Sunday, October 17, 2010
Full text of Brian Travers' speech for the Love Music Hate Racism Rally
HOW CAN WE MAKE OURSELVES STRONGER? HOW CAN WE GET OUR MESSAGE INTO THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE? THAT'S WHAT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT TODAY.
My name is Brian Travers, I'm a musician, and I’ve spent the last 30 years recording, and performing concerts worldwide, with a band that formed only a few miles from here in Moseley. We called ourselves UB40. We took the name from the registration number on the dole card of the day the: 'Unemployment Benefit 40'. There were so many of us carrying that same number after all. Almost one in ten of us were unemployed at the time in this country. It was a time that become known as the 'Winter Of Discontent'. It was 1978-79, James Callaghan's Labour Government was struggling to keep inflation down, and trade unions were fighting for a living wage. Things were a mess, everyone was struggling just to get by. Eventually, something had to give, and when it did, Margaret Thatcher, and her Tory 'boot boys' had landed in Number 10 Downing Street. I mention this, because I want draw comparison to the political climate of the late 70s, to what's happening now, in the 21st century. I want to highlight the importance of the work LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM is doing right now, and draw a parallel, with the incredible job their predecessors did, with the legendary ROCK AGAINST RACISM, organized by The Anti- Nazi League.
It's something I can talk about without diving into the history books, as UB40 were there, playing the gigs, and experiencing the dismantling of the then National Front, and The British Movement. ROCK AGAINST RACISM effectively made it incredibly unfashionable to be anything other than a committed anti-racist. Even the music press, and the more liberated radio & TV shows, got behind the movement. During its watch there were huge carnivals, featuring bands such as THE CLASH, and our very own STEEL PULSE from Handsworth. One such event in 1978, a march from Trafalgar Square to Brick lane, in the East End of London, drew more than a 100,000 people. Who then then marched all the way to Victoria Park. We celebrated together, Black, White, Asian; united by our shared belief in Great Britain’s multicultural ascendancy. The sun was shining, the future looked bright. We were young, we thought that we were changing the world.
UB40 were there, not performing, unfortunately...we were still learning to play our first songs in a rehearsal room (actually a cellar beneath a bedsit in Trafalgar Road). But we were there marching, we were taken to London on coaches, which left from Broad Street, and were provided by ROCK AGAINST RACISM. Days like that only gave us more belief in the power of music to unite people. It gave us the encouragement, we needed, to stick it out. Even through those tough, gig hungry, early days. It helped us as well, form a deeper political understanding. We heard some pretty fantastic music as well; tunes I still play today. Tunes that take me straight back to Brick Lane in 1978. Steel Pulse's 'Klu Klux Klan' ...to name but one...
It doesn’t feel like 30 years ago, but here we are again. In a very similar political climate, the Nazis have re-named themselves...AGAIN...their representatives have swapped their jack boots, for pin stripes. They still have no other policy than hate. And we are still here, keeping a close eye on their activities. Thankfully the very same people that kept us alert back in the
70s & 80s are still vigilant today. What would we do without them?
Most of you are aware of everything I’ve just said, I know this is the sharp end of the movement. But I feel it is important, that we remind ourselves of past victories. There's is no harm in getting a slap on the back from a friend.
When Lee Billingham (Bruno Angellinis's contact) invited me to speak tonight, I was
immediately drawn to the idea of the then and now; ROCK AGAINST RACISM and LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM. Although they have the same ideals, they are separated by
decades of time, and a million miles of technology. We now have the Internet at our fingertips. This has changed everything, we are not simply talking about racism in the UK, racism is a worldwide pandemic. The citizens of the world are connected,
faster and easier, than most of us are with our next door neighbours. It was with this in mind, that I endeavored to promote LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM. I called on friends, from around the world via TWITTER. People, who’s minds I admire,to give me a few lines of rhetoric. Something they felt might connect with some like-minded souls here today, in Birmingham.
