Book of the Month: Kennetta Hammond Perry’s London is the Place for Me
Author: Desmond L. Kemp Indiana University Purdue University
Our book recommendation of the month is London is the Place for me whereby activism in London and America has been an ongoing challenge for Black people. Perry delivers a solid account of how post-war Afro-Caribbean migrants resisted British racism to establish their citizenship in England. The introduction begins with a calypso music tribute in “Windrush Politics”, sets the tone of social history for migrants with a tale of the arrival of Lord Kitchener with the Windrush passengers in London in 1948. He sang an emotional melody in an impromptu performance with a sense of belonging in London. This performance was symbolic for the Afro-Caribbean migrants’ affinities and attachments to Britain before settling, and building their community in the U.K. White Britons claimed that their arrival meant that they were unemployed and arrived to take their jobs and that the song of Kitchener was an indication of their optimism and satisfaction in doing so.
Perry positions media as a controller for placing Black Britons as a national debate to understand the political voices and experiences of Afro-Caribbean migrants as they confronted anti-Black racism while seeking to create a fresh nationality.‘Colour problems’ were rising and charged activists, alongside the League of Coloured People, to advocate for people of color, especially Black Britons. Since English laws were outlawed and slavery abolished, racial hierarchies started to build up and pan-Africanism was birthed as a struggle against inequality.
The narrative shifts to the post-emancipation imperial politics after the British Nationality Act of 1948 established a British Commonwealth citizenship status that applied to all British subjects regardless of demographics. In this period, there is a decline of Black Britons becoming politically, socially, economically, and rationally leveled with their White counterparts. These factors led to events that resulted in race riots. Perry analyzes the treatment of the immigrants around the media’s response to race riots. British newspapers challenged the myths of British tolerance and anti-racist sentiments because keeping Britain White was the goal behind the riots. It was speculated that Teddy boys (White-working class males) provoked riots as they opposed men of color because they feared they would steal their women. The housing shortage crisis and access to housing was a challenge for Black people in Britain. These primary issues are the root causes of the death of migrant Kelso Cochrane from Antigua.
In chapters three to five, the Black Movement in London is uniquely similar to the Civil Rights Movement in America. Perry exhibits activists developing their political stance using Cochrane’s body to articulate the conditions of racism as a problem for Black Britons. The response of members of the Committee of African Organizations (CAO) and other African and West Indian organizations to Nottingham and Notting Hill pilots the next section of the text.
Advocacy is a central theme for the duration of the text. The activists’ narrative sets out the plot for fighting immigration laws to develop a fair commonwealth and safe neighborhood for all races. In the final chapter, Perry merged attention on the rise and fall of the interracial anti-racist coalition, Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD). The epilogue specifies a functional dynamic of the ongoing fight for justice over the narratives provided in the Windrush Politics section. If the reader lacks prior knowledge of the struggle of Black people in Britain, the epilogue should be their starting point.
In addition to her ability to interpret and combine the past of racial inequality and the creation of black citizenship in the United Kingdom, the depth of information provided by Kennetta Hammond Perry in this book deserves praise. Therefore, I highly recommend giving it a go.
Perry, Kennetta. London Is The Place For Me. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Desmond L. Kemp is an activist, educator, and American Studies Ph.d. student at Indiana University Purdue University- Indianapolis. Inspired by the great Harry Belafonte and the late Dr. Maya Angelou (Marguerite A. Johnson), Desmond has navigated a career in various fields ranging from communications to social work. Within this array of experiences, Desmond, a fourth-generation teacher, is motivated to continue the educational legacy. Through his teen fiction series, Uncommonly Common, he promotes the advancement of youth literacy, especially African American boys.