August 14, 2007 — Review
Written by Rosie Wild
An important new resource for History, Citizenship and English teachers, based on interviews with former members of Britain’s Asian Youth Movements and fellow activists, explores how Asian communities across Britain successfully resisted racism and fascism in the 1970s and 1980s.
Produced as Part of the Second Generation Asians Resisting Racism Project, Kala Tara: a History of the Asian Youth Movements in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s has also been co-ordinated by Anandi Ramamurthy of the University of Central Lancashire. Over the last year, Anandi has collected oral testimonies from anti-racist activists who were involved in or worked with the Asian Youth Movements of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Extracts from twenty-two of these interviews, filmed and jointly edited by activist film-makers Migrant Media, have been chosen to explore a variety of historical themes. From the newly arrived children’s first impressions of Britain and their treatment at school to their foundation of various Asian Youth Movements as teenagers, the unprecedented success of the Bradford 12 campaign and the role of trade unionism in anti-racist activism, the interviews show how when communities come together they can defeat fascism on the streets and racism in the courts.
Named after the Bradford Asian Youth Movement’s magazine, Kala Tara (Black Star) presents the edited highlights of these interviews, both in film form (available as a CD Rom or streamed online), and transcribed in a thirty-page booklet. Accompanying these sources is a thirteen-page teaching pack aimed at teachers of History, English and Citizenship at Key Stages 1 to 4, which contains additional supporting historical documents, a timeline and various suggested lesson plans. By drawing links with the history of colonialism and exploring the difference between prejudice, racism and institutionalised racism the teaching pack contextualises and complements the interviews.
It is the CD Rom of videotaped interviews interspersed with photographs of early Asian settlers in Britain that really brings the subjects to life. Watching the silent tears roll down the cheeks of an otherwise defiant Anwar Ditta, as she recalls the traumatic experience of the Home Office refusing to let her children join her in Britain, gives a human face to the suffering caused by the racism of successive governments’ immigration policies. The articulacy, thoughtfulness and wry humour of many of the other interviewees gives the lie to the police’s portrayal of the young men who joined the Asian Youth Movements as merely teenage trouble-seekers. And the testimonials about how the majority-White jury in the Bradford 12 case was persuaded that the only recourse the Asian community could take, in the face of an onslaught by the National Front facilitated by the indifference to their plight of the police, was to organise in self-defence, is a stirringly inspirational example of a community successfully standing up for itself.
Some of the testimonies included in Kala Tara, particularly the final section ‘Reflections’, may be a little too incendiary for some teachers. And although the CD Rom is very professionally put together and superbly edited, the booklet of transcripts needs a little more work to smooth out various errors. (For example the weblink to the teaching resource given on page three does not work – try instead www.tandana.org – and Frantz Fanon’s name is mis-spelled on page thirty.) These gripes aside, Kala Tara is a unique and important educational resource that allows children to access the truth about an overlooked and misrepresented part of recent British history, from which there is a huge amount they could learn.
The booklet of interview transcripts and accompanying CD Rom and teaching pack can be viewed online or downloaded from Tandana - the Glowworm.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.
No comments yet.