Darcus Howe: Rebel with a cause


To get the essence of the activist and campaigner for racial and social justice you need look no further than the YouTube BBC News interview with Darcus and the reporter in the aftermath of the killing of Mark Duggan and Tottenham Riots that ensured.

Many politicians and commentators were salivating in their demonization of Black youths. Sadly a number of Black politicians were almost frightened to raise the spectra that general police harassment and racial inequality were in part factors in the understanding of what occurred.

So when the hapless BBC reporter sought to beat Darcus and the Black community with the demonizing stick, Howe summoned his many decades of campaigning, great intellect and activism and in a most memorable interview, wiped the floor with the reporter outlining how and why racism in the UK was rife.

Throughout his life Howe had taken on and won greater adversaries than the BBC reporter. Back in the 70's State racism through the arms of the police, set about attempting to fit Howe and others up in a ficticious drugs bust and the famous Mangrove coffee house. Howe defended himself at the Old Bailey and the young man who originally wanted to be a lawyer successfully won his case.

In the years after Howe would continue to be a key Black cultural and intellectual giant, writing and broadcasting, agitating monstrous powers, who he felt had disregard for Black people.

I knew Darcus, not well but I always had huge respect for him. One day he called me up to interview me for a Radio 4 programme about voting. Because of his distrust of Government and all political parties, he told me he never voted.

We sat and talked for over an hour. My central argument to him was that we had the political numbers and with that we could demand change. It was not the only tool, I argued, but a key one if used wisely.

In the end an exhausted Howe, turned to me and said, "Brother Woolley, I'm still not convinced about voting. But with your passion and only for you because you care about this so much, I might vote."

He looked at me with a rye smile which I took to say, 'but don't count on it'.

It didn't matter, I'd just spent an hour with a Black cultural and political icon sharing and sparing ideas and for me on my journey of activism, it didn't get better than that.

When we do write the full history of the Black British movement for racial equality, the Hon Darcus Howe will be writ large.

Darcus Howe Rest in Peace

Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzDQCT0AJcw

Simon Woolley