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Book by Trew Winston N
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Winston Trew was born in Jamaica, the son of a policeman in the colonial police force. In 1954 his father left for England followed by his mother in 1955. In 1956, he and his two younger brothers left Jamaica with an older sister to join their parents in England. He regards his early life in London as mirroring the pattern of black migration and settlement he speaks of in his book.
In 1970 he joined a local Black Power organisation, the Fasimba (Young Lions) and as he tells in the book it proved to be a life-changing event in more ways than he could have imagined. Black Power was his political awakening and led eventually to a violent encounter with undercover police, to the ‘Oval 4’ episode, to his imprisonment and release from prison, and to his aptly named book, Black for a Cause.
To him the ‘Oval 4’ episode was also an eye-opening event because it not only illustrated the character and contours of Black Power activism in Britain in the 1970s, it also debunks the myth that the 1960s was the only period of Black Power in Britain. Black Power politics as practiced by the Fasimba is symbolised in the book as confronting the ‘ethics of subservience’ the police tried to engender in the ‘Oval 4’ in the police station.
The ‘ethics of subservience’ he sees as encoded in the Wedgwood ‘anti-slavery’ logo, a pose unwittingly ‘celebrated’ by the descendents of emancipated slaves in 2007. Black for a Cause is offered as a counter-narrative to the ‘pose of subservience’ represented by that logo and, instead, directs our attention to an unexplored dimension of Black resistance: the ethics of self-emancipation. He considers Black self-emancipation to be an unfinished project, one that began with the enforced migration of black ancestors from Africa. The 1970s represents a stage of development in that unfinished project.
In March, 1972, Winston Trew and three other black men were confronted at the Oval underground station, London, by a group of seven white men claiming to be policemen, who accused them of “nicking handbags.” An argument broke into pushing and shoving, and then escalated into a fight. When police arrived they were arrested as it turned out the white men they were fighting were themselves undercover policemen. They described their experience in the police station as a ‘night of dread.’ After a 5-week trial at the Old Bailey the ‘Oval 4’ were found guilty of attempting to steal, theft, and assault on police. All were jailed for 2 years. In 1973 they were released from prison after a ‘successful Appeal.’
The Oval 4 episode is an eye-opening event because it not only illustrated the character and contours of Black Power activism in Britain in the 1970s—resistance to police violence and corruption and judicial collusion—it also debunks the myth that the 1960s was the only period of Black Power activism in Britain.
Praise for BLACK FOR A CAUSE ... NOT JUST BECAUSE ...
“...a profoundly original book ... there’s nothing else like it.” -Chris Searle, Morning Star Online
“A brilliant book ... This is the first I have read on the modern history of Black people (in Britain). It is important that Black identity is dealt with in such an honest and powerful way.” -Professor Emeritus Geoff Palmer, Heriot Watt University, Scotland
“... makes for compelling reading... Possibly the first book on the British Black Power movement written from the inside.” -Harmitt Athwal, Institute of Race Relations, London
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