In 1969 Darcus was central to events around the Mangrove café in Notting Hill which culminated in a much celebrated victory for the black power movement over the police. Following repeated police drug raids on the Mangrove café, a centre of black community organising (in which nothing was ever found) the community protested. During clashes with the police nine people including Darcus were arrested and charged with rioting and affray. After a high profile campaign and a vigorous political defence, The Mangrove Nine were acquitted. There is a famous picture from that time of Darcus addressing a demo before it moved off.
In 2010 at the funeral of Frank Crichlow, also one the Mangrove Nine and lifelong activist, Darcus, not long recovered from prostate cancer, climbed up on a car and addressed the mourners from the same corner in Notting Hill.
Throughout his life he defended the community with fearless passion. He was there when thousands beat the Nazi National Front off the streets of Lewisham in 1977, and promptly became a supporter of the Anti-Nazi League, which emerged from that victory. As well as being an inspirational speaker he was clearly a great organiser, playing a key role in the huge Black People’s March that followed the New Cross arson attack in 1981.
Darcus loved to be with his community and after the events that we were involved in together in Liverpool and Birmingham we sat late into the night chatting, reminiscing and challenging those that had attended.
In the words of his friend the dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, he was a ‘Mighty Lion’. He will be terribly missed but the most important thing is that his legacy is carried forward. We need his combination of fighting spirit, inquiring mind, implacable will and organising flair now more than ever.
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Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Man Free (For Darcus Howe) from Dread Beat an’ Blood album