Community Tribute to a cultural icon: Bernie Grant MP

| October 26, 2012

Bernie Grant with Nelson Mandela. Photo courtesy

On 11th June 1987 the first politicians of African and Asian descent took their place as Members of Parliament inside the House of Commons in Westminster.

It was the first time in nearly a century that any MP of colour had been elected to Parliament.  One of these politicians, a certain Bernard Alexander Montgomery Grant, would go on to become one of the most dynamic and controversial British MPs of the latter half of the 20th century.

Simply known as Bernie Grant, he remained an MP for Tottenham until his untimely death in April 2000. However during his 13 year tenure he was the unifying voice of a culturally diverse community, not just within his borough but beyond.

He was an avid campaigner for justice and equality, tackled policies on racism, gender discrimination, disability rights and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He founded and chaired international black political networking groups, advocated for African reparations, all the time remaining a thorn in the side of the establishment.  One thing is for certain –– there will never be another Bernie Grant.

Bernard Alexander Montgomery Grant was born on 17 February, 1944, in Georgetown , Guyana. He was the second of five children born to his parents, who were both teachers.

After school Bernie took up chemistry, before leaving for England to join his family in 1963. He worked for British Rail for a couple of years before going to university to study mining engineering in Scotland.

Rough Copy. Photo courtesy

However, after a couple of years he quit his degree citing racism as a factor, and became an international telephonist and union shop steward with the General Post Office Union of Post Office Workers.

It was there that he was introduced into the world of the trade unions, where he quickly became a rising star in the local authority workers’ union, NUPE. He joined the Tottenham Labour Party in 1973 and was elected a local councillor in 1978, becoming deputy leader inside a year.

By 1985 he was council leader, Europe ’s first black leader of a local authority. That year also saw the Broadwater Farm Estate riots take place, which claimed the life of a policeman and made national headlines.

However, in less than 2 years afterwards, Bernie Grant would become the elected member of parliament for Tottenham – the rest as they say (see above) is history.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his historic election to parliament, a commemorative blue plaque will be placed on Tottenham Old Town Hall on Sunday 28th October 2012 with a community coming out in full support to pay its respects.

This will be followed by a free celebration Gala of entertainment and further tributes inside the Bernie Grant Arts centre afterwards.

DATE: Sunday 28th October 2012, 3:00pm – 4:00pm VENUE: Tottenham Old Town Hall , Town Hall Approach, Tottenham, N15, 4RY

Plaque Unveiling Tribute includes contributions from Lord Boateng, Baroness Howells, Baroness Young, Diane Abbott MP, David Lammy MP, Jak Beula, Gloria Mills (UNISON), Paul Kenny (GMB), the Mayor of Haringey David Browne, the leader of Haringey Council Clair Kober,  Zita Holborne and many more surprised guests

DATE: Sunday 28th October 2012, 4:30pm – 8:00pm VENUE: Bernie Grants Arts Centre, Town Hall Approach, Tottenham, N15, 4RX

Reception Gala includes entertainment tributes from Rough Copy (2012 X Factor finalists), Carol Thompson, London Community Gospel Choir, Geoff Schumann, Black Arts Theatre Productions (BAP), Linton Kwesi Johnson, Gladesmore Community School singing Tottenham Anthem  “Everybody Dreams”,  and additional speeches, performances and tributes.

There will be stalls and refreshments available.

(General Enquiries 0800 093 0400) The Bernie Grant Community Tribute was organized by Nubian Jak Community Trust, in collaboration with the Haringey Council, Unison Trade Union, Lee Valley Estates, BTUC and the Grant Family. The unveiling will be attended by distinguish guests, local councillors, notable guests and members of the public, and media.

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Category: Culture & Society, Politics

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