Monday, 25 April 2016

Former Black Teacher at Elstree UTC Slams School Over Racism

Elstree University Technical College (EUTC) : A former Black teacher writes of the racism he encountered. Andrew Byran an Art Technical teacher at EUTC from October 2014 - August 2015. You can read the background to this story here.

 I find it horrendous that when we have so few black male teachers they should suffer such terrible racism and confirms the atmosphere and culture of racism that exists at this school. Andrew is not alone, bot more of that later. Here's his story...

What is Racism - and who is qualified to flag it up in the school environment?

"These are 2 questions that black people discuss from time to time, normally when a friend happens to be going through a trying time at work. The various stages go from vague feelings of uneasiness at things said or not said, silences at times when in normal conversations with white colleagues (normally line managers) the air might be filled with words and even laughter, feelings of being undermined that you’re not entirely sure about - so you watch for it again and again and cannot believe it when it actually happen again.

But not by teachers! 
The thought of who would believe ‘you’, a black person who may simply be bad at the job, crying wolf or have that ‘lump of rock’ on the shoulder.

Being told that your work is substandard and that you’re aggressive, when you’ve actually been bending over backwards to be flexible and not rock the boat, but to smile at all times so as not to appear threatening, remembering to leave your black self at home where it belongs and not bring it to work.

Of course the problem black people have is that you can indeed leave much of your ‘black self’ at home. You can even cover your kinky hair with a straight weave. But you cannot cover your skin.

And, if indeed racism is about colour, power and prejudice, then those of us of the darkest hue have a problem in a work place controlled by potential racists.

Mr Ferguson UTC 
Now I know what some of you are saying, ‘Well, not all white people are racist.. right’.  Now I can agree with that statement. But I’m saying something slightly different, which is ‘all racists are white people’. Ok you’ve never thought of it that way have you?  This is a correct statement only if racism is power plus prejudice.

Power in the sense that even in 2016, most UK institutions, companies and systems that govern people in society are led and controlled by white people. Thus they have system power. Such is the case in education. So white people somewhere in schools have to be racist, right?

This brings me to a situation I encountered at a poorly run school Elstree UTC I taught at from October 2014 to August 2015.  I say poorly run due to the fact Ofsted judged the leadership as a ‘3’.

Needless to say the then Head teacher subsequently lost her job but surprisingly other senior team members kept theirs. I also say poorly run because on beginning my employment there, I discovered that YR11 and YR13 students had completed little if any worthwhile coursework the previous academic year.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was being asked to get students to complete 2 years worth of coursework in less than 1 academic year. Was this a set up? Was the idea to pin this fiasco on the unsuspecting new black Joe?

I suddenly felt like Barak Obama brought in to sort out or take the fall for the economic mess left by Bush and his dad.

Well it was too late to run so I had to stay.

However back to the main issue and point of this article namely one of racism in education. Now would ever expect a teacher to get away with calling a student a nigger? Well as crazy as that sounds that’s exactly what happened at this particular school what a white male teacher, called a black student a Nigger in front of a class full of students.

Then to add insult to injury when a member of the senior team met with the student he defended the use of the word nigger by the white male teacher saying the word was regularly used by young black people. The incident was effectively hushed up.

There’s not enough room here to list all the other instances but there are many more.

The power to hire and fire people is also a point at which the ‘R’ word can raise is nasty head. At this particular school it became apparent that black staff contracts were not being re renewed in particular departments but a decision was made to hire white staff in those same departments. Elsewhere a white student teacher who was always late to work had been taken on while a black and an Asian media teachers were not.

Finally regarding myself. You know when you experience bullying, victimization or racist antics, you may at first not quite recognize it let alone know what to do about it as it may catch you off guard and pass you by before you get time to react. My case involved the teacher who called the black male student a nigger and the same senior teacher who defended him.

So, in walk both these two characters into my teaching room with the senior teacher demanding to see completed paperwork, which I had not managed to complete.  Although I apologized and said I he would have them end of play on that day or latest the next day he insisted on drilling, chastising and belittling me.

This went on for about half an hour with him refusing to accept my apology and with the pair of them refusing to let me speak. 

He then sent me an email afterwards where he proceeded to label me as ‘aggressive’.  

Yes his actions were completely unprofessional and shocking in the extreme but this tandem bullying and victimization wasn’t the thing that really got me. You see what really got me when I thought about it was the fact that besides writing this article, I was completely powerless to do anything about it, such are the power dynamics involved in racist practice. Black members of staff have very little protection from racist antics of those with a mind to practice racism.   

So, who is qualified to flag up racism in the school environment? The answer is everybody! And everyone must. 

