Monthly Archives: October 2004

The Qustul Incense Burner

The Nubia Salvage Project site has a significance which still has to have the recognition it requires. Why? The figure on the incense burner is old, dated at around 3,200 B.C. This is before the first Pharaoh of the first Egyptian Dynasty. Profesor Bruce Williams asked if this indicates there was a dynasty of Pharaohs in Nubia before Egypt (Kemet). Qustul was then part of Nubia. The persistent argument that the beginning of Egypt is shrouded in mystery could be overturned by this finding. It was unearthed in the 1960s prior to the opening of the Aswan Dam and the flooding of land which could have yielded further clues. This is the oldest example of kingship. A number of writers have taken this up, including Browder and Davidson, and it was featured in a television series on the history of Africa in the mid-80s.
Nubia is today the scene of genocide where black Africans are being systematically slaughtered. They could well be descended from the people who founded Egypt, and subsequently influenced the later civilisations of Greece and Rome.
Vital Link Educational Limited is producing a series of teaching packs looking at this and other evidence which emphasise that Egypt is a part of the African Continent. Why is the link with the rest of Africa persistently ignored?

The Qustul Incense Burner

In Memory Mikey Powell

Mikey Powell died a little over a year ago. We couldn’t believe reports that he had been hit by a police car and then by batons and C.S gas, before being sat on. After initial resistence from the police a march was organised along Soho Road ending at Thornhill Road Police Station. However the officers at Thornhill Road were in full riot gear.
Mikey’s Mother had called the police when he jumped through a window. He was mentally ill. But she didn’t begin to imagine it would end up with his death.
We attended a memorial service a year on, yet still no one knows why Mikey died. Still a long way to go in the fight for justice here.

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Bill our Hero

Bill Challis is a noted whistle blower. However people don’t like them, especially when they have something to hide. He has now been kicked off Grestone Governing body. Interesting comments were made when a petition was signed outside the gate. Some wouldn’t sign because they said they were fearful what would happen to their children.
Bill our hero
“I’m being forced out claims school governor”, Birmingham Post, Sep 16 2004
“Governor suspended in school cash row”, Birmingham Post, Sep 30 2004
“School panel battle”, Evening Mail, Oct 6 2004

Vital Link Educational Limited

Vital Link Educational Limited was set up in 1993 by five people: Gilroy Brown, Head Teacher of Foundry Primary School, Eileen Daley, Manager of a Community Enterprise, John Cockcroft, teacher and librarian at the Martineau Teachers’ Centre in Birmingham, Sitinder Bahia, a teacher and myself who had run the Multicultural Resource Unit for nearly 15 years. Three of us had been involved in All Faiths For One Race (AFFOR) which had been based on the Lozells Road for many years, and was known for its hard-hitting publications, including “Talking Blues” and “Talking Chalk”. These were about black peoples’ experience with the police and education services respectively. AFFOR had been set up in 1971 to protest against a South African cricket tour. Clare Short was one its early directors.

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Sheena Kotecha, 1982-2004

The following is something I wrote following a visit to the grieving parents of Sheena Kotecha who hanged herself in prison at the age of 22. She is now a statistic with self-harm and suicide rising at an alarming rate. Politicians are continuing to tell us that “prison works”. Where is the evidence that it does? Another record has been broken now with the news that the youngest prisoner has killed himself. The rate among women is scandalous. Pauline Campbell has been campaigning by demonstrating at the scene of each incident as it occurs. She is now attracting coverage in the press. However she continues to be arrested for her efforts. She has lost her daughter through the failure of the prison system to protect her.

I visited the family of Sheena Kotecha this morning Sunday 4th April together with Jamnadas Vadhia and his wife. Mr Vadhia is a prison visitor and he met with Sheena only last Monday. She, as the report says, was very depressed and vulnerable. She was a vegetarian and I understand the prison was not providing her with adequate food.
On Friday she was taken in a prison van from her prison near Redditch to Leicester. I hear that she had to stand shackled to a high point. Since she was only around 5 feet high and weighed only 5 stone I would like to know how she stood the ordeal. Presumably the journey was not direct as other prisoners were collected from different points. Her parents, family and friends were in court yet they were not allowed to speak with her. The next thing they knew is that she was dead. They are saying she committed suicide, but I suggested that they should wait for proof that this was the case. The scene at the house was heart rending with mother and grandmother, holding her granddaughter’s picture to her, inconsolable.
Sheena I understand, had no previous record of trouble. She was reported to have been a well behaved child and young person at home and at school. I fail to understand why she should have had a 9 year sentence given to her. My first impression was that she was unaware of what her acquaintance was planning to do. I would like proof that this was not the case. The local press had a front page headline “Bonny and Clyde” theft.
As a Councillor this is not the first case I have had to deal with of an inappropriately sentenced vulnerable young woman.
Cllr John Tyrrell,

