Monday, October 20, 2014

'Blacks Brittanica' in New Cross

This Thursday 30th October, 7pm in the Cinema (room RHB 185) at Goldsmiths, University of London, SE14 6NW:

'South London Anti-Fascists are proud to host a screening of David Koff's 1978 documentary 'Blacks Britannica'.

Blacks Britannica shows the realities of race and class in 1970s Britain with rare honesty and is a powerful base for thinking about racism and the state today. The film charts the history of black people and black struggle in Britain from colonialism and migration to the Notting Hill Carnival and the Spaghetti House siege. The film has been described as "a harsh, relentless and passionate indictment of the British ruling class for manipulating and exploiting British blacks in the interest of profit". Originally produced for US public television, the film was re-edited and censored by TV station management who then tried to sue the director to prevent him distributing his version of the film (we are showing the original cut).

There will be a chance to discuss the film after the screening with Colin Prescod, one of the writers and activists who features in the film. Colin himself made the acclaimed series 'Struggles for Black Community'. The evening is free and all are welcome. If you have any specific requirements please message us on facebook or email David Koff passed away earlier this year and we would like to extend our thoughts to his friends and family'.

Blacks Britannica in 'seedy' New Cross, 1980

Blacks Britannica was seemingly shown locally not long after it was released. A dubious article in the right wing Spectator magazine, 'The Black Spokesman Industry' by Roy Kerridge (2 August 1980), mentions a poster for the film in 'seedy' New Cross where the writer was checking out what the local 'negro youth' were up to:

'Buying a return Tube ticket to New Cross Gate with reckless abandon, I set out to see for myself if negro youth were being 'got at'. New Cross, in south-east London, is a rather seedy area, varying from outright shabby to shabby-genteel, with some pleasant tree-lined streets off Lewisham Way. It is full of West Indian immigrants and their English children. The first thing I saw as I stepped into the street was a poster which read 'Revolution Youth! Free film - Blacks Britannica. Presented by the National Union of School Students. Speaker: local black activist, Fitzroy Maclean.'

A few steps down the road took me to a shop called 'Babaji', which was closed. However the entire window was filled with apparatus used in marijuana-smoking: pipes, scales for weighing the stuff when selling it, and a product lalled 'Maggie -  the only way to clean your grass'. There were also several books on growing  the weed and on Rastafarianism.'Legalise Cannabis' posters and a sign reading 'Member of the Chamber of Commerce and Trade, Borough of Lewisham'. I do not suppose that the shopkeeper was a negro. Nevertheless, his customers must have been local youths.The effects of long-term weed-smoking seem to me to be spiritual rather than physical, resulting in change of character. Dark thoughts, arrogance and cynicism soon go hand in hand with stupidity and forgetfulness... [I] wandered back to New Cross and a pub called The Star and Garter. No longer was I in search of self-conscious 'blackness', and despite all the propaganda, the coloured youths I passed did not seem unduly revolutionary'.

(can't believe that in 1980 some thought it was still OK to refer to 'negroes' and 'coloureds', but there you have it)

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