London mayor bans Martin from black history talks
By Terry Joseph
October 29, 2003
Outrage among Britons of African descent, ignited by London Mayor Ken Livingstone's "dis-invitation" of Professor Tony Martin to speak at last Saturday's First-Voice – Dialogue with the Diaspora, has exploded into an international furore.
A highly acclaimed Marcus Garvey scholar who has delivered many lectures here, Prof Martin was invited since May to speak at the October 25 forum, London's contribution to annual British observance of Black History Month, arranged and funded by the mayor's office. On October 15, Lee Jasper, Livingstone's advisor on race relations, wrote Martin "dis-inviting him to the conference.
Even as he acknowledged Martin's intellectual integrity, Jasper wrote:
"Having confirmed with you that you attended and spoke at David Irving's 'Real History Conference' in 2001 and the Institute for Historical Review's annual conference in 2002 and that both of these conferences included speakers known for their anti-Semitic and racist activities including Holocaust denial, the Mayor's Office had decided to withdraw its invitation to you to address the First Voice conference on Saturday 25 October."
In a front-page article of its October 17 issue, under the headline "Livingstone bars 'anti-Jewish' historian from conference", The Jewish Chronicle quoted correspondence between Louise Ellman (Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside and vice-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Council against Anti-Semitism) and Jasper, saying the exchange constituted the basis for the Mayor's "prompt and appropriate action" and noted Ellman's "delight at the mayor's quick move."
Blacks in London immediately set up an e-mail petition aimed at persuading other invitees to decline in solidarity, a protest that enjoyed massive support on home turf and quickly spread to the international community; attracting a flood of responses.
Trinidad and Tobago's Emancipation Support Committee (ESC), who have hosted Prof. Martin at conferences here, had added its voice. In a scathing letter signed by chairman Khafra Kambon, the organization waded into Jasper, expressing "abhorrence" at the last minute withdrawal of Prof. Martin's invitation to speak at the forum.
"The reasons presented by you for the withdrawal are irrational, offensive and worst of all, self-demeaning," the ESC letter said. "If your primary motivation is an acute sensitivity to anti-Semitism, how does that eliminate Dr. Martin?
"Intellectually he is a known quantity. There is profuse, publicly available material by which his views can be judged. We suggest you take another look at the dangerous principle which you are seeking to enshrine by your actions. Your letter did not suggest that Dr. Martin took part in meetings or rallies which were designed to incite hatred against Jews.
"The implication of your letter is that our intellectuals and academics should exercise a brutal self-censorship and ensure that they do not unknowingly or by design appear on platforms with persons who are targeted by Jews as an anti-semitic, a designation readily bestowed by hypersensitive Jews.
"What irony, in Black Heritage Month," the letter betimes an apology to Prof. Martin, the African community in London and the entire Pan African world and suggesting Jasper relinquish his position as (Policy Director, Equalities and Policing) at the Mayor's Office.
In his response to Jasper, dated October 15, Prof. Martin said (inter alia):
"I thought that you were just another overwrought Jew who sees "antisemites" everywhere, and annoying though partly explicable phenomenon. Now, however, I discover that you are that most singular of that phenomenon, to wit a black talking head for Jewish ventriloquism.
"I addressed the first abovementioned conference on the Jewish role in the African slave trade, a topic that overwrought Jews consider ipso facto anti-Semitic. I addressed the other on the tactics of organized Jewry against persons like myself who they disagree with," he wrote.
Prof. Martin added that if he was seen as anti-semitic for addressing conferences so perceive, then "this kind of reasoning would also make me a talking head for overwrought Jews for my willingness to speak at your conference," saying too, "I hope that someday you will become as diligent in the knowledge of your own history as you now appear to be in mindlessly parroting the misconceptions of others."
Other speakers invited were Ms Shabazz (eldest daughter of Malcolm X); Dr. Gamal Nkrumah (son of Kwame Nkrumah), Dr. Julius Garvey (son of Marcus Garvey), Paul Robeson Jnr. (son of Paul Robeson). All earlier references to Councillor Stephen Padmore, first described as the son of George Padmore, were later removed after authoritative sources questioned his bona fides. It is not the first time London has banned a black speaker, Louis Farrakhan having suffered the same fate in 1986.
Prof. Tony Martin Dis-Invited to UK!