So I write this article in the hope that racism, bullying, victimization and all other forms of discrimination can be brought to an end and dealt with robustly when it occurs, as no black student or staff member should have to deal with this as it causes stress and anxiety in staff and the total disengagement of students as was the effect on the black male student mentioned in this article.  

Needless to say I left this particular school but feel sorry for all the students both black and white and staff who are still there." 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Black man, victim of vicious racist attack and institutional racism dies.

The Tragic Case of Tatenda Kamasho: Black man victim of vicious racist attack and institutional racism dies a preventable death.

#TatendaKamasho #BlackLivesMatte© Lee Jasper

The reality of the full and nuanced effects of racism on the day-to-day quality of lives of black people in Britain is rarely recognised. The intersection between institutional racism, the criminal justice system, NHS and mental health services has been one of troubling concern for many years.

Cases such as Rocky Bennet, Sean Rigg and Sarah Reed provide tragic testimony to this issue, a matter I’ve written about here, previously. 

The case of 23 year African British born man, Tatenda Kamasho is yet another tragic case.

Tatenda had previously been the victim of vicious racist attack that took place in Northampton in 2012, when aged just 20. Whilst waiting in the queue at the local McDonalds when 18yr old Jordace Sinclair demanded Tatenda stopped talking.

He then physically attacked Tatenda, taking a knife and stabbing him so hard the blade broke. Sinclair then proceeded to viciously batter him and eventually bit a chunk from Tatenda’s cheek.
Following the attack, the cheek wound became increasingly infected turning septic and eventually resulted in Tatenda being induced into a five-day coma.

Once awake, Tatenda’s mental health deteriorated to such an extent that he began to suffer hallucinations and became deeply psychotic. Prior to this had no history of mental illness, nor is here any such history within his family.

The trauma of this racist attack, combined with the septicaemia infection had resulted in a serious deterioration of this young man's mental health.

Over the course of the next four years received treatment for his illness, he and his family were hopeful that he'd make a full recovery.

His parents, mother, Mrs. Praexedis Moyo-Kamasho a Registered Nurse and father, Mr. Cosmas Kamasho a Chartered Surveyor residing in Hanwell, West London, fully supported their son through this difficult time.

Tatenda managed to secure himself a place in a supported living accommodation project in January of this year. He was visiting his family at the weekends and in March was preparing to celebrate Mother's Day at home with the family.

On Saturday, 5th March parents received a phone for from the project saying that Tatenda was physically unwell and that an ambulance had been called. On reporting Tatenda’s symptoms to the operator, the support worker was told that no ambulance was needed and that she should continue to observe his condition.

The parents immediately phoned Tatenda and he reported that he had a sore throat and had not eaten well for four days. When they arrived at the project, they noted that he looked weak and appeared not to be able to swallow properly. He was so unsteady on his feet, that his father had to help him use the bathroom. Once he settled, they bought him some food from a local takeaway and sat as he slowly ate the food.

Failure to act could have cost Tatenda his life
They went home, looking forward to seeing him the next day. On Mothering Sunday, 6th March his parents called Tatenda who did not answer his phone then they called the support workers who told them that his condition had again deteriorated. On attending the project they saw their son in great pain and unable to move.

With the parents in attendance and with Mum being a qualified Nurse backing up her concerns, the support worker tried again to get an ambulance and during the course of this conversation,

Mrs Kamasho intervened and spoke directly to the operator directly.

Intense discussions took place as Mum sought to convince the operator that her son's condition warranted an ambulance and was very serious. The operator took a different view and simply refused to dispatch an ambulance.

After about twenty five minutes of deliberation, and the family reporting more serious symptoms, then and only then did the operator, conceded and agreed to send an emergency mobile paramedic.

Once the emergency paramedic finally arrived, his view was that was there was nothing wrong with Tatenda and that ‘he has a mental health issue, he’s just seeking attention’ When Tatenda heard these comments he requested “Please sir, do not argue with my parents as they are only trying to help me.’ The paramedic then sarcastically replied ‘Look he even talks!’ implying there was nothing wrong with Tatenda.

However once he had performed his medical checks he immediately found that Tatenda’s blood sugar was incredibly high. It was at that point that he called for an ambulance immediately. Once at Ealing Hospital it was clear his condition was life threatening.

Eventually, the hospital stabilised his condition. For a time it appeared as if he was making good progress and at one point he even managed to sit up and eat yoghurt with his mother.

Parents, now somewhat relived and reassured, left him around 10:30pm that night and made their way home. At 4:45am  on the 7th March 2016 they received a phone call from the hospital stating that his condition had deteriorated. By the time the parents got to the hospital, staff were already trying to revive Tatenda. However at around 6:45am their wonderful son was declared dead.

