Dear IRR News subscriber,
In the week that the European Union woke up to its complicity in the horrific drowning of thousands of desperate would-be refugees in the Mediterranean, it was very fitting that the IRR launched in a public debate on ‘Why do we count deaths’ its two recent reports on lives which seemingly ‘don’t matter’. Sadly, we report, too, this week, on yet another recent death in a UK detention centre, as well as the struggle for truth and justice in France where hundreds of people, mostly from an Arab background, have died in encounters with the police since 1981.
The debate on deaths was part of a very successful event at Birkbeck University on 18 April, reported here, to celebrate the work of Sivanandan (IRR director for over forty years) and the Institute of Race Relations since the ‘coup’ in April 1972 which transformed the organisation from ‘speaking to the powerful to speaking from the powerless’.
Ninety-one year old Sivanandan, key black thinker and campaigner, founding editor of Race & Class author of the novel on Sri Lanka, When memory dies and continuing analyst of the fight against globalisation, though absent, was very much in evidence at the event through audio and filmed interviews. That with Avery Gordon on ‘Lived theory’ can be listened to here; Catching History on the Wing: a conversation with Colin Prescod, the film premiered there, can be purchased here; ‘Race and resistance: the IRR story’, written to explain the politics of the takeover in 1972, can be downloaded free here. Sivanandan’s many telling aphorisms such as ‘we are here because you were there’ were gathered together for the event and can be read here; a video of his final exhortatory words to the conference can be accessed on YouTube and a transcript is available here. To mark the event and the importance of Sivanandan’s ongoing legacy, we have developed an area of IRR’s website.
While celebrating Siva and his influence, the event revealed, too, the way that the principles and commitments established in the 1970s continue to frame the way IRR is run and the problems it addresses. The April 2015 issue of Race & Class now available is a typical example with key articles on the Northern Ireland ‘peace process’ and racial violence, the Guantanamo-isation of Belgium, asylum seekers on Lesvos, crime and moral panic in the US, ‘freedom rides’ in Palestine, the rise and fall of ‘whiteness studies’ in the academy.
Read about how Docs Not Cops are creatively protesting against the effects of the Immigration Act 2014 on migrants’ access to NHS services. Our regular calendar of racism and resistance, a fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlights key events in the UK and Europe.
IRR News team