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Rainbow over Derry

Jerry, son of my cousin Jack, and brother of Chris, died of cancer a few years ago. He was active in Derry, working with the Quaker Peace Initiative. I went to his funeral, which was extremely well attended by the Catholics and Protestants who valued Jerry and the Project.
The occasion was a truly Irish affair, with Jerry’s huge frame on view in the front room of the family home. Jo, his wife, and children Sophie and Jack welcomed me, although I had not had contact with them for a long time. I had spoken to Jerry on the phone when I visited West Belfast a year or so earlier, before Jerry had known about his illness. He was then back in England with his father helping him to move from Isleworth to Aylesbury to be near to Chris and Margaret.
Jerry Tyrrell photo gallery
All the male relatives carried the coffin and Jerry was taken first to the College where a Quaker meeting remembered his life and work. I recounted the occasion when my friend and business partner in Vital Link, John Cockcroft, had phoned me to tell me that Jerry’s airline ticket to Belfast had been found at the Euston Road Meeting House. Did I know where he could be found? A call to his Father, Jack found him. No, he had not realised his ticket was missing, and yes, he would be picking it up.
Jerry’s book on Peer Group Mediation appeared posthumously. I left a copy with the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem. This group organised a trip to Palestine/Israel this January (2004) when we found a deserted Bethlehem and a family in the Refugee Camp whose house had been demolished as a reprisal for a bombing incident in Jerusalem earlier the same day. More about that later.
rainbow over derry
The picture is a scene at Jerry’s burial at the cemetery above Derry looking down into the valley. The rainbow appeared just as Chris had read “I am in the wind”. It is a symbol of hope for Ireland and for Palestine/Israel.
The following links tell you more about The Quaker Peace Initiative and Jerry’s work with information about availability of his book.

Starting point

Handsworth, Birmingham, is known across the globe due to the diversity of its people. The link shows the setting of a part of this area: the Uplands Allotments, reputedly the biggest in Europe, but only gives an idea of its size. Nearby is Handsworth cemetery where people of different origin have eventually come together. There are many languages on the head stones. A history book could start here.

Handsworth Old Town Hall dates back many centuries to 1460, but is now in danger of being vandalised. Last Sunday the Saracen’s Head and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton have the prospect of restoration, by winning the national competition televised on BBC 2, the Old Town Hall, of similar age, needs attention before it is lost.
The Uplands Allotments may cover a wide area, but there is not a plot to be had. Here you can find literally the whole world. There’s a small holding from Eastern Europe, plots growing items for Indian cuisine such as Coriander, and African Caribbean elders re-creating their Jamaican back-yards. Here you can see a wonderfully vibrant diversity where people can really express themselves.

Talking of self-expression, a few years ago a grant was given to set up an arts event on the allotments. One plot was given over to open umbrellas shielding the ground, while in the evening there were flaming torches from the twig sculptures on show. Mutterings could be heard “What a waste of money!” and the elderly Punjabi who had lent his piece of land for the day looked bemused. By happy co-incidence my son, Jon, took part in the event which brought many people together from the community and further afield.

This is my second attempt at starting a journal. The first foundered when I had to change my screen name following the loss of my Council seat. The three sitting Councillors, Phil Murphy, Gurdev Manku and myself had represented the Sandwell Ward on Birmingham Council for around 50 years between us, but boundary changes meant that we would all have to seek re-election. In the event we lost due to “friendly fire” as the Birmingham Post put it. During my period as Councillor I had the good fortune to work with the many people described above, and the opportunity to visit a number of places some on apersonal basis – including Belfast and Palestine. I want to share thoughts on these matters. The contrast between diverse people coming together at the Uplands and the mistrust and fear between neighbours in Northern Ireland and Palestine within Israel is stark. Nobody I met from any of the communities wanted this kind of segregation, but they were caught up in a wider web of politics which determined their lives (and deaths).