AmaZulu The Children of Heaven (2006) (youtube), a documentary made in South Africa about a high school, its Head Teacher and seven students. Velabahleke High School in Durban South Africa is the best of schools: it is a community. Children race to school at 6.30am in the morning, determined that education will free them from their slave existence in 21st century South Africa. Many of them still live in shacks with limited electricity, some faint in school because they have not eaten for several days, their lives outside the school are harsh and violent. But the Head Teacher, Mr Mtshali, is their father figure, for many of them their real father is dead or absent. We follow the lives of the students as they inspire us with their determination to achieve an education and make a better lives for them and their family. The odds are against them but it would be interesting to find out where these seven young people ended up.
Black Against Empire The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin JR. Reading this book reminded me of Gil Scott Heron and his classic song The Revolution will not be Televised. Today it could be updated to say it will not be on Twitter, Facebook or written on a blog The BPP reflected the anger of black working class women and men in the USA in the 1960s. They joined it in their thousands; even though it meant death and years of incarceration in prison. It was led by charismatic leaders including Huey Newton, Bobby Seale – as well as lesser known women such as Kathleen Neal Eldridge, Ericka Huggins and Elaine Brown. BPP was a revolutionary party that took up guns against the US state and was successful to begin with because it addressed the injustices faced by black people including unemployment, poor schools and housing, and a police force that targeted and killed many black people.
At home the BPP sought alliances with other groups including poor white people, other ethnic groups and radical groups. Abroad it had an internationalist perspective opposng US policy in Vietnam and making links with its enemies, including China and Algeria. By the early 1970s the party was in decline due to a number of reasons; one of the main ones being the way in which the American state sought to address some of the social and economic problems faced by the black community by nurturing a black middle-class. Within the BPP ideological problems led to splits and a decline in membership. In 2016 we need to learn the lessons of the BPP: that it is the people at the bottom who will change this society. Political change will only come through local community based campaigns that will really turn this unfair society upside down, a message that comes out loud and clear from this tremendous history of a unique revolutionary organisation. Buy it from
to the NUJ Film Club at 3MTheatre. The first night is Thursday 28 January at 7pm and they are showing Rich Peppiatt’s One Rogue Reporter. Each month they will be showing old films, new independent documentaries, Hollywood blockbusters, black and white classics, comedies, true-to-life stories and even a musical … all about journalism and all for £4 a viewing. What a bargain!
at Saving a Century: an exhibition by The Victorian Society showcasing the highs and lows of an organisation that has tried to save our Victorian and Edwardian buildings. London and the south dominate the exhibition but some of our local buildings that have been saved, including Liverpool’s Albert Dock and the Victoria Baths in Manchester, are featured. Something that hasn’t changed over the years is the philistine attitude of governments (and local authorities) and there is an interesting story about how the VS tried to get Prime Minister Harold McMillan on side over London’s Euston Station. It is a fascinating story about how the VS changed the public’s attitudes to 19 Cth architecture. Unfortunately the exhibition is hidden away in a dark gallery in the John Rylands Library, making it hard to find and even harder to read the display panels. But it’s well worth seeking out and persevering with reading about an important aspect of our history and an organisation that has really made a difference to our cities.
And finally this week I am speaking about my book Northern ReSisters at Tameside History Club on Wednesday 20 January at 2pm. It would be great to meet up!