The Brixton Immortals domino club organised a major event in Lambeth town hall at the weekend to bring together other local organisations and people to mark Black History Month.
It heard that planned repairs to the club’s HQ on Coldharbour Lane, which it shares with the Brixton Soup Kitchen, should be starting in a few weeks and be followed by major changes to create a modern community centre there.
Local MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham, Labour) greeted the audience, urging them both to make sure they were fully vaccinated against Covid and to enjoy themselves.
“This is new ground for us,” said club chair Mervin Stewart who outlined the history of the club and Brixton itself.
Christine Sadler of the UK Diamonds Ladies domino team said it had been founded in 2019. It is open to all women of any age, colour, and creed and its members may also play for other teams such as the Brixton Immortals.
Members had stuck together through all sorts of problems. “We are here today as a sisterhood unified by dominoes,” she said. “Some of us live, breathe and sleep dominoes.”
UKDL was aiming to be the best, and is looking for sponsors, she concluded.
Brixton’s Bushman the Poet recited the shocking and electrifying poem On The Cape Coast, which he wrote after he visited one of Ghana’s “slave castles” on the country’s Cape Coast.
Local singer Winston Harris performed a song he wrote for the occasion.
Will Steadman, head of neighbourhood regeneration for Lambeth council, said the council was working on three things to help the domino club on Coldharbour Lane.
First is fixing its historic and special building, which also houses the Brixton Soup Kitchen, so that, second, it can maximise its income, sustainability and community outreach and influence.
Third was to imagine what a future Black cultural and community hub could look like.
Applause greeted his announcement that “We’re good to go on fixing the building. We’re only a few weeks away from making a start.”
The design team from Gbolade Design Studio that will work with the community to turn the building into “a community centre fit for the 21st century, something that everyone can be proud of” was at the event.
Solomon Smith, one of the founders of Brixton Soup Kitchen, that is housed in the Coldharbour Lane building, explained that its work was not confined to Brixton. “We support anyone who is in need,” he declared.
A lot of people and families are struggling in silence, he said. “For us at Brixton Soup Kitchen, we don’t want that to happen.”
The kitchen works with the Immortals domino team, he said.
“Today is not just a celebration of Black History Month, it’s not just a celebration of our roots, it’s not just a celebration of our culture. It’s about leaving a legacy.
“Today we are moving forward, which is why we decided to have this event today to try to build a strong unity.”
Vincent McBean, chairman of West Indian Association of Service Personnel, recalling the recent death of Black veteran Allan Wilmot, outlined the many contributions of the Windrush Generation.
He said that at the height of the Second World War, one in six of the Allied combatants was Black and ethnic minority.
Now the descendants of people who had paid their own fares to come to Britain to fight for it were being deported. “This must never be allowed to happen again,” he said.
“We need to preserve all aspects of our community, not just the ones that the government wants to preserve.”
His own organisation had begun 30 years ago when veterans were appalled not to see Black veterans in television coverage of Remembrance Sunday and started their own commemoration in Brixton.
Michael Hamilton of Ubele, an organisation at the heart of the forthcoming transformation of the building on Coldharbour Lane, said Black History Month “is an opportunity to tell our children about the strengths from which they came”.
Work at the domino club would strengthen the foundation so that story can continue, he said.
Councillor Sonia Winifred, Lambeth council cabinet member for equalities and culture, thanked the club for organising an inspiring event.
Andrea Grant paid tribute to Linda Quinn, the editor of the Brixton Blog and Bugle who died earlier this year, for her support for the Immortals. A picture of her will hang on the wall of the club.