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Liverpool fans prove Marcus Garvey right: Unity is strength

JUSTICE AT LAST: A giant banner is unveiled at St George’s Hall in Liverpool last week after the inquest jury ruled the 96 victims in the Hillsborough football disaster had been unlawfully killed

FIRSTLY, LET me pay my heartfelt tribute to the families of the 96 football fans who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster.

The rest of us can only imagine what they have been through these last 27 years. Finally they have achieved a semblance of justice for their loved ones against the titan of a police force that seemed insurmountable, but they stuck together in their unimaginable grief. And whilst the rest of us went about our business as if the tragedy was all in the past, for 27 years these families had virtually only the support of Liverpool fans to remind the rest of the world that they meant every word of YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE.

Sorry to get all tribal and everything, but as we approach the end of a remarkable Premier League football season it is worthwhile remembering the advice of that second greatest Jamaican, Marcus Garvey, when he said: "Unity is strength".

Hence the subsequent formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), amongst many other Garveyite institutions of the 20th century that went back to basics to realise universal truths that had been the bedrock and foundation of black people for several millennia.

UNITY

Like my grandmother used to say, one twig snaps easily, but a whole bunch of twigs bound tightly together are virtually unbreakable. Or, as (a young) Michael Jackson said, “one bad apple won’t spoil a whole bunch of girls...”

UNITY IS STRENGTH. In which case, I should be a Gooner like most black Brits.

However, I can’t think of anything that would trigger chronic indigestion in me more. Which is somewhat embarrassing when, like I say, Arsenal is the natural home for black Brits (if we’re talking in sheer numbers of support) as Tottenham (the team not the ‘hood) is (apparently) the natural home for Jews in Britain (if we’re talking in sheer numbers of support).

And yet, I hate the Gooners more than I support life itself. As if my race loyalty means nothing at all, compared to my football disloyalty. Remember, I am from the other half of north London, which has suffered in silence whilst you Gooners have been acting like you own the place.

This year, though, it’s all change in the manor - as long as those ‘spuds’ hold their nerve.
To be honest, I’m not concerned with what position Tottenham Hotspuds comes in the league. They can come 19th for all I care. As long as Arsenal come 20th.

Apologies, but that’s the way it is with me. Call me a ‘hater’, but it’s actually tribalism - British style. No need for deliberate deep wounding scars on your face to denote where you’re coming from. All you need is a football shirt. And you don’t even need a historical reason for your deep-rooted distaste for the opposition. The kind of blind rage behind an idiotic statement like: “I don’t care if Tottenham come 19th as long as Arsenal come 20th” is the only requirement.

I know it’s illogical. But that’s the way it is. Ask The Voice sports editor Rodney Hinds about the amount of times I have cried when Arsenal have won the league, back in the dark ages, for those who don’t remember.

Anyway, let’s put my irrational fear of Arsenal to one side, except to say: “You lot have had your glory days. Now it’s somebody else’s turn to have the last laugh – hahaha, hehehe.
But before we throw the baby out with the bath water, remember unity is strength.

When we, the post-war immigration generation, arrived here in the UK, we were made to feel ashamed of who we are. Especially those of us from Africa. Unlike our Caribbean brothers and sisters with their English monikers, we from Africa were teased/humiliated/denigrated for having unpronounceable names. So much so that we allowed people (white English and black Caribbean) to mangle our names if the mangling enabled us to go through school and work life anonymously. Old school friends still call me Dough-toon Addy-bay-you and wonder why I’ve now changed my name to Daw-toon Ah-day-bah-your.

Get me?

We were made to feel that everything about us was somehow barbarian. The food we eat for example. I’m not saying that gizzards are healthy. However, blood pudding is no less disgusting. Yet, somehow, we were made to feel that spam or tripe fried in lard was okay, whilst okra and moin-moin was jungle food.

ACCENT

We had the mickey taking out of us for the way our perfected English was spoken with a heavy accent so we ran as fast as we could to the cockneys to hear how they spoke incorrectly so that we might adapt it. Anything for a quiet life.

But most of all we were abused for our customs which seemed alien to Britons. Not least our tribalism.

Woe betide you if you had the tribal markings to boot. Facial scars never felt a wound like the blows that were foisted on us just simply for maintaining our culture.

Africans formed tribes for social cohesion. A tribe is like an extended-extended family, no more, no less. But we who were over here felt like we were being shot by both sides - the cowboys and the West Indians - for being tribesmen. So we dropped our native ‘tribalism’ in favour for membership of the tribe born within the sound of Bow bells.

Imagine our surprise then when football fans started herding themselves into tribes in the 1970s? What we dropped like a hot potato was picked up and embraced like a bloke in a singles bar.

Liverpool fans are the ultimate extended-extended family. The unity that they have shown over the last 27 years in support of the 96 brings tears of human kindness to my eyes. A different kind of tears than those I would shed if a knife was used to scar my face in the custom, tradition and design of my Yoruba tribe. And yet, if it brought about the kind of unity amongst us that the fans of Liverpool have shown for their fellow fans it would be a pain worth enduring.

As the greatest Jamaican of all time, Bob Marley, sang: “Africa unite, for the benefit of your people.”

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