Our Comrade, Friend and Brother Alton Burnett finally succumbed to his battle with cancer and passed away on Friday, 7th March at 7.20 pm. Phillip Murphy, Maxie Hayles and I had visited a week or so earlier but found him in a deep sleep. We understood he was suffering considerable pain in his waking moments. Alton was a larger than life character committed to serve the community, which he did as a Councillor for Erdington and as Secretary to the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre on Dudley Road, Birmingham.
In 1985 Alton led a group along Lozells to pay tribute to the post masters, the Moledena brothers, who lost their lives in a fire at the post office.
More than 20 years later he repeated this act of reconciliation when some young men were tragically run down along the Dudley Road, yards from the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre. At the time there was considerable tension with a feeling that what had happened was due to friction in the community. It fell to Alton once again to dispel the idea as he carried a tribute to Tariq Jahan, father of one of the boys killed. Tariq himself rose above the rumours flying round and was given great credit for his generosity of spirit at such a time of personal loss. (He went to give aid to the injured only to find it was his own dying son he was trying to help.)
Alton Burnett pays tribute to the young men who were killed along the Dudley Road speaking to Tariq Jahan, bereaved father of one of them.
Rather than a flashpoint, the makeshift shrine appears to have evolved into a focal point for the community to bond. It was there that Alton Burnett of the Afro Caribbean Millennium community center presented Mr. Jahan with flowers and a message of condolence on Thursday evening.
“We are one,” Mr. Burnett said. “We feel your pain and we feel your sorrow. We will not let this divide us.” The two men hugged, a symbolic moment recognized with applause from those watching. New York Times 11/8/2011