Darcus Howe, the Black British broadcaster, writer, and civil liberties campaigner recently passed away peacefully in his sleep in Streatham, according to his biographer Robin Bunce, at the age of 74.
I would occasionally hear my family mention the name Howe in our home, his name would pop up in conversations; but as I didn’t really know to whom they were referring to, I rarely got the joke or jist of the conversations. All I knew was that when I asked who Darcus Howe was, he was described as a sharp, influential figure who could catch anyone out ‘Ya can’t mess wid Darcus, ya hear’. It took three years for the image of Darcus Howe to become clearer to me, through conversations with elders in my family, and shows they would watch for example,‘Devil’s Advocate’.
The first ever clip I saw was the episode about Haile Selassie I. on Youtube with Ras Shango Baku. After watching the show the phrase “won’t take no prisoners” often said in my family, with me never really understanding, finally made sense. Darcus Howe didn’t beat around the bush or tip-toe around anything or anyone. He was direct; he called you out, unforgiving, controversial, to the point and very sharp.
Howe was christened Leighton Rhett Radford, born in Trinidad in 1943 and came to the UK in 1961. His father was a vicar and his mother a teacher. He intended to study law at London’s Middle Temple, but abandoned his plans for activism, joining the British Black Panthers – a movement inspired by the American group of the same name – after experiencing racist abuse and prejudice from white Britons towards the West Indian community.
Darcus Howe would later begin a successful career in journalism, writing a regular column for the New Statesman magazine, but gained notable public attention in 1970 as a member of a group that marched on a West London police station to protest against repeated police raids on The Mangrove, a popular West Indian restaurant.
Howe and the eight others – known as the “Mangrove Nine” – endured a 55-day trial before finally being acquitted of the main charge: incitement to riot. The trial managed to successfully highlight tensions between the black community and the British legal process, after Howe demanded an all-black jury. His request was rejected. He organised the 20,000 strong Black People’s March in 1981, to protest against an investigation into the New Cross Fire, claiming official neglect and inefficient policing of the investigation of the New Cross fire in which 13 black teenagers died in a suspected arson attack..
Howe spent more than half a century campaigning for Black rights. He also worked as a broadcaster and presented a range of shows for the BBC, Channel 4 and LWT. As previously mentioned, he was well known for his current affairs show ‘Devil’s Advocate’.
In 2009 Howe successfully fought off prostate cancer after first being diagnosed with the illness two years before.
Shades of Noir remembers the lifetime work, activism and achievements of Darcus Howe and may he rest in power.
Words by Tiff.
Background information from: https://repeatingislands.com/2017/04/03/trini-born-darcus-howe-writer-broadcaster-and-activist-dies-aged-74/