Time for the diaspora to speak out on black youth
London meeting told By Sherry Macliver in London
Stabroek News
April 19, 2002

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Two of the best known UK sons of Guyanese soil graced the Guyana High Commission last week Monday night for the second of the diaspora dialogues. Lord Herman Ouseley was Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and Trevor Phillips. O.B.E. is deputy chair of London's Parliament-the Greater London Assembly.

A moderately-sized audience heard them recall their Guyanese childhoods. Lord Ouseley talked of his time at St Stephens School in Georgetown before emigrating to the UK. He learned 'discipline' at home from his nurse mother and took this into his school work. Trevor Phillips was sent back by his parents from England to Queen's College to be educated. He appreciated the traditional values of uniform and discipline which he picked up there. He did not appreciate the fact that it had now taken in girls. This 'spurious sexism' disturbed at least one female member of the London audience. Trevor said he had also benefited from living with his aunt in Kitty where the sheer closeness of the community mitigated against any transgression or deviancy.

Both had made their name in the UK. Trevor as a broadcaster and now a politician. Both saw the responsibilities of position. Trevor said that it was time that leaders of the community started to make firm statements about the position of black youth in the school system and the seeming cycle of continual under achievement leading to crime.

Lord Ouseley, who worked his way up from a clerk in the Middlesex County Council through the Greater London and Lambeth Councils to the CRE saw his role too as being much more pro-active. He quoted the example of how the CRE had gone to the professional football clubs to get them to 'Kick out racism' amongst their fans. That had worked.

Since leaving the CRE, he has set up his own 'change consultancy' and is often called into to racial tinderboxes. His report on Bradford predated the violent riots of last April by the largely Asian community. He had been back to Bradford, in the north of England, that very morning.

Another issue that united the two dialoguees was their desire to give back to Guyana. Both Ouseley had offered several times through the London High Commission. Nothing had come of it. Trevor Phillips too regretted that he had not been asked to contribute. Air Commodore David Case made much the same point at the last diaspora dialogue back in February. Is Guyana not yet mature enough to set up some mechanism for distinguished and not so distinguished Guyanese to put something back into their country? It could only be to the good.

All in all, this dialogue brought out the best in the British and Guyanese sides of these two statesmen. The next dialogue is on May 21st in London and features two outstanding and ageing writers of the diaspora- Wilson Harris and Roy Heath - in conversation with Denise de Caires Narain. These London events are produced by John Mair and staged by the UK Circle of Friends. Monday's was sponsored by Ian Wishart.