Tariq Aslam of Edinburgh Scotland, wrote back saying... “Compassion, acceptance and tolerance are all part of the unwritten constitution here in the UK. These are traits to be proud of, to promote and to appreciate for the benefits they bring. But
they don't come easily. They need to be hard fought in an ever-globalizing world in which they are bound to the fight against racism, which in turn is part and parcel of the struggle for civil rights...for human rights, just one link in the chain for equality for all people regardless of race, colour, creed or gender.
The Love Music Hate Racism events that have been held across the country are a timely reminder that racism is an ever-present danger within our communities and country. LMHR seeks to challenge racial prejudice, intolerance and cultural stereotypes through raising awareness, and celebrating cultural diversity. In thesetimes of economic hardship, of recessionary blues, and unemployment disharmony, it seems only natural that people want to vent their frustrations on someone, or join a political party that they might under normal circumstances never consider as a viable option. Our challenge is to educate, inform, unite and debate so that we can throw a ring fence around common sense and common decency, by sheltering the vulnerable from the politics of hate, and the venom of racism. The ghost of Enoch Powell still haunts the corridors of Westminster but the time has come to finally lay it to rest once and for all."
A 1st generation London Italian friend of mine, Bruno Angellini, who makes the best espresso on the Caledonian road by the way, wrote and said; his late Father Giuseppe Angellini, who came with his young wife to Britain in 1953, always
said: 'ringrazzio sempre l'Inghilterra per l'opportunita di farmi una
vita' He thanked England always for giving him the opportunity to make a life. My Father Joseph Travers, who arrived from Dublin, at around the same time, says exactly the same thing, not in Italian of course.
The Writer Joseph Lane, from Fredericton New Brunswick, Canada wrote back, saying...
“Borders are nothing but invisible lines, skin colour, only tiny differences in melanin. Nationality is dumb luck, and language is environmental. Religion is control, politics, but the combination of all humanity's warts. Music, however, is universal, the drumbeat of the collective human soul. Music is the global unifier."
He went on to add... "The APA (American Psychological Association) says, and I quote: “Psychological research has demonstrated that stereotypical thinking may decrease as a consequence of contact between people of different races.” Racism and hate run rampant in communities that are predominantly mono-cultural. Tolerance has a horrible time blooming in a void. Aside from forced integration, which to be frank produces mixed results; see Canada's struggles with the Native Communities and residential schooling, or the American civil rights movement. Instant acceptance in cultural integration is impossible. The trick, is to find the universal things that cross cultural, racial and linguistic lines, like music, art or food. If we the human population, all 6 billion, (or is it7 now?)of us,
viewed the world, not in terms of politics, religion, race or geography, but instead, as one great big human potluck. A bring your own music, art, culture or food global get together; hate, racism and intolerance would surely ebb. If we can teach the intolerant to peek out from under their cultural blinders, if the hateful can, for but a minute, listen to the drumbeat of the universal human, and if the racist could unplug his nose, and taste what the outside world is cooking, the neurosis, and the fear of that which is beyond their bubbles, will eventually pop."
The Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály said: "Real art is one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as
possible is a benefactor of humanity. Music is the manifestation of the human spirit"
That's why LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT, that's why ROCK AGAINST RACISM prevailed in the bad old 1970s & 80s, and that is why LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM will prevail in the 21st Century... There have already been hundreds of events, large outdoor festivals, club nights, and top contemporary artists including Jon
McLures, Reverend and the Makers, Chipmunk, Ms Dynamite, Hard Fi, Babyshambles, Akala, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Estelle, The View, Lethal Bizzle, Roll Deep, and Basement Jaxx,*to name but a few...and there's a lot more of us out there, waiting for the call...
HOW CAN WE MAKE OURSELVES STRONGER? HOW CAN WE GET OUR MESSAGE INTO THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE? Easy...support LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM!!
I was going to finish with something Edmund Burke said in the 1700’s, and its something that is just as true today as it ever was:“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” BUT I've just noticed it written on a UAF T shirt in the lobby... so, I'm going to use something sent to me by the London Broadcaster Rick Glanvill. "FIRST THEY CAME...attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller, about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazis rise to power... They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
And if that doesn't work for you, here's one from The Reverend and the Makers Jon McLure, a quote from LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM’S Barnsley event, in May,
"FUCK THE BNP!"