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Voice35Years: Fighting the system

ON THE RUNS: The front page of The Voice shows Commander Fairbairn and Lloyd Coxson squaring off before their game

THE FOURTH edition of The Voice was published on September 25, 1982, and by this time the newspaper was now becoming a regular staple for news covering the black community especially as it highlighted the issues happening here in the UK.

The front page headline for this issue screamed ‘No sweat!’, which was a report about a local cricket game between the Brixton West Indian CC and the Brixton Police CC played at Kensington Oval for the annual Leslie Walker Shield. The image which accompanied the story showed Commander Fairbairn of the L Division and Lloyd Coxsone face down each other before the start of the match.

What was significant about the match is that it brought the local community and the police together for another battle of sorts, this time on the cricket pitch.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s many British cities where the black community were located faced rising tension between the police and the youths, which occasionally boiled over into skirmishes on the streets, the most famous of which was the Brixton Riots of 1981, when over 300 people were injured after three days of running battles.

Many of these street battles were replicated in other cities including Lozells in Birmingham, Toxteth in Liverpool and St Pauls in Bristol where the central spark that ignited these riots was around the ‘sus’ law, which many black youths believed officers used to discriminated against them.

Under the ‘sus’ law, anybody could be stopped and searched if officers merely suspected they might be planning to commit a crime and black youths felt this was used to target them.

TUMULTUOUS

It was because of these underlying social issues that The Voice was established to give the community a medium in which their voices could be heard and counter the negative reporting which the mainstream always painted of the black community during those tumultuous years of social unrest.

Coverage of a cricket match between the Brixton Police and the Brixton West Indian Cricket Club was therefore deserving of front page news especially as the local team coasted to an easy victory with at least half of the ‘Frontline Posse’ there to enjoy the match and add some distinctly West Indian banter to the proceedings.

The lead story on page 3 in this issue carried a headline ‘Storms brew in Brixton’ and reported on the protest by local groups around plans to redevelop and rehabilitate Brixton Town Centre, which was introduced by the Labour controlled Lambeth Council.

The plan called for large established firms like Marks and Spencer and Woolworths to expand their premises while improving present sites and making a covered parade for the market area.

The Voice reported that while the plan sounded good, there were strong protests from many quarters. Labour MP John Tilley condemned the Council’s proposal as “more destructive than last year’s riots.”

Another story on page 3 reported on the last-minute reprieve for a Bangladeshi woman who was facing deportation. Afi Begun was granted a temporary visa after which she would have to leave the country. Ms Begun’s case was taken up by the East London Workers Against Racism (ELWAR) and it was their protest that led to the Home Office granting a temporary visa.

ELWAR said it would continue to fight for her to remain in the UK. Also on page 3 was a story that £81,000 was granted to black community organisations by the Greater London Council’s Ethnic Minorities Committee.

These organisations included the Joint Committee Against Racialism; The Afro- Caribbean Voluntary Self Help Group; Bexley Community Relations Council; Caribbean Educational Project; The West Indian and African Community Association Deptford; the Runnymede Trust; and the Black Trade Unionists Solidarity Movement.

Vice chairman of the GLC Ethnic Minorities Committee, Paul Boateng (now known as Lord Boateng after he was elected to the House of Lords), said: “By giving cash aid to groups which serve local communities as well as London as a whole, we are seeking to encourage equal opportunity and stamp out racial disadvantage.”

In this edition too was a one-on-one interview with Laurine Champagnie, a leading nursing consultant specialising in post-mastectomy care. In the interview Ms Champagnie said: “All women’s voluntary groups should take it on themselves to teach breast examination to their members and young girls should be educated in school about it."

“Better understanding is needed, not only for the sake of the victims themselves, but for their family and friends too.” Ms Champagnie, who provided private post-mastectomy care as a nursing consultant from her office in central London, noted that 35,000 women undergo breast surgery in England and Wales every year and yet many have not even learnt to do self-examination.

Over in The Buzz section which features the music charts, Winston Reedy had the number one spot in the reggae singles chart with Paradise in your eyes, while Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse was still the top-selling reggae album.

In the soul singles chart, Grandmaster Flash’s The Message was once again sitting at the top, while Imagination climbed to the top of the album chart with ‘In The Heat of The Night’.

Each week we will be digging into The Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

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