BRAFA Square comes full circleTuesday, October 12, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
OCTOBER is usually celebrated as Black History Month in the United Kingdom, but last Wednesday when the Hackney Council unveiled its BRAFA Park, the borough's mayor, Phillip Glanville, proclaimed the period as Black History Season. The accomplishments of black people in the UK, he noted, cannot be covered in four weeks.
Among those achievements is Let's Make Africa Green Again, a 1984 song by British Reggae Artistes Famine Appeal (BRAFA). The group also staged a concert that year in Shoreditch Park that raised £8,000 for famine relief in Ethiopia.
A number of leading reggae acts performed at that event, including The Blackstones, Aswad, Winston Reedy and Dennis Brown.
Glanville told the gathering at the new Britannia Leisure Centre that artistes, musicians and administrators who came together 36 years ago for that humanitarian gesture deserve recognition.
“I'm really delighted and proud and honoured to be opening BRAFA Square this evening, in honour of the BRAFA team and what they did to address the balance of musical representation in the 1980s, but also redefining activism in Hackney,” he said.
The event was also addressed by Leon Leiffer of The Blackstones, who drove the initiative to record Let's Make Africa Green Again, at a time when pop artistes led by Bob Geldof were making similar efforts to raise money and awareness about the famine that ravaged Ethiopia, killings hundreds of thousands of people.
Leiffer, who was born in Jamaica, thanked several colleagues who were part of the recording and show. Several of them attended last week's ceremony, including Reedy, broadcaster/film-maker Tony Jervis and Alpine Grant, brother of singer/producer Eddy Grant, whose Hive Studio in London Let's Make Africa Green Again was recorded.
The song was written by Leiffer's wife, Fay Addison. It featured a number of artistes such as The Blackstones, Dennis Brown, Aswad, Janet Kay, Winston Reedy, The Pioneers, Ken Parker, and B B Seaton.
Leiffer organised the concert at Shoreditch Park with Courtney Carr, Ras Elroy Bailey, Tony Douglas, Raymond Dangarembizi, Jah Bunny, Ken Kendricks, and Gene Rondo.
Hackney, located in northwest London, was one of the areas West Indians settled when they moved to the United Kingdom during the 1950s and 1960s. The area became an early stomping ground for reggae artistes, as well as clubs and record labels.