The family were shocked and devastated. They however are in no doubt that Tatenda’s death was completely avoidable. They believe and I have come to the same conclusion, that had London Ambulance Service (LAS) responded professionally and properly assessed the seriousness of his condition, their son would be alive today.

They believe that NHS LAS operators repeated failure to correctly assess his condition, resulted in tragic delay. His treatment they believe, was informed by a stereotypical view of mental health patients and the fact that Tatenda was a black man, explains the total lack of professionalism and compassion that eventually resulted in a lethal delay in treatment, that contributed to their son's death.

The family are now awaiting pathology reports that will hopefully reveal the cause of death

Mrs. Praexedis Moyo-Kamasho said,

‘My sons death was entirely avoidable.

'As a trained medical professional I was appalled at the blaze and inhumane attitude of the NHS operator and the Paramedic who attended’

Mr. Cosmas Kamasho told me,

My son, Tatenda needed urgent medical attention and that was delayed by the incompetence and inhumanity of NHS Operators who consistently denied my son right to treatment and in doing so, grossly aggravated my son’s condition.

We want answers as to the cause of death and a full transcript of all the calls, that were made by the support worker and my wife.

The whole extended family and our friends are in deep shock. All we want is justice for our son and to prevent this from happening to others.”

The family have written to London Ambulance Service and outlining their anger and concernsThey demanded that Tatenda case be independently investigated and that the Ambulance Services be held to account.

The tardy and perfunctory response they received didn’t even offer the family that most basic of courtesies. The letter reproduced here was not even signed by a named individual.

There was neither simple acknowledgement of their son’s death nor an offer of condolence.

This is a shameful response that has simply added to the family’s acute distress.
The family reached out to me to call for public support fore their search for answers and help raise awareness that so that it does not continue happening to someone else.

Mrs Pra Moyo-Kamasho is available and keen for press interviews.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Black Organisations Letter to London Mayoral Candidates on Youth Violence.

Press Release

April 20th 2016

For immediate release

Open Letter on Youth Violence in London to All Mayoral Candidates.

Youth violence in London is rising and too many young Londoners are living their lives in fear of violent crime. The safety of your young and their right to equitable access to the privileges and freedoms offered to their more fortunate peers is now the number one political concern of black Londoners.

The recent murders of Myron Yardie and Lewis Elwin has left a community traumatised, angry and anxious. Such crime disproportionately affects London's African and Caribbean Communities. Research shows that such crime is symptomatic of the extraordinarily high rates of unemployment, poverty and socio-economic exclusion in the capital and across the country as a whole. We are deeply concerned about the disproportionately high numbers that are excluded from school without appropriate support who then become part of the schools to prisons pipeline or worse end up murdered on the streets of London in greater numbers than any other single ethnic group. 

Operation Black Vote, National Black Police Association (NBPO), Blaksox

(Social Action Movement), The Association of Black Police Officers (ABPO), and Voyage (key community based service provider) in partnership with many leading black organisations and community groups are now urgently considering what both they and the next Mayor of London can do, in partnership, to address and stem these rising rates of violence. 

Last year witnessed a massive spike in the numbers of teenage black men murdered in London. By 2015 years end this figure had risen to 19. What is less publicised and debated by politicians is that in addition to these horrific figures, there are countless numbers of walking wounded, those who survived violent attack, but remain emotionally and psychologically traumatised and living in fear.

It has come as no surprise to our police, nurses, community workers, teachers and others that live and work in some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in London that we now find ourselves in this position. 

Bernard Hogan-Howe Commissioner of Police for London amongst many others, warned about this growing violence trend and advised that it was simply not possible to 'police our way of out' of this issue. Our concern is that as a result of increased rates of inequality, poverty and unemployment, we are revisiting the shockingly high levels of youth violence that were first seen in London when Boris Johnson became Mayor in 2008.

We contend that in the last 8 years very little has fundamentally changed. In fact, post the 2011 riots some would say the socioeconomic issues that were identified as “the drivers” that sparked the subsequent violence and civil unrest, have actually become much more acute. 

Black Londoners and Londoners as a whole, urgently need to know what the next Mayor of London intends to do to address these critically important issues that continue to blight the image of London as a safe city and good place to live and raise a family. We will also be seeking meaningful answers from decision makers across the most affected London boroughs in addition to those regional and national services who have been commissioned to address and tackle these issues, but have not had a meaningful foot-print in our communities.

Note to editors and other interested parties:

For further information please contact:

Viv Ahmun: 07985 395 166

Ashlee Gomes 07887 635 375

Black Youths Get Battered by Manchester Police.

Both here and in the United States, there is a crisis of confidence between the institutions of law-enforcement, criminal justice and principally, but not exclusively Black and Muslim communities The nature and scale of this crisis differs around the world, but the underlying issues seem remarkably consistent.  In America you're much more likely to be shot and killed by armed police officer.

