Blog Archive

Tuesday, 2 December 2014



By; Zita Holbourne, National Co-Chair BARAC UK & Boycott the Human Zoo Campaign UK 

From August to September 2014, black community organisations,  anti-racist organisations, trade unions,  artists and individuals came together to form the Boycott the Human Zoo campaign against the hosting of Exhibit B in London by The Barbican.  The campaign petition, started by activist, Sara Myers, gained over 20,000 signatures but the organisations that formed the campaign represented over a million members.

Exhibit B is an art exhibition by white South African, Brett Bailey. Thirteen installations feature black actors, who are not allowed to speak or move in a re-enactment of human zoos and ethnographics popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no narrative on the resistance to colonial rule by black people, no celebration of our achievements or acknowledgment of any other aspect of our histories . The exhibition is insulting, offensive and racist. 


The Barbican was reluctant to engage with us and on the opening night of the exhibition we protested outside the venue. The Barbican cancelled the London showing of Exhibit B that evening.  They then issued a statement which sought to demonise protestors describing us as threatening and extreme.,-power-and-privilege-join-forces,-resistance-is-necessary#.VH5PUmeS5EM

At the end of November Exhibit B was hosted by the Theatre Gerard Philip in Saint Denis, a suburb of Paris with a high black population.  As with The Barbican the theatre is a cultural centre where the works of local black artists are seldom seen. In France a petition initiated by historian and lecturer John Mullen has gained over 20,000 signatures and black community groups together with artists and anti-racists have organised a campaign against Exhibit B being hosted in St Denis and in Paris, opening on 7th December.  

artwork by Zita Holbourne

On the opening night of Exhibit B in Saint Denis hundreds of campaigners protested. They removed the sets of metal barriers in front of the theatre and a window was broken. Protestors spoke with those coming to see Exhibit B and some turned away as a result of the protest and the rest of the evening’s showings were cancelled.

The press demonised the protestors, resorting to personal insults directed at the organisers and the same kind of negative, offensive and nasty comments directed at campaigners in the UK against Exhibit B, branding them as extremists.  One of the campaigners, musician Bams, appeared on a major chat show alongside white sociologists, supporting Exhibit B, who had the audacity to try to tell her, a black woman that she did not understand racism or anti-racism!    


A public debate that was supposed to take in a spectrum of views, including representation from the campaign against Exhibit B, was cancelled, according to the organisers ‘because of the extremist nature of the protestors’.

On the following night two hundred or so protestors were greeted by hundreds of riot police and French armed forces, National Gendarmerie sent to intimidate them. Despite this, protestors stood firm and chanted demanding ‘Respect!’ and ‘Dignity’.  Some went to speak to spectators and engaged in discussions about why they were there. 


Brett Bailey claims that he and his art are anti-racist yet his response to the abuse and intimidation of protestors in defence of his art was; "My performers are full of fire. My team is full of fire... Rage, rage against the dying of the light. The show will go on,"  It is quite incredible that he can claim to be against racism and to be creating his art to challenge racism but have no concern about the police violence black people are facing as a result of it. 
On the third night, the police and armed forces became even more violent using tear gas and clubbing protestors.

It is horrific that black people in France are being brutalised and demonised for standing up against Exhibit B. It is astonishing that any artist would find it acceptable to put on an art exhibition surrounded by armed police in riot gear, barricading the entrance to it,  whilst attempting to terrorise and intimidate black people. 

Sketches by Zita Holbourne

Writing for a South African newspaper, Bailey entitles his piece ‘Blood on the Tarmac’ referring to a protestor he witnessed being brutalised by French police.  He describes watching from the safety of a window inside the Theatre, the security arrangements put in place to try and frighten protestors off. 

He says ‘But out there on the floodlit street, beyond the barricades, this is not understood. Those people have not attended the performance. None of this is really about Brett Bailey or EXHIBIT B’.  He claims that protestors have not understood his art because they have not seen it in the same way that board members at The Barbican said that we could not say that Exhibit B was racist because we had not seen it. This is a ridiculous argument, I don’t need to see the BNP attack a black person to know that they are racist and in any case  the Barbican, bar one board member,  had not seen it before deciding to book it.  He then has the arrogance to suggest that the protests are nothing to do with his exhibition but to do with the racism that black people face in society, the same racism they are facing now, demonised, labelled and threatened by police, politicians and the media.  But Bailey does not engage with the black people he purports to care so much about, he does not even appear to recognise the irony of his claiming to produce anti-racist art which is protected by racist police, who attack black people.  Bailey goes on to blame not his art but activists in London for what is happening now.


