create Ecommerce