A very Glad Midsommar to all of you. It is a strange sort of Midsummer, one of sadness, anger, but also, I think, joy. It has certainly been very joyous with us at T4K.
A New House
Thanks to your unflagging support, the success of the Cup of Kindness campaign (it’s not yet over) and the Brighton and Hove Community Land Trust, we have been able to take out a secure lease on a four bedroom house with a garden. This means that a family of five asylum seekers will finally be able to live in a home that is totally suited to their needs. It is a testament to the phenomenal nature of our community that you have been able to make this happen.
We will have the lease on the small house at least until October and two single women, also in need of protection from the hostile environment, will be able to live there for a minimum of three months. This is where the continuation of the Cup of Kindness campaign comes in. Our current surplus monthly income is around the £350 mark. That’s good, but a room costs, by the time you paid the council tax and the utilities, £600-£700 a month.
To continue to support both women long term, we need to increase our regular donations by another £900. We won’t have to do that by October, because monthly surplus accumulates, but it would have to happen at some point. By far and away the best way of getting more subscribers is for the current subscribers to tell their friends about Thousand 4 1000. Please do talk to your friends, share information about us on social media, send the Cup of Kindness film to your friends and, pretty, pretty, please send us a short two line testimony about why you support the project. It would be wonderful to showcase the diversity of people behind T4K. We also want to put together a leaflet to give to the people you support to make it clear that the welcome they receive comes from the whole community and not just the wonderful, hard-working volunteers whom they meet face-to-face (at a good social distance). Your testimony is needed for that.
The mask campaign is also ongoing. My inbox is cluttered up with notifications of orders received. I have to keep reminding myself that there is a bug in the system, and I receive two notifications for every order, but even at half the apparent demand it still keeps me smiling. You can get your beautiful masks here. The masks are proving a real lifeline for forced migrants in the city, but because they are wonderful and reusable, we need to keep reaching new audiences. If you’re part of an organisation or sympathetic business, maybe suggest to them that they give the masks a plug. I have looked elsewhere for my face covering, but I’m told our suggested donation is extremely good value and, more importantly, every single penny, other than that spent on materials, goes directly to forced migrants.
The other thing that has happened since I wrote to you last is that George Floyd was brutally killed by the police in Minneapolis. As anyone not living in a hole in the ground knows, that sparked worldwide protests (although of course the largest were in the US and bastions of colonialism) under the slogan “black lives matter”. At the very least, it has sparked a much overdue conversation about the centrality of racism to the “European tradition” and Western prosperity. If that conversation doesn’t start the process of reckoning and reconciliation, I don’t know what will.
We now have to work to link the various post-war immigration “reforms ” to the legacy and reality of British racism, so as to make sure this is included in that conversation. We need to show that from the immigration acts of the 1960s and early 1970s that effectively stripped black and Asian Commonwealth citizens of their right to live in the UK and of their British citizenship, through the beginnings of theoutsourcing of immigration control in the 1980s and Blair’s attacks on asylum seekers and the right to asylum at the turn of the millennium, to Theresa May’s hostile environment in 2014, UK immigration policy has more or less been aimed at creating a de facto whites only immigration system. Such a policy is of course underpinned by the same racism that this new multiracial movement is trying to dismantle.
Undoing the past
I think that is also important that we show how new these policies are. I attended a webinar run by MASI, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, as part of the launch of their campaign to reinstate asylum seekers’ right to work in Great Britain and in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. I was struck by how radical a demand it sounded to me but was pulled up short at the realisation that the ‘radical’ was normal 25 years ago. Until the late 90s in both Ireland and the United Kingdom asylum seekers were entitled to work and, at least, in the UK claim mainstream social security. (They may well have been allowed to claim Social Security in the Republic. I just don’t know my Irish history).
The world was not falling apart in 1995 (at least not because asylum seekers were able to have a job). We have to remember that border controls at the border are both unnatural and new. We need to reiterate that immigration, even large-scale immigration, has never been a problem for anyone except the Enoch Powell’s of this world and, as the black lives matter movement is showing, Enoch Powell is a problem that we can deal with if we put our minds to it.
The important thing to remember is that Enoch Powell was very much part of the political establishment mainstream, although Heath, to his credit, sacked him from the shadow cabinet for his “rivers of blood” speech. The sad truth is that the centre ground of the political establishment has only shifted rightward on immigration since Powell’s day. As the late Sivanandan put it, “What Enoch Powell says today, the Conservative Party says tomorrow, and the Labour Party legislates on the day after”. I wasn’t alive in the 1960s and 70s so I don’t want to prognosticate about where the general public were at back then. What seems to me to be certainly true is that now the populace is well to the left of the powers that be when it comes to immigration. The very people whom Powell believed would spell the doom of this country simply by being here are still being targeted by Powell’s political heirs, but the outcry over the Windrush scandal might just sound the death knell for the hostile environment.
Creating the future
The Black Lives Matter movement enjoys broad public support. It is attempting to highlight the unbroken chain that links the people who quite literally put Africans in fetters and continues to deny freedom to their descendants. Actual occurrences are twisted and distorted and lies are peddled in an attempt to paint the movement as dangerous and/or fringe and thereby shift the imagined centre ground back to business as usual nativism. Those of us who wish for a world in which all people, regardless of the colour of their skin or the place of their birth, are able to fulfil themselves and to flourish need to find ways to resist this call to the old order. What better way to do that is there than to pool our small change to build a concrete community of welcome?