Brett Bailey looks on protected and separated by bricks, mortar and white privilege, from the living reality of black communities facing deepening racism globally. When asked if he is ‘following’ what is happening in Ferguson, he replies ‘from afar’. It is not possible to distance yourself from racism but at the same time claim to produce anti-racist art.

Protestors here and in France have been accused of censorship of  art, but  we have never called for the work to be censored but for arts institutions to withdraw from hosting it, acknowledging the negative impact on black communities and taking action to address institutional racism in the arts and culture sectors.  Both in the UK and in France campaigners against Exhibit B have included a range of artists.  We are not anti-art but anti –racist.  Rather than being for censorship, we are for equality, humanity, dignity and respect.

Solidarity with sisters and brothers in France standing up to the voyeuristic, racist, demeaning and insulting human zoo. 


The exhibition reopens in Paris at the Cent Quatre (104) and runs from 7th to15th December and there will be more protests taking place - please give your support to them.

Friday, 28 November 2014


Flood the Embassy - Justice for Michael Brown Darren Wilson is GUILTY

Report by Donna Guthrie, BARAC Women’s Officer 

Don Na Guthrie

More than 2,000 people protested in solidarity with the community of Ferguson outside the U.S. embassy in London demanding justice for Michael Brown on Wednesday night blockading the US Embassy and taking to the streets of central London bringing traffic to a standstill. Holding 'jail racist cops' and ‘Black lives matter’ placards, people mobilised in the thousands, following the decision not to prosecute US police officer Darren Wilson who shot dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. 

Calling for justice and an end to the racism that allows police in the US and UK to shoot black people. The protest entitled ‘Flood the Embassy - Justice for Michael Brown Darren Wilson is GUILTY’, organised by London Black Revs, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, and Defend the Right to Protest was young, loud and militant and called on people to take to the streets to demand that killer cops were taken off our streets. The organisers stressed their solidarity with demonstrators in Ferguson, saying: ‘In the same year that Mark Duggan’s murder was deemed lawful, and where the USA’s ongoing war on black people has been defined by a string of killings of black men by police, it is as important as ever to affirm solidarity between our people across borders.’ 


Those that spoke called for everyone to stand alongside the family of Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson, at a time when justice continues to be denied to the Black community. People of all ages and races stood and held placards and candles to condemn the shooting of Michael Brown in solidarity with protests taking place across the globe.

 NUS Black Students Officer, Malia Bouattia, offered solidarity with Ferguson from the NUS Black Students campaign and said that ‘your (Ferguson) resistance is an example to us all!’ She declared that the ‘police cannot and will not work on behalf of black people’ ‘their role is to terrorise, divide and humiliate us. There is no appealing to a moral conscience that does not exist!’ She said ‘Our community cannot afford to lose anymore loved ones, we must take to the streets and in the words of Stokely Carmichael we need to ‘Organise Organise, Organise!’


 Addressing the protest,co-Chair of BARAC UK, Zita Holbourne said how sad it was to ‘come together after another black man has been killed at the hands of the state, and of the police. ‘ She spoke of the family and friends of Michael Brown who will now have to dedicate years maybe decades fighting for justice and becoming activist, something they didn’t plan to do, because their son, an innocent 18 year old had been murdered by the police. ‘As a mother of a young black man it pains me that we have to warn them, not of the dangers of crime that may affect them, but of the dangers of the police criminal state that may harm them or even murder them’. Zita continued. ‘We now that when power, prejudice and privilege come together that equals institutional racism. The judicial system is a corrupt system that fails those that are the most poorest. Cuts to legal aid in the UK means that those that face the most injustice are least likely to be able to access justice. ‘ Zita also announced that BARAC had initiated a grass roots campaign with other UK black organisations called Elbow out Ebola and invited people to join the campaign and attend the conference on 5 December in London. She finished by praising the grassroots Black organisations and campaigns like London Black Revs and NUS Black students campaign  that had initiated the protest in solidarity with the communities in Ferguson. BARAC is proud to support Black young people taking the lead as community activists standing up for our community and against racism. Contrary to how the politicians and police demonise our black young people as criminals and worthless it was great to see such raw talented and organised young activists leading the way for equality, Justice, freedom and humanity.

