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Remembering the Battle of Lewisham

As we commemorate the Battle of Lewisham, 40 years on we still live with racism either direct or indirect.

My first experience of racism was at the age of 14. My sister’s husband was from Jamaica, and one day, when he was heading out of their flat where they lived, my sister Diane noticed that he’d forgotten his hat. Well it was the early 1980s. She ran after him. Suddenly I heard a scream. I ran out and this kid had thrown a rock and he was bleeding from his head.

My sister was shaken and I took off my jumper to stop the bleeding and told my sister to go back to the flat and call for an ambulance.

I remember the blood on my hands and the grace that he had despite being attacked by a child. The police caught the kid and he was asked why he had done it. His response was that he did not know but this man was an “expletive, expletive”. I remember thinking, why would someone do something like that to another human being?

Racism is about power, perceived superiority, control and ignorance. We should all constantly ask ourselves who has the power? What are they using it for and what have they done with it? If we apply those questions to how power is shared and we force the sharing of that power, then we can take away one of the causes of racism.

But there is another element too: economics. Austerity is stealing the life chances of our community. It divides us. Gives hate a narrative to write. Equality of opportunity and of income where want is no more, where ignorance is consigned to history is possible.

Education, health care, housing, food, hope and love are the basics that all human beings should be provided with. If we are to deny that from anyone, then we are basing our politics on the “survival of the fittest”.

Together and only together, can we hope to defeat the power imbalance of superiority. But to do this, we must defeat poverty, hopelessness, homelessness and poor education. We must be honest about who we are as human beings.

In Lewisham, we are more honest than most. In economic terms, we are a low resource and high demand borough. But oppression can only be overcome with full equality.

All credit and thanks to those who fought the fascists in New Cross 40 years ago. I salute them.