Positive thinking will take Britain to its’ “Yes We Can” moment, says Lee Jasper
When I was struggling at that time to shine a great light on a huge injustice, three black men in Cardiff were found guilty of murdering a white woman a crime they could not have committed, I invited the Rev Al Sharpton to the UK so that I could take him to Cardiff and get some publicity for this case.
Being the activist he is he came and he set the UK alight. The headlines on the day he landed were “Race Hate Preacher from Hell flies into UK.” Well, one mans hell is another mans heaven! Such was the publicity he brought to that case that the campaign became a national cause célèbre. Five years later the Cardiff three were freed.
You see, if you’re going to be a fighter for justice you have to get into the ring, you have to get bloody, you will have to endure scars to you reputation and withstand false and malicious testimony.
So if I stand before you today if my political face looks scared and bloody, you need to know that these are the honor scars of a black power fighter. I bear my tribulation with pride and I am honored to be hated by the right wing press and media. I thank those of you who supported me from the bottom of my heart.
As we celebrate the birthday of Dr King we should take the time to reflect on his ideal of a post racist society as an objective that we are capable of delivering
We here in the UK will arrive at our “Yes We Can” moment in history, but we have to be positive. The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.
Be under no illusion this election could provide the first step toward that destiny by ensuring the highest level of voter registration within our communities, in British political history.
As we push on into the 21st Century let us do so with our heads held high, in confident fashion having established ourselves as an electoral force to be reckoned with. And as with anything else in life, if we want to fly high and soar on the wings of confident optimism, it is our attitude not our aptitude that will.
Put simply, we want you to be revolutionary about registration, evangelical about the election and determined about democracy.
We want you to become, like Dr King a passionate advocate for justice. We want you to become a volatile voter, a civically militant electorate.
To those who turn away from the ballot box favoring a conscious ‘opt out’ from the democratic process and then complain about their lot, I say think again. Your non-voting quasi ‘revolutionary’ disengagement has failed. And to those who simply cannot be bothered, I say to you there is no such thing as not voting.
Those who do not vote elect bad politicians. By choosing to opt out you give your vote to maintaining the status quo. You are voting for the maintenance of racism and discrimination, you are voting for failing schools, you are voting for stop and search, you are voting for keeping Africa and the Caribbean in debt, you are voting to ensure that the people of Haiti never get the scale of help they urgently need and richly deserve.
You’ve got to be a chump not to vote! Not only is not voting self defeating it a betrayal of our history and it spits in the face of those like Dr King and many others who died securing our right to vote. It dances on the graves of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks.
The vote is the instrument and the symbol of a free man’s power to take the present and turn it into the future. Non-voting is a fundamental betrayal of our historic struggle for freedom and justice.
Any one that does not vote is not only a chump, but you’re also a traitor to your race. You have become part of the problem. And there is a lot we should be voting on.
Our parents believed it was their responsibility to beat down racism so that we, their children would enjoy greater opportunities than they enjoyed. This was their priority their raison d’être to make a life better for themselves and their children.
That’s what propelled them to leave their countries of origin and come to Britain. This generation may betray that legacy and we are in danger of abdicating our responsibility as parents, bequeathing to our children lesser opportunities than we enjoyed. This is something our children and grandchildren will not forgive or forget
Look at yourselves. Some of you teenagers, students. How do you think I feel and I belong to a generation ahead of you – how do you think I feel to have to tell you, “We, my generation, sat around like a knot on a wall while the whole world was fighting for its human rights – and you’ve got to be born into a society where you still have that same fight.”
Today the issues facing us are a legion. From the moment of conception if you’re black in Britain you’re at a disadvantage. Figures show that Pakistan, African and Caribbean women experience significantly higher levels of infant mortality.
For Pakistani mothers the data shows 8.6 deaths per 1000 live births and for Caribbean mothers the figure stands at 10.7, this compared with the average mortality rate of 4.9 per 1000 live births immediately points to a glaring disproportion.
In the current recession we have seen black youth unemployment increase from 35% to 48%, that’s half our young people right there who are out of work and immersed in poverty.
We have more black men in jail than university and a serious problem of extreme violence among our young people. And we are our own principle victims of crime. We have high and increasing levels of teenage pregnancies and babies without fathers. We have poverty at home and are up to our necks in an illegal war abroad.
Racism requires double standards to exist and we should not buy into that mindset. You saw in Hurricane Katrina what you’re about to see in Haiti, international press straining at the leash to describe a proud people driven to absolute desperation as “violent looters” so that they can then walk away and blame the Haitians.
The earthquake caused a hell of a lot of damage but that is nothing compared to the damage caused by the world’s criminal neglect of Haiti. The world’s first Black republic has been punished ever since the day it became independent. Haiti is not poor Haitians have had poverty imposed upon them.
That double standard informs our everyday reality, it’s the stereotype that says all black men are pimps, that black boys are inherently violent and deserve exclusion from school, that black students are unintelligent. Yet when we gain our degrees we are overly unemployed as university graduates.
If we do have a job, it’s to fill quotas and if we don’t we are benefit scroungers. Those in work are first to be sacked and last to be promoted. We are underrepresented in Parliament and over represented in prison and psychiatric wards.
If we complain we are militants playing the race card and if we don’t it is evidence that there is not a problem. When we demand equality we are really talking about special treatment and if we wear a headscarf we are oppressed. If our friends are all black were self segregating and when we move into white areas were spoiling the neighborhood.
This is the reality of racism. Now as crazy as things are here we are fortunate because we have an opportunity to do something about it. We can help our children realise a better future. We can ensure that international aid from Britain comes with no strings attached. We can determine the price Caribbean farmers are paid for their bananas.
We can prevent illegal wars and demand that we spend money on schools and tackling pensioner poverty rather than wars and banker bailouts. This is where our redemption lies in taking up the historic challenge to register our people to vote in unprecedented numbers.
We can change this society and we can write our own page in history, I say to you that we here in the UK have a duty to our own children as well as the rest of humanity. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the millions who won’t survive the week.
If you have never experienced the horrifying danger of war or the loneliness of false imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.
If you attend a Church or a Mosque without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace and enjoy more than two dollars a day you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
If you can read the literature we have provided tonight, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.
Let us be thankful for what we have got and use it to reach down and pull our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters up out of the mire of oppression and discrimination. You change for only two reasons: you learn enough that you want to, or you hurt enough that you have to. Either way change is coming to Britain.
Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. Join us on this historic quest.
* This is a version of the speech Lee Jasper gave at the Realising The Dream rally last night, with Rev Al Sharpton