 As the crowds continued to swell were then addressed by Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan shot dead by police in Tottenham in 2011 on behalf of Justice for Mark Duggan Campaign Carole ‘We want to send out condolences to Mike Brown’s family. We feel the pain and know the pain of losing somebody at the hands of the police,’ she told the crowd. ‘We know what it feels like to know that a member of your family has been murdered in cold blood. That is why we stand in solidarity with the community in Ferguson, who are very, very brave people.’ Mark’s death mirrored that of Mike Brown in that both were innocent, posing no threat and unarmed, both raising their hands in surrender, both shot dead and then subjected to character assassination. Mark was murdered by the police and yet the inquest found that he was lawfully killed and also that he was unarmed. Carol talked of the smear campaigns against them and their families. ‘They won’t even admit they are killing people. They are just ‘removing the threat’ ‘In America the police are vicious, even shooting people in the back’ and she went on: 'They've come to a point in Ferguson where there is no turning back. 'They have to carry on fighting. They have to see this through. And we have to stand behind them because you know what happens there will eventually happen here.’


 Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, who died after being arrested and restrained by police in 2008 in Brixton Police station, spoke for the Sean Rigg Truth and Justice Campaign. Marcia said: 'Burning and looting - we don't condone these acts - but I for one and I'm sure people around the world understand the frustration and anger that the people are feeling when our loved ones are murdered on the streets. 'What else are we supposed to do?' ‘People across the world understand the frustration and anger that people in Ferguson are feeling when their loved ones are murdered,’ she said. ‘What are they supposed to do? We try to go peacefully, just ask for the truth, but all we keep getting is lies.’ ‘Another mother’s womb has been wrenched with pain by a police officer that he would do it again! The family is not alone we stand in unity with the people in Ferguson, and we must stand in unity to pressure the governments of the US and UK to stop police officers killing our people. We have to speak for the voiceless. We have to fight back and keep fighting till we get justice.’


 Other speakers included DTRTP spokesperson Wail Qasim, who asked ‘What is a Black life, truth is nothing at all black people are dehumanised with the snatching away of their lives.’ ‘Well Ferguson is a movement that says no to this.’ DTRTP chair, Hannah Dee thanked the organisers and reminded that people that ‘Black lives matter, this is a struggle that has no borders and called this the start of a new movement. She called on the national guard in Ferguson to put down their rubber bullets and their tear gas if they want peace!’ and that they should note ‘ there’s a murderer on the loose in America and his name is Darren Wilson’ . Referring to the Ferguson statement that reads ‘This is not a moment it is a movement and the movement lives’ 


The protest heard from a RMT Union Paddington No1 Branch Secretary and the Chair of London Campaign Against State & Police Violence Chair before receiving solidarity greetings from Cerie Bullivant - (Cage Prisoners) who himself was the victim of the War on Terror in the UK, who warned that the ‘War on terror is a war on the poor and a war on Islam and spoke of the British citizen are kidnapped and taken abroad and tortured with state compliancy.'

 London Black Revs finished the speeches with outlining how they are organising a new militant movement to defend communities from racism, repression and cuts and attacks of our services and urging people to join them to oppose the ‘worrying rise in support for UKIP and the shift that is taking place in Britain that is seeing the growing acceptance of racist arguments like the removal of immigrants’. ‘The threat is not just from the BNP and EDL, for attacks on immigration are also about sending back black people who are born here to ‘where they think we are from and we have to send a clear message that we are here to stay which is why they set up London Black Revs to help build inside our communities before the next Tottenham or Ferguson.’ They called for people to organise to survive for when the state comes it comes with trucks, tear gas and violence like in Ferguson. They also reminded those there that the cuts that are taking place are an attack on the black community, the poor, women, the disabled and those with mental health conditions and the need to defend our community and all oppressed in society.

 A minute's silence was observed to remember people killed by the police around the world, which was followed by a loud chant of 'killer police off our streets'. Following the vigil at the US embassy, thousands of protesters marched through central London along Oxford Street, Leicester Square, and Downing Street, and on to the Houses of Parliament blocking traffic and protesters held raised their hands are they filed the streets. And other protesters could be heard chanting ‘Being black is not a crime’ and ‘Hands up, Don’t Shoot’ as they marched through central London. Chants of ‘How many cops in the BNP?’ ‘No Justice No Peace, Get these killer cops off our streets!’ ‘How many cops in the KKK’ were accompanies by calls over the megaphones of enough is enough, End to police killings now.

