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The man who refused to be defeated by racial hatred

FUTURE HOPE: Noel Martin in wheelchair and Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, surrounded by the youngsters who will visit Germany

NOEL MARTIN’S horizons in life were brutally narrowed when he became the victim of a racist attack while working in Germany.

Paralysed from the neck down following that horrific incident 16 years ago, Noel could be forgiven if he withdrew from the world and let his tragic situation overwhelm him.

But that’s not Noel’s style. Instead, he has devoted the past decade and a half to broadening the horizons of young people both here at home in Birmingham and in Mahlow, Brandenburg, Germany, where the attack took place.

Noel’s driving force in life is to educate the next generation in both countries to make sure no one else is the victim of such an attack that has left him relying on daily care to stay alive.

In 2008 he launched the Noel and Jacqueline Martin Foundation in memory of his late wife Jacqueline who died of cancer in 2000 to promote racial tolerance.

It’s a series of cultural exchanges between British and German youngsters where they can learn about each other’s way of life, play football together, cook together and learn not to judge each other by the colour of their skin.

Up to 15 teenagers are about to set off for Mahlow next month where they will spend a week staying in the homes of German families to broaden their life experiences.

“Sometimes I feel in the black community that everyone is going round in circles,” said Noel, at his Edgbaston home, where he threw a garden party for the youngsters who are going on the next trip. “There is a deep hole and there are no new ideas. These exchanges give youngsters the chance to step out of their own lives for a short while and see life from a different perspective.”

He added “They benefit from it. They meet new people and form new friendships. Once they meet and start talking together they soon forget about colour.”

In June 1996, Noel, 51, who was born in Jamaica, was driving in Mahlow, working as a plasterer, when two neo-Nazis chanting ‘n****r p**s off’ hurled a concrete block through his side window. It caused him to crash into a tree. He woke up from a coma weeks later to find he had no feeling from the neck down.


INSPIRATIONAL: Noel Martin

The perpetrators were sentenced to five and eight years in prison. They have now finished their terms and are free. They have never shown any remorse and Noel has never received an apology.

The tree has since been replaced by a granite monument marking the spot, financed by a local charity.

The teenagers travelling to Germany next month will be accompanied by Lincoln Moses, the general manager of Continental Star Football Club and an ambassador for the Kick It Out scheme to banish racism from football.

Lincoln said: “Noel is a very inspirational person and he is totally committed to driving out the scourge of racism. Last year’s group were a great success in Germany, appearing on national TV, visiting the Reichstag and performing a song Don’t Judge Me By The Colour Of My Skin with German youngsters.

Local man KC, 22, is a local lad who used to get into trouble on the streets, but got himself together, studied for a degree and now works with marginalised youngsters in Coventry. He will also be a leader on the trip.

He said “This will be an eye opener for them. They’ll mature in that week because they have to take responsibility for themselves. These youngsters have grown up in a multi-cultural environment. They have never been to a whites-only country before.”

Declan Sullivan, 14, who was at the launch party with his parents Bernadette and Harvey, said: “It’s a great chance to learn about how other people live.”

Edgbaston Labour MP Gisela Stuart, also at the party, said: “It’s Noel’s determination to keep these links between the two countries which is so invaluable. It reminds us what an evil force racism is and the only way to overcome this is to always remain vigilant.”

She continued “He starts with the young people and that’s where we all need to start if we are to finally eradicate this.”

* For further details of Noel’s work visit: www.noel-martin.de.

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