Blog Archive

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Brixton Honours Muhammed Ali on the day he was laid to rest

BARAC UK Co-Chairs Zita Holbourne & Lee Jasper had the honour to be knocked with organising & hosting a night to remember The Greatest Muhammad Ali on the day he was laid to rest, together with Green Party Politician Rashid Nichols , Community & Social Justice Activist Viv Ahmun and Director of the Black Cultural Archives, Paul Reid who provided his venue for the evening.

Ali was no stranger to Brixton so it was fitting that this London Memorial event to honour his life was held at the BCA in the heart of Brixton.

The event was a mixture of speeches, memories, poetry & song and speakers of all ages , among them BARAC officers, talked about the powerful positive impact Ali had on their life.

Zita Co-hosted / compered the event & read a tribute poem to Ali  ,  Donna Guthrie , BARAC Women's Officer spoke with Lee who had the pleasure of spending as few days in Ali's company in London gave the final speech. 

Thank you Muhammad Ali for inspiring and uplifting us to rise up,  walk tall, , be unapologetically black and proud  even in the face of adversity,racism & injustice.

World Champion, Poet,  Civil Rights and Humanitarian Campaigner and so much more, thank you,  Rest in Power with the ancestors.

Monday, 2 May 2016


Activists send open letter to David Lammy


Press Release: Embargo -Thursday, April 28th 2016 00.01 am
An Open Letter to the Rt. Honourable David Lammy MP concerning the Parliamentary Review of racial bias and BAME representation in Criminal Justice system
On 31st January 2016, The Prime Minister, David Cameron asked David Lammy MP to lead a Review to investigate evidence of possible bias and disproportionate sentencing of African, Caribbean and Asian defendants in the Criminal Justice System. As part of the Equality and Criminal Justice reform. David Lammy MP is to report back in spring of 2017.
The Prime Minister said:
We need to ask the difficult questions about whether the system treats people differently based on race. Charges, courts, prisons and rehabilitation to be scrutinised."
The Rt Hon David Lammy, MP, said:
I've been working in this area for almost 2 decades and am very pleased to accept the Prime Minister's invitation to lead this comprehensive, independent review across our criminal justice system. With over a quarter of the prison population coming from BAME background the urgency is clear. I look forward to leading a team that will evaluate what works in the UK, draw on lessons from abroad and listen to a broad range of voices from the justice system and our BAME communities."
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, said:
An effective justice system depends on procedural fairness. Equality of treatment at every stage in the criminal justice process is essential. I am very pleased that David, a politician whose intellectual honesty I have long admired, and who is not afraid to confront uncomfortable truths, is pursuing this important work."
There is a need for such a review, as a report entitled Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2012, produced by the Ministry of Justice found that almost 20% per cent of black and Asian defendants were more likely to be jailed than white defendants for similar offences. The average sentence given to an African Caribbean defendant is seven times longer than that for an average white defendant.
Stop and search figures revealed a similar pattern of over representation, a black person aged ten or older in 2011/ 2012, was 6 times more likely than a white person to be stopped and searched and nearly three times more likely to be arrested.
The same report found that only 26 per cent of white defendants were handed immediate custodial sentences compared to 31 per cent for black defendants and 32 per cent for Asian defendants. Again this differential treatment can be seen in the average custodial sentence for black prisoners was 23.4 months compared to 15.9 months for white prisoners.
Speaking as the Chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, the former Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and part time Judge, D Peter Herbert OBE said:
the figures showed 'institutional racism' within the system."
We understand that there will be separate but simultaneous meetings of BAME Judges and magistrates to discuss judicial racism and bias.
We as BAME legal groups and the wider BAME organisations and all our various communities would like to collectively express a view and put forward written and oral evidence of anecdotal cases that we know of, and a joint position on solutions, as a way forward. To this end we will be holding a series of meetings to discuss racism and bias in the Criminal Justice System and within our judicial system generally.
We know that there is significant overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system.
Please see the attached letter to David Lammy MP. Please confirm whether you would be willing to attend such meetings by contacting the numbers shown below.

Note to editors and other interested parties:
D Peter Herbert OBE - Society of Black Lawyers: 07973 794 946
Viv Ahmun - Blaksox: 07985 395 166
Ashlee Gomes - NBPA: 07887 635 375
Earl Smith - ABPO: 07810 854 258

Report on BARAC Humanitarian Aid April distribution in Calais ; Thank you for your support

BARAC's most recent humanitarian aid and solidarity visit to Calais took place last weekend.