BARAC welcomes the militant activism of London Black Rev's and NUS Black students, who organised this serious mobilisation in solidarity with Ferguson. These organisations are at the forefront of the campaign that is organising and challenging the cuts that are impacting on local communities and workplaces and disproportionately on the black community. Last year, following the verdict of inquest into the killing of Mark Duggan, BARAC called on community organisations to actively boycott the police. BARAC welcomes the call from protest organisers to unite and affirm that we will not engage willingly with the police. BARAC is committed to working to build grassroots movements to organise against police racism and state brutality. We will be joining LBR and Co-organisers at the NUS Black Students Campaign Winter Conference this weekend in London to discuss practical actions and united action to build in local communities. We urge BARAC supporters to join us there. Details: NUS Black Students Campaign Winter Conference, 29-30 Nov, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

Watch footage: 


Further information:


Saturday, 15 November 2014


Elbow Out Ebola is a new campaign initiated by BARAC UK and is chaired by Lee Jasper, Co-Chair of BARAC.

Sign up to the Elbow Out Ebola conference on 5th of December using the link below and support the global day of action. 

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                         November 2014

Launch of Elbow Out Ebola Peoples Campaign


The Elbow Out Ebola Peoples Campaign is a newly established, broad based peoples movement, initiated by the UK based, Black Activists Against the Cuts (BARAC) movement. The campaign is made up of both grass roots organizations and individuals who have come together to explore what can be done to support global efforts to respond to the Ebola global medical emergency.

After a recent initial meeting in London, to explore the issues and after much discussion among individuals and organisations, it was agreed to formally establish and publicly launch this important people’s campaign.

We strongly believe that ordinary people can make a real difference to the lives of the people of West Africa. A global people’s movement was thought the best vehicle to both help raise much need funds for projects working directly on the ground and address the longer term political issue of driving sustainable development agenda in the region.

A Global Call to Action:

This is an urgent call out to the people of the world on behalf of the people of West Africa to come together in a grass roots people’s movement to aid the peoples of West Africa.

Governments will only do so much without political pressure from people. It’s vitally important that we ensure that the world is no doubt of our demand for increased action to respond to the current crisis and agree a longer term plan to establish a regional health network in West Africa.

Our goals are simple;
·         To call for a Global Day of Peoples Action on Ebola to take place in the spring of 2015.
  • To campaign, lobby globally in partnership with others, to agitate, educate, Governments, institutions, agencies and civil society for concerted global action to one of the gravest medical emergencies the world has ever faced, the Ebola virus.
  • To campaign for a sustainable global development agenda for the establishment and creation of a regional health care system in West Africa.
  • To challenge the myths surrounding Ebola.

Elbow Out Ebola; A Global Emergency:

In Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, people no longer shake hands when they meet and greet each other, preferring to avoid each other or to briefly touch elbows in an effort to avoid infection for Ebola.

Touching elbows has now become a local tradition in parts of West Africa, where the risk of Ebola contagion is high and is unique and poignant reminder of the devastating impact this virus is having in human relations.

We have adopted this greeting, as part of our campaign, as symbolic act of solidarity with the people of West Africa who are suffering and in dire need of our help.

Join the Elbow Out Ebola Campaign:

This campaign intends to give Ebola the Elbow by calling on people power, a global alliance of civil society, trade unions, faith groups, community organizations, businesses, schools and universities, in a global peoples coalition, to come together in a determined attempt, to lobby Governments, intergovernmental institutions, to hugely increase their individual emergency aid and longer term investment in West Africa.

What Activities Are We Engaged In?

The campaign meets weekly and has agreed;

Elbow Out Ebola International Conference on December 5th from 9.00am – 5pm followed in the evening by a fundraising cultural evening, to take place at the Zanzibar Club, 291 Kirkdale, Sydenham, SE26 4QD

For more information and to book click here:  Elbow Out Ebola Conference

We are also organizing a Global Day of Action in the spring of 2015 under the banner “We Love West Africa” and we are in the process of organising several cultural and fundraising events across the UK.

We need all the help we can get and are asking people to sign up and join us and volunteer to support the campaign. You can contact us here;

Our Current Partners:

  • Black Activists Against the Cuts (BARAC)
  • BlackBritishBulletin
  • Coreplan Ltd
  • European Federation of Liberian Associations
  • Liberian Social Organization, UK (LASOUK)
  • Melqosh International
  • PCS Union
  • Sierra Leone High Commission and Ebola Task Force
  • Starlight Music Academy
  • The Nubian Times
  • The Voice Newspaper
  • TUC
  • Voice of Africa Radio FM
  • Zanzibar Nightclub

Further Information:

The Peoples Campaign 
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