The words above penned by Bonnie Greer resonate for any of us, who knew Darcus Howe, whether on the streets or through his writings.
Farrukh Dhondy, a playwright and commissioning editor who worked with Howe in the British Black Panther movement and on Race Today, as well as on Channel 4, said he was deeply mourning the loss of a close friend of 45 years.
“He was one of the most important immigrant activists that Britain has known. And his great gift was that he was a practical agitator for the rights of black people, and not simply a theoretician. He was, to describe it colloquially, a street-fighting man.
“It had powerful results. I am absolutely sure that the political parties and general political opinion shifted because of the agitation and stance that he, and others, took at the time in the Black Panther movement and in magazines like Race Today.”
For many youth work activists of the late 70’s and 80’s he was an inspirational figure. Up north in the Wigan Youth Service we caused controversy by subscribing to ‘Race Today’, of which he was the editor, never mind using his friend, Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poetry on training courses. We invited more criticism by our support for the mass demonstration and protests held in the aftermath of the New Cross fire, in which 13 black young people died. Unbeknown to him Darcus Howe played a significant part in our efforts to develop an anti-racist youth work practice. We remain profoundly in his debt and the struggle goes on.
See David Renton’s review of the biography of Darcus Howe by Robin Bunce and Paul Field – ‘Racism Had Taken a Beating’
If one were to write a total history of racism and anti-racism in Britain since 1945 — taking in the arrival of the Empire Windrush, the 1958 Notting Hill riots, the deaths of Blair Peach, Cynthia Jarrett and Stephen Lawrence, the stunts of Martin Webster and the brief electoral success of Nick Griffin, shifting popular ideas of solidarity or exclusion, and the changing approaches of the British state — Darcus Howe would deserve inclusion..