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Professor Gus John
Professor Gus John

Internal News - 04 May 2006

'Stand for something or fall to everything'

Professor Gus John gave an engaging talk on British race relations this afternoon (Thursday 4 May 2006).

Speaking to an audience of students and staff, Gus used simple analogies to describe "the gradual erosion of racial harmony" in this country.

Using an example of the British union flag, he discussed a situation where Asian shop keepers felt it necessary to fly this outside their premises to ensure safety post July 2005 London bombings and how extreme nationalistic political groups use this as their branding. A powerful and instantly recognisable symbol, used in two very different contexts, yet one that should unite us in common understanding.

Gus also spoke of the complacency amongst all communities about what has now become an unfashionable subject and the far-reaching consequences of letting it remain so: "either you stand for something or fall to everything that comes your way."

Gus John's book Taking a stand is available from In the book he calls for a radical revaluation of Government policy to improve race relations.

He cites the fact that more British-born black people go into custody each year than into higher education, and that October 2005 saw Asian and African communities in open conflict with each other in the streets of Birmingham, as key reasons for urgent change.

“We are delighted that someone of such international standing as Gus John took a break from his busy schedule to talk at the University," said Gerlinde Rambausek, a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences who organised the lecture.

“He has been engaged in the anti-racist movement many years and he also has extensive experience of working at the grass roots in local authorities.

“He is a very engaging, knowledgeable speaker and a true expert in his field.”


Born in Grenada, Gus John has been involved in education, schooling and youth work in Britain's inner cities since the 1960s.

He was co-ordinator of the Black Parents Movement in Manchester, founded the Education for Liberation book service and helped to organise the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books both in Manchester and London.

He was the first black Director of Education in a UK local authority (Hackney).

Gus John was a member of the Macdonald Inquiry into Racism and Racial Violence in Manchester Schools. He is currently a member of the Home Secretary's Race Relations Advisory Forum and of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Young People and Families Committee.

He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde and advises a number of different organisations, including the Home Office, on race relations.