Just a few weeks after our March distribution even more of the 'camp' had been bulldozed and cleared. An area near the art school which we had visited in March which was full of tents and structures and families living was beyond recognition.

Our transport and travel in April was sponsored by ASLEF the Train Drivers union to whom we are very grateful.

ASLEF has also donated to our Go Fund Me also towards aid.

We have just received sponsorship for our next distribution travel and transport by Global Justice Now. Our thanks to Director Nick Deardon. 

We are delighted that this year's TUC Black Workers Conference raised £1500 for BARAC Humanitarian Aid through its annual fundraising dance and a motion at the conference moved by the Public and Commercial Services Union called on affiliates and the TUC to support humanitarian aid efforts such as BARAC's,  The motion was carried unanimously. 

Our travel across the channel was not without the usual racial profiling and scrutiny by border authorities.  In the past we have been stopped and searched, delayed, detained, police checked, asked if we are the same people coming back as went out, told that if we are let into France we could get to Turkey and cross the border to Syria.

On this occasion we were asked if we had any 'knives or weapons'. When we responded that we did not, our vehicle was searched with particular scrutiny and attention given to sanitary towels we were taking for women in the camp.  Presumably this is where they thought we kept the knives and weapons. 

As if that was not bad enough, our driver, Hector Wesley, the only black man in our team on this occasion was body scanned. 

No other vehicles received such scrutiny and nobody else was body scanned.

On the way back our vehicle was searched and the authorities searched under my legs to see if I had hidden somebody there.

Police barriers surrounded all entrances to the camp.

As we entered the Eritrean church was like an oasis in a desert. The  burned out frameworks of  structures and items scattered across the earth that were there just a few weeks ago were now gone. 

Despite there being very few tents around, we  decided to distribute some food to the people staying near to the church and there was soon a line. Some young boys asked us for footballs and biscuits.

We distributed at two points, near the church and near the art school. We took food for communities in the camp in bulk form and also made up packs of essential items, toiletries and food.  We had packs for children with books, toys and snacks and baby and women's products. 

After our first distribution, we visited the school where English and French lessons for adults were taking place. We met with some people who were volunteering at the school and gave them the children's packs to distribute for  when children attended during the week.

We then visited the art school and took some supplies and met with some artists based in the camp and looked at the art they had produced.  

We distributed our second lot of aid and then went to the Women's Centre to take feminine hygiene products.

After that we visited with some young Sudanese brothers who welcomed us with kind hospitality, bringing us chairs  and making us coffee. We spoke with them at length about their experiences, their journeys to get to France through several countries and for some the journey had taken years,  some had lost their parents and  when we told them about the work of BARAC in the UK in campaigning against injustice and racism they told us that they would like to join us when they got to the UK which of course we very much welcomed.  Ironically for one of the young brothers we spoke with,  before leaving his home, his job had been supporting refugees,  not expecting that he himself would become a refugee.  One young man told me that my headwrap was the exact same print his mother wore and that she even tied hers the same way.  Most of the  people we have met over the past several months in Calais are young enough to be our children and myself and other women in our team have reminded them of their mothers. 

Over the past few months we have distributed our aid with our sisters and brothers stuck in the 'camp' , the lead brother

coordinating from the camp is Samer who ran the library and other community projects.  Each time I leave I say to him see you next time but next time I really hope you are no longer here and it was too our joy to discover a few days before from Samer that he was now in the UK. We wish Samer all the luck in the world and a positive new start and look forward to meeting up with him in more positive circumstances. We thank him for his community spirit in supporting and helping others. 

To support our humanitarian aid work you can donate here  or directly to BARAC. We are also seeking sponsors for transport and travel and you can take items to our drop off point at PCS HQ.

Contact us at for further info.

Thank you to all who have supported our sisters and brothers stuck in limbo to date.

Zita Holbourne

National Co-Chair BARAC UK

Report on the TUC Black Workers Conference

BARAC had a busy three days at TUC Black Workers Conference with BARAC members attending the conference as trade union delegates and observers, organising a Sarah Reed Justice Campaign fringe meeting and an art exhibition and book launch by Co-Chair of BARAC Zita Holbourne.  

Amongst BARAC representatives at the conference were Zita, Donna Guthrie, Hector Wesley, Antonietta Torsiello and Carol Notice-Hodgson. 

Hector Wesley, PCS NEC and BARAC International Officer

Donna Guthrie, National Women's Officer BARAC UK and Unite the Union rep

A motion moved by the PCS Union called on the TUC and affiliates to make links between campaigns on supporting refugees, against climate change and on anti racism and anti fascism and to support the work of organisations such as BARAC coordinating aid convoys to refugees in France.

