The Barbican Underestimated Opposition To The ‘Human Zoo’
CAMPAIGNERS: Protesters outside the Barbican earlier this month
I AM currently blushing and bursting with pride.
The abomination created by Brett Bailey and approved by the Barbican Centre has been shut down.
I know for a fact, because I was there, that the press release by a Barbican spokesman – and now quoted in the pages of several news outlets including theEvening Standard and ITV is a lie.
Were we loud? Yes. Were we determined? Yes. Did we stand our ground? Yes. Were we upset? Yes. Did people go in to see the “show”? Yes.
Was anyone harmed? No.
The real reason why the Barbican had to shut the show down is much more simple: they completely underestimated the depth of feeling in the community.
The Barbican arrogantly provided a tiny “gallery”, behind bars (oh the symbolism was not lost on us!) from which its chiefs expected us to chant our little songs and beat our nice drums; thus providing a nice soundtrack for their show and, as one of their guest did, a little dance. Oh yes, he did!
They were fully warned that we were coming and warned of the numbers, yet when I arrived there was not a single police officer present.
I believe the Barbican wanted to close down the show and our show of strength provided them with an escape clause. No arrest. No cautions. In London in 2014 that is as peaceful as it gets.
In the fight against racism I have always said we need a variety of fighters. Last night, we had the perfect mix.
An iconic leader Sara [Myers], who even seasoned veterans could follow. The picture of her upheld fist has inspired many.
The wise thinkers. Lee [Jasper], Zita [Holbourne], Mike, Ngoma and others.
If only the Barbican knew how much strategy was adopted chopped and changed to achieve that shut-down.
The young bloods. Let me tell you this: watching our young men and women stand firm in support of our self-respect was inspiring.
They were disciplined, yet self-thinking. I am 110 per cent sure that without them this would have failed.
I stood beside Rastafarians, Muslims, men, women, youngers and elders. All races. I stood with a young man in a suit and others in jeans. Old activists and just ordinary people who saw injustice and said ‘no’. I thank you all.
I also need to thank both The Barbican and Brett Bailey.
Without them, none of this would have been possible.
Brett does not know better. He thought London would just roll over like other European cities. Mate, we have critical mass here.
If it were it not for them both The Barbican and Bret Bailey we would not have this much-needed victory.
I hope it inspires a generation to get from behind those keyboards.
I am not even sure if arrogance is the right word, but I can’t print the other words I have used, so arrogant will just have to do.
The Barbican board, bar one member, is all white, but that in itself is no excuse as last night I stood with a number of white people they themselves protesting against that abomination.
I also spoke to white passersby including a uniformed officer; the reaction from each was the same.
Why have such a show? Who is it for? How much did you say?
The Barbican board is that breed of person who is our worst enemy. They claim the event is anti-racist, educational, important.
Yet they ignored 22,000 voices telling them that in the 21st Century placing a living black person in chains and cages, then inviting guest to pay to look at them is not acceptable.
These people are dangerous. These people are the worst type of racists because beneath everything they do is one simple concept: “We always know what’s best for you”.
At least with the BNP you know what you are getting.
This is our lesson.
The Barbican waved away 22,000 plus signatures, yet fell to less than 100 voices.
I want you all to think about that the next time you are tempted to click ‘like’ and think your job is done.
Unity and self-respect are mighty weapons.
You do not have to agree with everything I stand for to stand with me.
Everyone can lead, under the right circumstances.
So what are you doing? Action not words.
Paul Lawrence is a writer, public speaker and debater. He is the director of Engage Training and the outgoing VP of 100 Black Men of London.