Nicole – Year 13 Student
Editor’s note: This short essay was recently entered into the GSAL Black History Essay Writing Competition, organized by The GSAL Journal and UPSoc to coincide with Black History Month. Open to all students in Year 10-13, the purpose of the competition was to encourage students to undertake independent research, think critically and communicate clearly about an aspect of black history of interest to them. The Competition Poster provides more information about the competition brief and success criteria. CPD
A very significant moment in black British history was the New Cross Fire. A fire killing 13 young black people during a house party in London. Although there were several firebomb attacks on black clubs and homes in this area around this time, the police initially discounted racism as a motive. This caused uproar, which led to the Black People’s Day of Action six weeks later. 20,000 people marched across London to demand justice for the victims of the New Cross Fire and demand the government to listen to the black community. People came from as far as France to attend, and fleets of coaches arrived in London from big cities such as Birmingham and Manchester. To this day, the cause of the fire is unknown and police claim that it wasn’t an arson attack. The New Cross Fire and riots were a turning point in history for black people. Evident in events today such as George Floyd, the struggle of being black continues, but can be seen as less vigorous. ‘I think it’s important that the New Cross Fire tragedy isn’t forgotten, particularly in the context of 2020 where we see it reflected in Grenfell, for instance – another huge fire which mostly affected ethnic minority communities’- Anthony Joshua. A permanent effect has been implemented by these events as people today such as Anthony Joshua still refer to the New Cross Fire as an important event where black lives did not matter.
I think it’s important that the New Cross Fire tragedy isn’t forgotten, particularly in the context of 2020 where we see it reflected in Grenfell, for instance – another huge fire which mostly affected ethnic minority communities.Anthony Joshua
Another significant moment was close to us, at the heart of Leeds. The 1981 riots were two nights of pitched battles on Chapeltown Road. Police with riot helmets and shields cordoned off the area as both black and white youths went on the rampage, destroying a sex shop and the fashion showroom next door. This was due to the neglect of young black people from the government. The high unemployment rate and deprivation, with no assistance from the government, left black people angry. Although racism had been illegal for nearly 20 years, at the time of the New Cross Fire, it was and is still happening in many forms. People took it upon themselves to fight for their rights, being labelled as violent, however this wasn’t the case when there were attacks on black people’s homes and shops; the government turned a blind eye. Riots were happening all over the country such as in Liverpool and Manchester because of this.
As a person of colour, I think my history is very important in understanding what my ancestors experienced and how I got here today. Black history explains how far we have come as society but also why black people are who they are today. This is very special to me as I am in tune with my culture and embracing everything that I have because as shown through history and even today, as a black person opportunities don’t arise easily and a lot of people are still suffering. Therefore I am lucky to be in the position that I am in and I would love to continue to share this with other people and make a lot more people aware of uncommon black history. Nicole