Watch the Claudia Jones lecture with Clive Lewis MP
Michelle Stanistreet, Emelia Kenlock and Clive Lewis MP - © NUJ
9 December 2015
The NUJ celebrates the 100th Anniversary of remarkable Black Briton Claudia Jones
Each year, during Black History Month, the National Union of Journalists hosts a free event in honour of Claudia Jones – journalist, activist and campaigner for freedom.
Claudia Jones born in Trinidad migrated with her family to the USA, deported in 1955 as a result of her political activities she came to live in the UK, founding the first Black newspaper, The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News and becoming what some ascribe as the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival.
This year is of special significance, as it marks the 100th Anniversary of Claudia Jones' birth.
The guest speaker for 2015 was Clive Lewis MP for Norwich South.
Watch the video of the lecture:
They say the journalist shouldn’t be the story – but that isn't the case with Claudia Jones. Because she was the story.
To Clive Lewis MP, keynote speaker of the NUJ's Black Members' Council (BMC) Claudia Jones lecture 2015, she was a great inspiration. He said:
"What we can do is take inspiration from black fighters for change and social justice such as Claudia Jones. It was her courage, strength and passion that led to thousands of other unsung heroes to take up the fight to challenge the status quo and to battle for greater equality and justice. Thank you Claudia for all you did; we salute you."
Emelia Kenlock, chair of the BMC, said it was a very special evening because the event marked the centenary of Claudia's birth. She introduced Clive, a former BBC journalist, who led the tributes to the black activist and founder of the West Indian Gazette, who was the inspiration behind the Notting Hill Carnival.
He made race, gender and, importantly, class, the themes of his lecture. He described how he had experienced racism in the workplace when he was a journalist and quoted the statistic that 94 per cent of all UK journalists are white.
However, the matter of class was crucial, he said. The proportion of people who live in low-income households is 20 per cent for white people; 30 per cent for Indians and Black Caribbeans; 60 per cent for Pakistanis; and 70 per cent for Bangladeshis. He said:
"This means for many young people, black and white, journalism is increasingly beyond their reach owing to the scale of inequality and entrenchment of power and influence of a growing few. As a working-class black person you know the difficulty of getting a foothold in this industry without those networks of old school tie connections and unpaid internships.
"As terrible as this is for the shattering of so many dreams, the real reason, to my mind, is how it affects our democracy. For if journalism is the lens through which we view society, this trend will have profound consequences if the pool of people holding power to account is so narrow."
The place to fight for equality in the industry, he said, was by being a member of the NUJ.
The event started with the showing of a film, Looking for Claudia, which celebrated the life this incredible woman and interviewed friends and colleagues who celebrated their beautiful, intelligent, brave and arrogant comrade and heroine.
Claudia, born in Trinidad, moved to America where, as a Communist, she became involved in the civil rights movement, demonstrating against racism and the Jim Crow laws of the time – and was jailed several times for her politics.
After a spell in prison, she was deported to the UK because she wasn't welcome in Trinidad, and made her home in London. She soon became active in supporting black causes and started the West Indian Gazette as a way of giving a voice to the oppressed who struggled to be heard in the white media.
She continued her protests, including a hunger strike against apartheid, with others at the St Martin in the Fields church next to the South African embassy.
After the race riots of 1958, it was suggested carnival be set up to "wash the taste of Notting Hill and Nottingham out of our mouths". Claudia is now best known for being the founder of Europe's biggest street festival, the Notting Hill Carnival. As one of her friends said, she "brought culture to bear on politics".
She died in 1964 – despite all her frenetic activities she suffered from tuberculosis – of a heart attack. She was buried in Highgate cemetery close to her hero, Karl Marx. In 2008, the Royal Mail published a stamp in her honour.