Fifty years on… how the Wolverhampton community remembered Enoch Powell

It’s fifty years since Enoch Powell made his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. Journalist LYNN BUTLER attended the ‘Rivers of Love’ rally held in the same room at the Burlington Hotel…

 

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“I’d like to think that if Enoch Powell was here today he would stand up and apologise to all and sundry and say ‘I was wrong’.”

– Brendon Baston OBE, former West Bromwich Albion footballer

 

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“In 1948, the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks. The promise was of streets paved with gold. The reality, as we know, was very different.”

– Rose Brown, Unison NEC member for the West Midlands

 

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“Fifty-five years ago there was a black woman walking down the street in Walsall. She was pregnant and she was attacked in the street. She survived and her child survived. That was my mom and that was me.”

– Roger McKenzie, Deputy General Secretary, Unison

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“I wish my dad was alive to see that in the very place those evil words were said, his daughter is joining with others in defiance and as a real and practical legacy of how wrong Enoch Powell was.”

– Salma Yaqoob, head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and spokesperson for Birmingham Central Mosque

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“We will all stand together, united in solidarity.”

– Labour MP Eleanor Smith, Wolverhampton South West (pictured standing)

 

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“We represent all that is good in this country and we represent the majority of people out there who say we are not going to stand for racism. We are going to meet it head on.”

– Brendon Baston OBE, former West Bromwich Albion footballer

 

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“What we are here for is the future, and what we want to do is make sure Powell belongs in the dustbin of history. He doesn’t represent us.”

– Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism

 

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“People commit racism because they know they can get away with it. The only way of getting rid of this cancer is by tackling systematic, institutionalised racism. We have to start there.”

– Maxie Hayles, anti-racism activist (seated right)

 

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“We are all one. It is time for all of us to stand up and be counted.”

– Reverend Doctor Desmond Jaddoo

 

There are fears racism is on the rise again, with 3,495 incidents reported to West Midlands Police in 2017, compared with 2,328 in 2013, according to Weyman Bennett, Joint National Convenor for the Stand Up to Racism campaign.

Salma Yaqoob, Head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition, told the invited audience of around 50 campaigners they represented ‘the best’ of the region and were a legacy of ‘how wrong Enoch Powell was.’

But she warned racism in the West Midlands wasn’t dead, adding: “Whether it’s institutional, cultural or ignorant, it’s still there. But we won’t give up hope and we won’t be complacent.”