Story: Douglas Johnson
I heard about this meeting late in the day as the word got round and, with some uncertainty, I headed up towards the Cactus Club on Spital Hill. Approaching the club, I was called upon to sign a petition about its recent closure.
Rob Smith opened the meeting by addressing the 40-odd people attending. He reminded us why we were here – in response to the recent closure of the club and removal of the drinks licence. Castell Fanty told us how he had asked people to meet but neither the invited police nor the councillors attended. People expressed anger at how the authorities – the police and the Council – had closed down first the Gower, then the Avit Bar, and now this. The obvious question surfaced – why use such heavy powers against the clubs for black people? As Castell asked,
“Why do they see four black youths together and call them a ‘gang’; they see four white youths and call them ‘lads’?”
There was reminiscence of the 1980s when people had marched on the Town Hall and when SADACCA had fought a long, long battle to get their licence. But the real call was for organisation, unity and leadership amongst the black community.
“I believe that any structure coming from a struggle that has risen from the bottom up, and not from the top to the bottom, is the making of a legitimate structure,” said Rob Smith.
Another man said, “look at the Somali and Kurdish groups – they’ve built up their communities themselves,” to cheers. “We need leaders from the Afro- Caribbean community.”
“We’ve got to get our own house in order before we can attempt to tackle any of the real issues.”
Rob made clear, “If black-run businesses cannot thrive, then the area and everything around it dies and that is not advantageous for the black businesses or any other of its communities. If black businesses cannot flourish because its own people have become its worst enemy, then we have a real issue.”
Continuing the theme, another spoke of the need for black people to use their money and their votes and use their influence over the authorities – a clear reflection of the message Jesse Jackson had preached recently.
The meeting only ended after a day of action was demanded. Rob summarised by saying, “We have been dormant as a nation for too long. In order to address any of those issues and finally tackle what is wrong, we must found a black African- Caribbean organisation with honest representation and leadership here in Sheffield.”
Since then, organisers are now planning a bigger meeting and a day of unity in November. They are in talks with New Deal managers and church leaders, as well as those responsible for bringing Jesse Jackson and the Equanomics tour to Sheffield.
For updates on the meeting date, check out the Messenger’s website at www.burngreavemessenger.org or contact Rob Smith via http://www.butterwouldntmelt.org.uk