In the Past Tense pamphlet In The Shadow of the S.P.G Racist Policing, Resisitance, and Black Power in 1970s Brixton, 2014, there is quite a bit about the British Black Panthers, who included Farrukh Dhondy and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
The quotes below come from a section looking at how the Panters educated people.
Farrukh Dhondy has an active career in which he has written a biography of CLR James, the comedy series Tandoori Nights, translated Rumi, written children’s stories and the Bollywood film Mangal Pandey and been commissioning editor for Channel Four.
“I had the idea, right at the beginning, that culture was the only way out of this mission to complain. The mission to complain was , you know, ‘we are poor, sad blacks, beaten down, you discriminate against us, racism, racism, racism, complaint, complaint, complaint”, and that wouldn’t end until one said ‘Look, forget about the sadness, here’s what I can do.’ We could have an intellectual culture, and I’ve always thought that was the way forward…” Farrukh Dhondy
Militant as it was, Black Power activities also had a strong cultural element – dances, with sound systems, poetry groups… On the one hand this helped to draw people in, but the participation in the movement also opened people’s eyes to their own cultural heritage, as Linton Kwesi Johnson relates:
“My real interest in poetry began when I joined the Black Panthers. Joining the Black Panthers was a life-changer for me because for the first time I discovered black literature, because going to school here I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that black people wrote books. In the Black Panthers they had a library and all of a sudden I discovered all these wonderful books written by black people. One book in particular was a book called ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ written by an African American scholar by the name of W.E.B DuBois. And this book was not a book of poems, it was prose, but it was a very poetic prose and the language was very moving. And that book just stimulated my interest in poetry, and made me want to discover more poetry, and made me want to try to articulate in verse how I felt, and how the black youth of my generation felt about our experiences growing in this racially hostile environment.
I learnt a lot about my culture and I was able to locate myself in the world, and to understand myself more fully. Who I am, where I am coming from, and why I am where I am now.”