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"He will surely be missed": Darcus Howe casket stops in SE24

HERO'S SEND-OFF: The right-hand side of Darcus Howe's hearse, which was embellished with a floral 'RENEGADE'

BRIXTON’S ‘FRONTLINE’, or Railton Road to those unfamiliar with the cluster of small independent shops, housing estates and large, wide houses situated just before the equally infamous Atlantic Road; was quietly buzzing with people who came to salute the convoy of black vehicles passing through this morning.

One such vehicle, adorned with a floral wreaths reading ‘Papa’, ‘Darcus’ and perhaps most fittingly, ’Renegade’; carried the body of deceased anti-racism activist, journalist and proud Trinidadian, Leighton Rhett Radford ‘Darcus' Howe.

ANTICIPATION: The crowds gathered outside the Brixton Advice Centre this morning

By 10.30am, The Brixton Advice Centre (BAC) on the corner of Railton and Shakespeare Road saw crowds gather outside the building and on the pavement opposite, some talking with tears in their eyes, others reminiscing on their last conversation with “Darcus”.

The BAC used to sit next door to Race Today magazine, published by Howe, before the independent media outlet shut down. The BAC acquired the space that was left behind, creating a double-fronted community landmark decorated with black and white photos of a young Howe as well as poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and others who were considered fellow Icons on Railton Road (the name of the photographic installation displayed on the windows of the BAC which was launched during Black History Month in 2015).

MOVED: LB Brown of the Black Cultural Archives remembers a touching moment between Darcus Howe and herself

Fellow firebrand poet Benjamin Zephaniah was outside the BAC and told The Voice:

“I happened to speak to Darcus a couple of weeks before he passed away.

“Actually what I wanted to do was have a meeting with him but every now and then I used to speak to him just for the sake of it, because he was one of the few people, politically, who could enthuse me.”

GOODBYE: Floral tributes

Radio veteran Henry Bonsu spoke to The Voice about his memories of Howe with fondness and warmth, chuckling at the many memories they shared:

“Our relationship was a bit spiky at times,” Bonsu laughed, “He would be doing a radio interview and they would announce, ‘it’s Henry Bonsu on the line’ and Darcus would say ‘Henry? He’s from the white side of town’ - when I lived closer to Brixton than him!

COMING HOME: The first glimpses of Darcus Howe's hearse making its way up Railton Road

“As the crow flies, or as the person walks, I lived 10 minutes from Brixton tube and he was 11 minutes away!”

Personal friend to Howe, Deo Persaud, spoke to The Voice about some of his fondest memories spent with the ‘renegade’:

“We used to spend time together and talk about politics…cricket…humour (!) and Trinidad…he was a wonderful man and he will surely be missed.”

Chairperson of the nearby Black Cultural Archives (BCA) which is in Brixton’s Windrush Square, Dawn Hill, continued to exchange memories with Bonsu and remarked:

WARM WELCOME: Darcus Howe's widow Leila briefly came out to hug some members of the crowd in Brixton this morning

“I’m here to pay my respects.”

Hill’s BCA colleague LB Brown, a passionate academic, community change agent and one of Brixton’s stalwarts broke down as she relayed to The Voice what Howe meant to her:

“Today is a profound day and quite a proud day as I’m representing myself and the BCA.

“I will never forget what Darcus Howe said to me - I met him while I was at uni and I was thinking of stopping my degree and he said, ‘Keep going and don’t give up until you die’ and those words stuck with me.

IN MEMORIAM: A funeral programme was laid down beside bunches of flowers and potted plants outside the Brixton Advice Centre

“He was an inspiration because I care about creating change and treating humans, all humans, whether black or white; with dignity and justice and that’s what he was about.”

Fred Taggert MBE, trustee for the BAC said of his former neighbour:

“He could be a difficult man but that’s what we needed to get things done!

“I used to walk up the road to buy him his Mirror paper and at first I didn’t realise who this guy was sitting next door, and what a massive brain he had!”

Gesturing to the floral tributes outside the BAC, Taggart thanked journalists for attending and highlighted the wreaths, which included two floral tributes from the Nation of Islam, bearing cards with the sentiments, “Thank you for your sacrifices on behalf of the Nation of Islam”, and “On behalf of the honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan…RIP.”

Before the crowds made their way out of Brixton and onto All Saints Church in Notting Hill, Howe’s wife Leila came out of her car briefly to greet well-wishers and was met with applause.

Also present to observe the beginning of the procession were Paulette Randall MBE, producer and director known for her work on cult TV shows Desmond’s and The Real McCoy and Ros Griffiths, community organiser and Brixton Splash founder.

To read about the subsequent church service, click here.

Pick-up a copy of 'The Voice' newspaper next week for more on Darcus Howe's funeral procession route, exclusive interviews with those who were personally impacted by the man and exquisite photos documenting the day.

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