In the UK, thankfully, while the numbers of black deaths in police custody are no where near the levels of those in the United States. Nonetheless, when one begins to look at deaths in statutory custody here in UK, the number of Black deaths remains hugely disproportionate.

Add to this the numbers of black deaths in asylum and immigration detention centres, mental health hospitals, prisons, young offender institutions and prisons or as deported migrants who die in transit, and the true scale and size of the problem begins to emerge.

The fact is, there is a culture of violence in law enforcement and policing, here in the United Kingdom and the United States. Violent arrests and injury are common place. Death in custody, aggressive policing and racial profiling combine, in a toxic mix of systemic institutionalised racism that degrades and destroys black people's lives, conspires to lie, criminalise, incarcerate, maim and murder with the total impunity that only white privileges confers.

Take this case where a group of black and white boys are in a McDonalds restaurant in Ardwick, Manchester. This incident took place on Tuesday evening on the 5th April.  Here we see a 15-year-old young black boy targeted by Greater Manchester Police officers who manhandled him, forcing the child to the floor, handcuffed and restrained him.  His family have responded by reporting the incident to the police.

The response from the police was too present an account of the incident despite at this point not viewing any CCTV, in an attempt to mitigate the officers conduct this matter is so serious that the family have instructed a legal team.         

Young People from the Hideaway Youth Project are currently in the planning stages of an Everyday Racism Project initiated from their everyday lives. They are attempting to address social inequalities they face in the UK following work with US Black Lives Matter movement. The group, newly named Young Leaders are developing a video and clothing range in partnership with Odd Arts and Manni Clothing funded by Moss Care Housing and MCC respectively.

The project involves researching the history of oppression against people of colour and looking at the impact left by the legacy of Slavery as well as the manifestation of racism in today's society.  The documentary is possibly going to consist of social experiments, interviews and covert filming to give the viewer some concept of the barriers and prejudice they face daily.  A key element of the video will be the criminalisation of young black men who face a range of injustices within the criminal justice system which starts as soon as they go to secondary school.
'I'm involved because I believe and feel people need educating on the topic as I think the majority don't actually understand what there doing or see the issue as perhaps they have been bought up and educated that way. Also racist stereotypes are all around on the social media especially among us young people.' JAI

'I'm involved because I want to see equality every where I go.' CHE

'It's a topic that I'm very passionate about, and I think a lot more people need educating and maybe if they hear it from young people the message will be more effective' SADE

'I am involved in the everyday racism video because awareness of this topic is one step closer towards equality.' SHILOH

Some of the young people from the Hideaway, Moss Side made a video about Stop and Search which was supported by GMP in the Summer of 2015. Recently young people who participated in the making of the film have been taunted and harassed about their involvement by undercover officers in unmarked cars.

These are routine of incidents. Racism is routine and when viewed from a Black historical perspective of unremitting police violence, racial profiling, racist charging and prosecution,  producing mass criminalisation of communities, explains the police are viewed with cynicism, suspicion and anger. 

Such realities, lead to plummeting levels of trust and confidence, deep cynicism and ultimately civil disturbance.

These are precisely the type of 'symbolic' incidents that can spark community anger. In this context black communities, tired with perennial white denials of racism are have become like dry tinder, bone dry straw, racist policing is the spark that will result in an inferno.

With see evidence of that that in the development of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United
States. Here in United Kingdom we have a long tradition of resisting police racism and challenging injustice most notably Stephen Lawrence, but there are so many cases one could site that demonstrate the point not least the most recent tragic cases of Sarah Reed and Sheku Bayoh. 

Here is another example of the on whelming please brutality face by young people in the United States. You can see the similarities between the two cases, a sort of overarching culture of white privilege and police brutality that has transcended geography. 

I thought it interesting that these two videos almost appeared simultaneously and both have attracted huge attention on social media.

There is a emergent need to ensure the development of relationships between the black lives matter movement in the United States and organisations such as Barac and Blaksox here in the United Kingdom. We need to deepen and broaden our relationships, we need to become like family, we need to end the dislocation and isolation of our struggles in an effort to confront the same issue. White supremacy, systemic and institutionalise racism and all of its effects.

The racists and their institutions share a common culture can be seen on the streets of Manchester or indeed the Bronx. We need to become international activists to combat an international problem. I will be writing more about the Manchester incident in the days to come and they're already emerging some interesting details about this case. Stay united, stay a awake, stay tuned.

NB. Thursday 28th April there is a black youth led demo from McDonalds Hardwick, Stockport Rd Manchester to Levenshulme Police Station. 4pm - 6pm