Whitey's on the moon again

At last year's 2017 Westway Trust AGM, former elite investment banker, husband of a judge (as he was so keen to tell us all) and Chair of the Westway Trust Board of Trustees, Alan Brown, claimed that "no evidence" had been brought to him of Institutional Racism.
During an exchange, it was put to him repeatedly that the evidence was right in front of his eyes. He repeatedly denied it.
The point was led by this young Black man and Alan Brown steadfastly refused to accept it. As he has done consistently over the entire 3 years of his tenure as Chair.

What followed was the insistence by no less than 3 White women that the evidence did exist (and included the infamous Portobello Development drawings that entirely excluded Black/brown people) and a suggestion by a White man that the relevant minutes from the previous AGM ought to be changed. It was only through these exchanges that he finally relented.

This timely interjection was not the first of its kind.

Following the 2015 AGM, it took the words of a White woman to "open the eyes" of Alan Brown, to see that a cringe-making video of African Caribbean children shown at that meeting at the St Helen's Church, may just be viewed as a patronising throwback by a community that has long stood at the centre of Race Relations in the UK.

Perhaps it was naive then, to think that an individual who is apparently so blind to the views and experiences of Black and brown people, would take the views of Black Trustees seriously.

Nevertheless, following the 2015 AGM two African Caribbean women took up roles as Trustees in January and May of 2016. Alan Brown conceded that this would be the "start not the end" of rebalancing the Trust, in a process that would properly and unequivocally recognise the need to change the Trust from an organisation that was not even able to recognise the damage it was doing to its local beneficiaries.

This year, both of those Trustees stood down, ahead of the end of their 3-year terms. The process was an abject failure.

In the words of one Trustee "I was taken on in what looked like a commitment to doing things differently. I now feel exhausted by the recognition that what doing things differently meant to the Trust was recruiting me - I was never supposed to affect change in any other way".

And so onto the launch of the Inquiry into Institutional Racism and the Westway Trust, which is launched this Wednesday evening, fittingly on land that the Trust has had to have prised from its grip against all of its considerable efforts.

Few in North Kensington need an inquiry to tell them what went so sickeningly wrong at Grenfell.
As shocking as it was, the Kroll Report into the sale of one of North Kensington's biggest assets, Wornington College, only told the community what it already knew about the attitudes and practices of certain RBKC council members.
The Friends of North Kensington Library didn't need Jon Snow to tell them what was wrong about the gifting of the beloved library to a private prep school.
The collective knowledge of a community that can be painfully close, is sometimes - often in fact - astounding. But, the sad fact remains that it is still a community that needs the particular pronunciations of the Jon Snow's, Richard Atkins' and Martin Moore-Bick's of this world to deliver certain key messages to people who otherwise, in the words of a current RBKC Cabinet Member "hear but never listen".

That complete ignorance - whether wilful or unconscious - of there even being any wrongdoing or harm caused is important in understanding what Institutional Racism and prejudice in 21st century England is.

In the words of Alan Brown himself: We are at two ends of the telescope.
He apparently sees this oft-used expression of his as a clever analogy on perception.
Whereas, I have only ever seen it as a not-so-clever analogy on reality. 
This is not about how we "see" things. We are literally at opposite ends of lived experience. 
The pain and actual economic hardship - not to mention physical ailments - I and others experience at having lived for so many years close to the Westway without any considerable benefit.... and the pain and mental anguish I and others experience at having been ignored and smeared by a multi-million pound organisation which is constitutionally bound to look out for our interests as beneficiaries....are experiences simply not seen or accepted by this person at the end of a telescope that may as well be on the moon.

The launch of the Inquiry into Institutional Racism at the Westway Trust takes place this Wednesday evening at 7pm at the Village/Bay56.
It is being led by an international mediation organisation, the Tutu Foundation.

Only time will tell if they have the voice that will tell of our experiences in a way that will finally be listened to.....and acted upon. But, after 3 years of waiting in pain, I don't expect that action to ever come from a man on the moon.

'Whitey's on the Moon Again' referes to a poem written by the late great artist Gil Scott Heron, in which he describes a situation of outright destitution for his family and community whilst his oppressors - the White US government and institutions - spend whatever it takes to fly to the moon.

Here is the poem in full, including a number of lines that could be a direct reference to the 23 acres.....

"Whitey on the Moon"

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be paying still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man just upped my rent last night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
I wonder why he's upping me?
('cause Whitey's on the moon?)
I wuz already paying him fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes taking my whole damn check,
Junkies making me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is going up,
An' as if all that shit was't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arm began to swell.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Was all that money I made last year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I just about had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll send these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

Tags: #InstitutionalRacism