Bust of Len Garrison (work in progress)

Piece commissioned by the Black Cultural Archives. Len Garrison was the chairman and a founding member of the BCA.

I wrote this soon after the death of my dear friend Lensford “Kwasi” Garrison

Len Garrison was a very close and dependable friend. I first met Len in 1984 when he approached me to produce the trophies for that year’s Black Penmanship Awards, which was the annual prize giving for Black Young writers organised by ACER, of which he was the founder and director; we remained very close friends until his death. As a trained photographer he was very much of an aesthete who appreciated the kind of art I was struggling to create back then.

As a sculptor working in the African tradition, I have been inspired, encouraged and supported by Len through his criticism and suggestions, his invaluable insight into the areas of art and culture I was exploring and of course our common interest in things African, Pan-Africanism and the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Len was a person with a wide variety of pursuits; apart from his interest in the arts, he was an educationalist, an avid collector, a poet and writer who has published several poems, a book on the growth of the Rastafarian movement and has contributed numerous essays and articles to periodicals and academic journals. He was one of the first people to appreciate the need to eradicate the negative stereotype of black people so prevalent in our society; to this end he worked tirelessly to develop the African Caribbean Education Resource Centre.

ACER as it was known, was the first organisation in Britain to specialise in producing educational materials for primary schools that reflected positive images of black people and their culture. It was a pioneering, groundbreaking endeavour that has left an indelible mark on multicultural education in this country. His interests as a collector led him into the area of archiving and the founding of the African People’s Monument Foundation and The Black Cultural Archives. He worked unceasingly through these organisations to raise the profile of the Black community’s need for monuments that commemorate their deeds and aspirations. “Where are our monuments?” is the title of one of his poems, and was a question that was forever in his thoughts and actions. Len Garrison died in February of this year without seeing his dream realised, for there are still no monuments that honour the deeds of his community in this country. His dream did not die with him, for it lives on in the hearts of all those who understand what he struggled for during his life, a life that was lived to the full.

And so while poets and philosophers search for the key that will reveal the answers to all our questions; we who are left behind must salute and pay homage to the memory of those ancestors who left the warmth of their Caribbean homes to become pioneers and settlers in this strange and often hostile land. We who are the products of their efforts must remember that often those who plant the seed are never at the harvesting. We must not forget that in their death lies our purification and renewal, for death is the sacred food of rebirth. We must never forget that it is their deeds and bones that nourish the soil of this land and make it ours.

Fowokan George Kelly
Sept 2003

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