Pearl Prescod: A black life lived large

Thursday, 23 June 2022 — Institute of Race Relations

The IRR is thrilled to launch this week a new Black history project on the life of Caribbean-British actor, singer and civil rights campaigner Pearl Prescod. Pearl Prescod: a Black life lived large, featured in today’s guardian online, records the achievements of the first Black female player at the National Theatre. At the same time, it tells the overlooked story of a generation of anti-colonial artists and activists who questioned Britain’s role in the decades following World War Two.

What would a generation that included greats like Claudia Jones, fellow actress Nadia Cattouse and the novelist and playwright Jan Carew, make of imperial nostalgia in today’s ‘Brexit State’? Certainly, that generation’s understanding that Empire was no guarantor of their human rights, as colonial subjects, and their relentless opposition to racism, lives on in the concerted and coordinated resistance by activists and lawyers which stopped the first Rwanda deportation flight on 14 June. We provide a timeline of this dramatic story in our regular Calendar of Racism and Resistance. The retelling of the twists and turns that led to the cancellation of the flight makes clear the ways in which the human rights of refugees from the global South are being instrumentalised for electoral purposes. It seems clear that the next election is to be fought around Brexit 2, with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) emerging as the new threat to British exceptionalism and its unique ‘island story’. On Wednesday, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab introduced a Bill to remove the power of the ECtHR over ‘sovereign decisions’, stipulating that the Court’s decisions would not be binding on British courts. The UK Bill of Rights promises to turn universal human rights into earned privileges for the most marginalised. Meanwhile, the Public Order Bill racing through parliament reprises the attempt, blocked by the House of Lords during the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, to criminalise more peaceful protest including ‘locking on’. And in the aftermath of the thwarted Rwanda flight, home secretary Priti Patel has announced punitive new measures to tag ‘irregularly arriving’ asylum seekers, imposing curfew and mobility restrictions reminiscent of control orders imposed on terrorist suspects.

Our calendar of racism and resistance also brings the latest news, in all its complexities, of refugee flight from the war in Ukraine. As the welcome for Ukrainians in many countries sours, some are returning to a war-torn country in a process described as ‘circular migration’. At the same time, the official EU narrative that it welcomes refugees from the Ukraine (as long as, it would seem, they are not Roma) cements a two-tier system that discriminates against refugees from the global South. The subject of discrimination against Roma from Ukraine is addressed further on IRR News in ‘Notes on the treatment of Roma from Ukraine – towards a network of support’. This important discussion between Miroslav Klempar, a Rom from Ostrava who works with Roma community group Awen Amenca, and Tony Booth, Environment Officer with Jewish Voice for Labour, invites us to develop practical means of support.

IRR News team

A Black life lived large Pearl Prescod pamphlet out now

The IRR is proud to present a new Black history project on the life of the Caribbean-British actor, singer and civil rights campaigner Pearl Prescod, the first Black female player at the National TheatreAn educational pamphlet, which is suitable for primary to post-graduate study, tells the largely overlooked story of a generation of anti-colonial artists and activists who questioned Britain’s role in the decades following World War Two. Download it for free or order your copy from the IRR website. You can also read about Pearl in the Guardian.

Order Now

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe. Calendar of Racism & Resistance

In this week’s calendar, as United for Intercultural Action update its statistics on Fortress Europe related deaths (48,647 since 1993), we draw attention to the deaths of two migrants at the Greek-Turkish, French-Italian borders caused by police bullets. Plus, yet more WhatsApp police scandals involving military police at Schiphol airport, Netherlands and in the UK a former West Mercia police officer, who shared memes mocking the death of George Floyd.

Find these stories and thousands more on our Register of Racism and Resistance database.

Read Calendar

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Towards a network of support Notes on the treatment of Roma from Ukraine

‘In Brno, there are 200 Roma in tents with no flooring – so people are sleeping on sometimes wet mud. There is very little food, and the water supply is poor. There is nowhere to boil water to prepare food for babies. The toilet facilities are inadequate and have ceased to function. There are police with dogs, behaving brutally.’

In this dispatch from the Czech Republic, Tony Booth spoke to Miroslav Klempar about the treatment of Roma refugees arriving from Ukraine. Tony sets out what is needed, including the establishment of a support network here in the UK.

Read Now

‘The ship was called the Empire Windrush’ Colin Prescod on Windrush Day

IRR Chair Colin Prescod questions the dominant narratives shrouding the ‘Windrush generation’ and how Windrush Day misses the meaning behind the full history of that migration and its relation to empire, colonialism and state racism. Taken from a longer discussion with Africa World Now project, watch the clip on Youtube and for subtitles, watch on Twitter & Facebook.

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