Weyman Bennett

Growing up with racism in Britain

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The threat posed by racists on the streets and fascists at the ballot box shows that racism has not gone away. Zita Holbourne, Weyman Bennett, Hesketh Benoit, Marcia Rigg and Assed Baig discuss their experience of racism and how to fight back.

"Let's tackle the roots of racism" - Zita Holbourne

Growing up in 1970s London, I was viewed as a strange phenomenon by many. Frequently my mother was told to "go back home" and called a "wog". People tried to apply labels to me and called me "half caste", "half breed", "half pint". Some didn't know what my race was but knew they disliked me because of the way I looked and called me "Paki", "Greek girl" and "Chinese girl".

Stand up to the Nazis

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Elections next month may see the Nazi BNP win their first MEPs. But, argues Weyman Bennett, the threat of fascism can, and must, be challenged

The elections for the European parliament on 4 June this year will be a watershed for British politics. As things stand presently, there is a serious danger that the fascist British National Party (BNP) will gain their first seats in the European parliament. Some people will react to this news by dismissing it. Others will be paralysed by fear. But the important thing is not to laugh or cry, but to understand what is fuelling the BNP's electoral rise - and what we can do to stop them.

Institutional racism

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Writing in the Daily Mail on the anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry last month, Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), gave the police a clean bill of health.

He described the label of institutional racism as a "badge of shame that has hung over" the police for the past decade, "So, today, ten years on, is the accusation still valid? I don't think so."

Benjamin Zephaniah: Rhythms of radical culture

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Poet, novelist and musician Benjamin Zephaniah talks to Weyman Bennett and Judith Orr about politics, culture and why Boris Johnson's appointment of a black deputy should fool no one.

Your most recent album, Naked, blends spoken word with music. Is there more space for that?

For me they've never been really separate. When I start thinking about poetry I think of the sound of poetry and the effect it has on people when they hear it, rather than how they see it on the page.

Gang Leader for a Day

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Sudhir Venkatesh, Allen Lane, £18.99

Not many professors or PhD scholars enter a poor black crime ridden neighbourhood for seven years to ask the question, "How does it feel to be poor and black?" (the reply, by the way, was "Fuck you"). Most studies are carried out in the safe, sanitised ivory towers from which academics moralise about the root causes of criminality. This book is different. Its narrative portrays the impact of neoliberal capitalism on the lives of black working class people living in the housing projects.

F is for Fascism

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Fascism is so often used as an insult that any real analysis of its specific meaning is often obscured.

There are those who use it to describe any authoritarian action, or any extreme racism or anti-Semitism. There is the opportunistic labelling of Saddam Hussein as a fascist to justify the war on Iraq. There is also a more serious argument on the left put forward by John Pilger that George Bush and the US are in a pre-fascist situation.

Slaves Without Masters/Free at Last

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Ira Berlin, both titles The New Press, £12.99 and £13.99

Slaves Without Masters and Free at Last are two classic books on the topic of slavery. Ira Berlin's premise is that "the American colonies, the republic that was formed out of the colonies, the tobacco, rice, indigo, sugar and eventually the cotton they grow, brings capital into the United States. That capital becomes central to the creation of the economy that we enjoy today."

Anti-Fascism: Platform for Success

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The formation of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) heralds a new movement that can push the fascists into the background.

Some 2,000 people attented the launch at the Astoria in London and this was followed up by a sellout event in which exciting new bands like The Libertines joined veteran anti-racists The Buzzcocks and The Clash's Mick Jones.

Anti-Fascism: Uniting to Beat the Bigots

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Weyman Bennett, Joint Secretary, Unite Against Fascism"

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) represents the biggest mobilisation of anti-Nazi forces in this country since the 1970s.

It brings together the Anti Nazi League, the National Assembly Against Racism, Labour MPs, the TUC, and the general secretaries of Unison, the TGWU, the GMB, the PCS and the CWU. Billy Hayes is the treasurer of the organisation and Ken Livingstone the chair. Every day more names come flooding in. There is tremendous relief throughout the labour movement that the organisation has been set up, because there is serious concern about the threat posed by the Nazi BNP in the forthcoming June elections.

Hill District Blues

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Review of 'King Hedley II' by August Wilson, Tricycle Theatre, London

'King Hedley II' is the eighth in August Wilson's projected cycle of ten plays exploring the black experience in each decade of the 20th century. Set in the Reaganite 1980s in Pittsburgh's Hill District, it is a time of urban devastation brought on by slash and burn economic policies. Job opportunities are scarce and violence is a part of everyday life. Like all of Wilson's plays, starting with 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom', and including 'Fences' and 'The Piano Lesson', for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, it is set in the background of an American society created by racism.

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