The motion was carried unanimously.

An emergency motion calling on affiliates and the TUC to support the Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice, also proposed by the PCS Union was carried unanimously.  Both motions were moved by Zita.

Marilyn Reed, mother of Sarah Reed was due to address the conference on Saturday morning was due to being unwell was unable to. Instead Donna McKoy from the Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice read Marilyn's speech and received a standing ovation.  You can watch an extract of her presentation here

Donna McKoy, Blaksox and Starah Reed campaign

A bucket collection for the campaign collected £150.

left to right, Betty Joseph, Chair of Conference , Donna McKoy, Zita Holbourne

A motion put forward by the POA called on the TUC Black Workers Conference to change it's name to BAME.

Like Black Workers Conference, Society of Black Lawyers, Southall Black Sisters and countless other organisations BARAC uses the term black in its political sense to include all those that identify as being black and from the African and Asian diasporas.

Zita spoke against the motion on behalf of the TUC Race Relations Committee and several unions spoke in opposition.  You can watch Zita's speech here

The motion was heavily defeated.

The BARAC Fringe Meeting in support of the Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice was sponsored by the PCS Union for which we are grateful.

The meeting was chaired by Zita Holbourne and speakers  were Donna McKoy  who spoke about the next steps for the campaign and how people could help and Donna Guthrie, BARAC Women's Officer who spoke about the wider context of  Sarah's tragic death and the combined impacts of racism, sexism, black mental health, institutitional racism and austerity. 

Donna Guthrie, Donna McKoy and Zita Holbourne 

Each year the TUC Race Relations Committee choose a cause to support through their annual fundraising dance at the conference. This year they chose BARAC Humanitarian Aid Convoys. The dance raised £1500 through ticket sales. 

More information and donate here

In addition Zita curated the Roots Culture Identity art exhibition at the conference  featuring the art of young, black and migrant artists with Zita's art and she launched her new book Striving for Equality Freedom and Justice. BARAC member Antonietta Torsiello had art featured in the exhibition and Donna Guthrie with Antonietta ran  a stall at the conference.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Climate migration discussion incl Zita Holbourne, Richard Black + others

Image by Zita; Poet~Artist~Activist 

BARAC UK was a co-sponsor of a film launch and panel discussion organised by creative director Kooj Chuhan on climate change and migration. 

Climate migration discussion incl Zita Holbourne, Richard Black + others

Video of panel presentations from ‘Linking Climate Change with Migration’ public event 7th March 2016 at Kings College, which began with a screening of the film ‘Crossing Footprints’ by Kooj Chuhan.  The climate migration discussion also included Andrew Baldwin and Alex Randall.  The ‘Crossing Footprints’ film will be available to watch online soon, once it has been fully signed off after final proofing.  This video of the panel presentations is approx 40 mins long:

Watch here

The leading  climate migration discussion panel included speakers:

Richard Black, leading scholar at SOAS on migration in the context of climate change
Zita Holbourne, community, union and human rights activist, writer, artist and curator; co-founder of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts
Andrew Baldwin, chair of international Climate Change and Migration research network based at Durham University
Alex Randall, UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition
Kooj Chuhan, artist, filmmaker and curator of the ‘Footprint Modulation’ exhibition exploring climate migration and justice
+ Public launch and screening of the film ‘Crossing Footprints: Human Migration and the Environment’ by Kooj Chuhan / Metaceptive Media, about both the Human Migration and The Environment Conference and the Footprint Modulation art

Video of Sarah Reed fringe meeting at TUC Women's Conference and Black Lives Matter Bloc M19 Demo

Last week at the TUC Women's Conference, BARAC UK  organised a fringe meeting on the Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice, which was sponsored by the GMB union.  The meeting was addressed by Marilyn Reed, mother of Sarah Reed,  Patricia Lamour, Blak Sox and was chaired by National Co-Chair of BARAC and member of the TUC Race Relations Committee Zita Holbourne.

You can watch a video of the meeting in three parts below.




Thanks go to Sharon Edwards of the PCS Union for recording the meeting.

BARAC together with Blak Sox and the NUS Black Students Campaign have organised a #BlackLivesMatter bloc on the UN Anti Racism Day National Demo on Saturday 19th of March.

Marilyn Reed, together with Co-Chairs of BARAC, Zita Holbourne and Lee Jasper, plus a speaker from Blak Sox are speakers at the demo.