Chair of the GPI's Opening remarks at launch of 'Dream To Change the World' Exhibition
Michael La Rose Chair George Padmore Institute at the opening event of 'Dream to Change the World: The Life and Legacy of John La Rose', held at Islington Museum 245 St John Street London EC1V 4NB Thursday 21st May 2015:
My name is Michael La Rose and I have been chair of the George Padmore Institute GPI for nearly 10 years now
Today’s launch of the Dream to Change the World exhibition to celebrate the life and legacy of my father John La Rose is one of the landmark achievements of the GPI to date.
I would also take this opportunity to thank all those who made this possible from the funders, Islington Libraries and Museum and all those who have helped to make the exhibition possible with your time, effort and enthusiasm.
I especially want to acknowledge the tremendous work done by Sarah White (GPI secretary and John La Rose’s partner), Sarah Garrod (GPI archivist) and all the volunteers and trustees of the GPI involved in this important project
This exhibition not only celebrates an individual, but as John would always want, it celebrates a movement of people, principles and practices for change in Britain. It is informed by previous activism in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
Historically this movement draws upon the tradition of the revolts against slavery, the French revolution, Revolution in Haiti, the Russian Revolution, the anti- colonial struggle, Pan Africanism, the Beacon literary movement, the Trade Union movement, Caribbean Artists Movement, Civil Rights and Black Power, the post- independence neo-colonial struggles, the Cuban Revolution, the anti-racist movement, the Non- aligned movement, Supplementary school movement, anti-police oppression campaigns and the International Book fair of Radical Black and Third World Books.
We must recognise that New Beacon Books has been the solid base for this enormous political and cultural work over the years. I got my political and cultural grounding; (You can just about pick me out in a couple of photos, a youth with a big afro). I got my grounding in the Supplementary school as a student and then a teacher, in police campaigns in the Black Youth Movement (BYM), Black Parents Movement (BPM) and New Cross Massacre Campaign. I learned to network internationally in the Alliance (BYM, BPM, Race Today Collective and Bradford Black Collective), European Action for Social Justice and the magnificent International Book fair of Radical Black and Third World Books. Finally today I act as Chair of the George Padmore Institute an archive of the art and struggle of people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent in Britain.
The George Padmore Institute continues this work as an archive and through our outreach work in schools and our public programme of events. For the future, in 2016, the GPI is planning to celebrate the significant anniversaries of New Beacon Books and the seminal Caribbean Artists movement (CAM).
Here, I now want to talk about the importance and purpose of the Dream to Change the World exhibition. One of John La Rose’s organising principles was that we must stop the discontinuity of information from generation to generation with which our rulers, all over the world, attempt to keep us is in continuing ignorance of what struggles occurred in previous generations. Of what people did before and then learn from that experience.
Publishing does that, bookshops do that, newsletters and leaflets do that, photos do that, archives do that and so do exhibitions like this one. So the first purpose of this exhibition is for people to know what has happened in the past and spur them on to be active for change in their lifetime. If you come out of this exhibition and say “Yuh know, I didn’t know that. I will find out more” then 50% of what we want will be achieved. John La Rose’s grandchildren and great grandchildren are here today. This exhibition is to inform you and future generations of people in Britain about our British history.
The second purpose of this exhibition is to inspire. Another of John La Rose’s principles of organisation is “Start where you are “. Which means start small, build slowly and consolidate. He held meetings in his house. We have the representation of the famous kitchen table at Albert Road prominent in this exhibition. The bookshop was in his front room. The supplementary school was based in his house. He mobilised his family his friends their children and their friends to participate in organisation, activities and campaigns.
Within this exhibition people should understand ways they can organise and apply it to their struggles in Britain today. Here is a way of organising that all of us can carry out, wherever we are, whatever our skills and abilities. It is a blue print for Collective Action. After viewing this exhibition today “What is your dream and who can you join with to make it possible?
With the lessons from this exhibition we hope to inspire people to act.
All people who want social justice,
Who respect all cultures and religions
Who want to recognise the worth of art, literature, spoken word and popular culture from everyone and from everywhere
Who want economic justice: lack of poverty, good housing, good health care and good education for all, not a few
We want to inspire those, who like John La Rose… Dream to Change the World
Thank you for your support
Michael La Rose Chair George Padmore Institute
Other contributors to the opening were;
Sarah White (GPI Secretary)
Sarah Garrod (GPI Archivist)
Rosemary Doyle (Head of Islington Libraries & Heritage Services)
Stuart Hobley (Chair of London Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund)