|Welcome to Eighties Babies Project
- Black Britain during the 80's
This is an on-going programme of research where we look at the achievements of Black Britain during the 1980’s.
The eighties was a unique time where the lives of Black British people changed for the better. In no other period of Black history has the lives of African, Caribbean people improved so dramatically. In this unique decade the fortunes of Black people changed in education, economic power so much so that we are still benefiting from the advances made by Black business enterprises, Black media and Black music from the eighties.
Background - the Eighties
Just to give you a quick refreshers course – how much of the eighties do you remember?
The “Me” Generation
This decade is often referred to as "the Me decade" and "the Greed decade", it reflected a sudden growth in the economic and social climate. In the United States and UK, "yuppie" entered the lexicon, referring to the well-publicized rise of a new middle class. Black college graduates in their late 20s/30s were entering the workplace in prestigious office professions. As a community we were holding more purchasing power in trendy, luxurious goods.
Following the social trends – comics like Harry Enfield created comic characters like “Loads of money” to illustrate the impact of highly paid jobs in the City. Terms like Black Man Wheels came into existence. As a community many black British who were the first generation attending Universities in significant numbers started tp create a powerful black economy.
The Prime Minister of the time was Margaret Thatcher, Conservative. Although she held office from 1979 to 1990, her time in office was scarred with corruption, stock exchange crashes and inequalities in social. She once famously said “There is no such thing as society – just individuals”. Thatcherite Britain encouraged no social responsibility.
Laws such as SUS, stop under suspicion – galvanized Black support to fight the politics of the day and Black Britain were extremely active in politics. Political leaders like Bernie Grant MP to Tottenham were instrumental in guiding Black anger of Police laws to search any black person they wanted without any cause.
Interesting the laws were introduced to stop terrorist of the day the IRA, but the only ethnic group the police used SUS on – was surprise , surprise the black community.
Thatcherite policies also drove Black Businesses to succeed in spite of the negative and racist policies.
Black Business that benefit from the hard days of Thatcher were:
The Voice Newspaper (its circulation in the 80’s was nearly half a million)
Independent Record Companies: Soul II Soul
First Radio Stations: Kiss FM, Choice FM
Comedians: Lenny Henry
Individual stars: Benjamin Zephaniah
Just to name a few.
The Eighties has two events that would change the face of race relations forever.
The killing of an innocent mother led to the riots and the stabbing of PC Blakelock on Broadwater Farm estate. This event shocked White UK from their comfort zone.
On 5 October 1985 a young black man, Floyd Jarrett, was arrested by police having been stopped in a vehicle with an allegedly suspicious tax disc. Four police officers subsequently attended his home to conduct a search. In a disturbance between police and family members his mother, Cynthia Jarrett was pushed down the stairs and later died of her injury.
Her death, seemingly at the hands of police, sparked local outrage against the Metropolitan Police who were the subject of widespread distrust in the local black community. Only a week before there had been rioting in Brixton when a black woman, Cherry Groce was accidentally shot by police. Four years earlier the publication of the Scarman Report into an earlier riot in Brixton had criticised police. The local council leader, Bernie Grant issued a statement condemning the police search. The area suffered from high unemployment, high crime and poor housing.
Day of disturbances
The following day saw a demonstration outside Tottenham police station by local people. Outbreaks of violence between police and local youths occurred sporadically during the day and escalated, leading to the deployment of riot police who repeatedly attempted to clear the streets using baton charges. However, the youths involved in the fighting quickly organised themselves and resisted the police using bricks and petrol bombs. Later, police also alleged that there had been one or two gunshots directed at them, although nobody was ever charged or convicted of discharging a firearm, nor was any corroborating evidence of such an incident made public. There are unsubstantiated claims that two unnamed police officers were treated in hospital for gunshot wounds. Three journalists (Press Association reporter Peter Woodman, BBC sound recordist Robin Green, and cameraman Keith Skinner) were also said to have been treated after being hit by gunfire. However, it is unclear whether these injuries were ever actually recorded as gun-crimes. Cars were set on fire and barricades made. There was widespread looting with many police officers and local people being injured, and dozens of residents being arrested.
Death of PC Blakelock
At about 9.30 p.m. a fire broke out on the first floor of one of the estate's tower blocks. Firefighters trying to put it out came under attack and a group of police, including PC Blakelock, went to assist them. The rioting in that area was too intense for the group of police, who were not trained riot police, and they and the firefighters withdrew. PC Blakelock tripped, fell, and was surrounded by a mob that attacked him with knives.
Police maintained a substantial presence on the estate for several months afterwards, arresting and interrogating over 400 people in pursuit of PC Blakelock's killers.
The disturbances also led to several changes in police tactics and equipment, and efforts were made to re-engage with the community.
Six people were charged with the murder of PC Blakelock. The three juveniles had their cases dismissed by the judge after he ruled that the conditions in which they had been held were so inappropriate that they rendered evidence obtained during their interrogation inadmissible - (such conditions included being questioned whilst naked except for a blanket and being questioned without an appropriate guardian in attendance).
The three adults, Winston Silcott, Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment - despite there being no witness accounts or forensic evidence linking them to the murder. As a result, campaigners led by the 'Tottenham Three are Innocent Campaign' and the 'Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign' had serious doubts about the convictions and continued to press for a retrial.
Three years later all three defendants were found not guilty by the Court of Appeal and freed when an ESDA test demonstrated that police notes of their interrogations (which were the only evidence) had been tampered with. The defendants had spent 4 years in prison. The officer in charge of their interrogation was later cleared of perjury.
The Coroner's Inquest into the death of Cynthia Jarrett heard from her daughter, Patricia, that she had been pushed over by Detective Constable Michael Randle which he denied. Unusually, in the case of a heart attack victim, the inquest found that Cynthia had died an 'Accidental Death' - suggesting that the jury found that something other than natural causes had led to her demise. No police officers were ever charged or disciplined for the death of Cynthia Jarrett.
So U think U know the Eighties
This is your chance to win! The first 5 emails with the correct answers will win an ipod Shuffle of your choice of colour.
All U have to do is answer these questions.
1. What year did SA release Nelson Mandela?
2. Which man was filmed being beaten by LAPD and sparked the LA riots.
3. What Hip Hop group social message was monitored by the FBI?
4. What London Borough did Bernie Grant MP represent?
Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org