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Faith the key for the late Sam King


ON JUNE 17, Black Britain lost a community giant, Jamaica-born Sam King.

He was a key figure of the Windrush Generation; that group of West Indians who arrived in England between the 1940s and 60s to find work, fulfil their ambitions and to make their mark on the world.

His life highlights the importance of faith, being proud of and celebrating black culture and the need for people of colour to engage in civic society.

King, who died aged 90, was a resident of Southwark in south London for much of his life in Britain and attained a number of historic achievements.

In 1958 he co-founded a West Indian carnival that many believe laid the foundations for the Notting Hill Carnival, an event that has become the biggest street party in Europe, attracting up to 1 million people every August Bank Holiday.

He was active in politics, and in 1983 became the first black man to be appointed Mayor of the London borough of Southwark.

Black historian, Arthur Torrington worked with Sam for over 30 years and shared that he was relentlessly positive, and felt it was important for the black community to always look for ways to solve the various problems it faced, even the current ones of youth crime and violence. Sam talked from experience.

During the 1980s, when there was social unrest amongst second generation black youth, partly because of the racism and prejudice they experienced, Sam’s response was to join forces with councillor Aubyn Graham to set up a youth club.

One young person who regularly attended the club was Rio Ferdinand. He went on to play for Manchester United, captained the England team and is currently a TV pundit at the Euro 2016 football championships being held in France.

What is little touched upon is the important role Christian faith played in Sam’s life. Torrington, told Soul Stirrings: “He died a very strong Christian. He had a deep faith that saw him through all the pain he felt when he was passing.”

Sam attended the First of the Church Born in Brixton, and had been a lay preacher, having taken a ministerial course at Goldsmith College in Lewisham, south east London.

Few people are also aware that he played an instrumental role in widening the appeal of UK gospel.

During his tenure as mayor, Sam organised a major service at Southwark Cathedral featuring a number of the leading choirs of the time including the London Community Gospel Choir, the Inspirational Choir and COGIC Mass Choir.

The service was filmed by the BBC and broadcast as part of a groundbreaking Songs of Praise programme. In the process it highlighted the music being performed in Britain’s burgeoning black church community to a wider audience.

Sam was awarded an MBE for his community service.

He lived a long, impacting and fruitful life, and if more of us followed his example in serving our community, wider society and the church and responded practically and if we realistically to societal problems, our community would not only thrive, it would soar.

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