It is thirty-eight years since Hibiscus Caribbean Elderly Association (Hibiscus) was founded, and twenty-eight years since it acquired the lease from Newham Council for Hibiscus Community Centre and its associated Premises Licence. Over the years true to its objectives, Hibiscus has forged a new pathway in the development and delivery of care and leisure services, informed by the culture and needs of African and Caribbean people: this is the LEGACY, the right to free cultural expression; now threatened by Newham Council' action to revoke Hibiscus Premises Licence. This is an act of cultural imperialism, and a refusal to acknowledge the culturally pluralistic nature of today's society, and which need to be reflected in the administration of its laws. The narrow spectrum of cultural values that informed the Council' action: noise pollution and public nuisance; in this instance nine complaints from four households over a four-year period, is seen to outweigh the needs of an entire community. It must be remembered: late night socialising is a central feature of African and Caribbean cultures, the expression of which in the UK has given rise to significant conflict over the years between African and Caribbean people and the host community, and a deep-rooted mistrust amongst African and Caribbean people of the state that justifies the prohibition of their cultural expressions on the grounds of causing a public nuisance. In addition to HCEA managed activities, residents hire Hibiscus Community Centre for family and other events…these events attended by whole families including babies and elders who stay out late to socialise, is the norm.
In its two generations of voluntary service to the community, Hibiscus has faced and overcome many an obstacle seeking to undermine its objective: the delivery of services informed by the culture and needs of African and Caribbean people. Here one obstacle: racism in the administration of public services has been ever present, and a constant threat to Hibiscus growth and development. Today the thinly vailed racist practice of Newham Council, masquerading as public administration, “as two white men we were afraid to enter a building full of black people,” threatens to stymie Hibiscus's business activities in the leisure and entertainment sector. Newham Council's action in revoking Hibiscus Premises Licence, inhibits the organisation capacity to trade and generate income and creates the conditions for grant aid dependency and possible bankruptcy of the organisation. This action by Newham Council is only one of several stretching back to 2009, the sole purpose of which is to undermine stability, and threaten Hibiscus' future. A useful example of this is the failure to renew Hibiscus' lease which expired in 2009, this saga is replete with all manner of shenanigans, the following are three examples: - the requirement for Hibiscus to carry out maintenance work to the Community Centre valued of £65,000 within a period of one month, as a prerequisite to opening lease renewal negotiations Gooch & Associates Chartered Building Surveyors Schedule of Dilapidations & Want of Repair Hibiscus Community Centre 09.12. 2016 & Rema Partnership LLP Mechanical & Electrical Survey. Hibiscus Community Centre 25.05. 2017; the failure to pay £39,000 for a period of two years on invoices raised Correspondence Clifford Headley to CPPT - HCEA INVOICES 16.12.2019 and the proposal to increase the annual rent from £3000.00 to £45,000 Correspondence William Kennard to Clifford Headley Subject Rental Valuation with attachment Social Value Assessment Hibiscus Community Centre 15.12.2021.
Latter Newham Council' actions have taken on a sinister and menacing character with Council officers seeking to criminalise Hibiscus personnel 'I would like to invite you to attend our office for an interview under caution" (email 5 March 2022 from John Chislett to Clifford Headley) and Councillors on the campaign trail claiming Hibiscus is involved in illegal gambling and drinking, and procuring illicit drinking licences: an allegation which Cllr Shabnam Mahommed has yet to provide any evidence. It is this background of corrupt practice, that informed Hibiscus' decision not to participate in Newham Council' review of its licence at the meeting held on the 12 November 2020, and Appeal directly to the Court. The detail underpinning the assertion of corrupt racist practice and specifically that which obtains in Newham Council Environmental Health Department is laid bare in Hibiscus' " A response to the Council’s Commercial Environmental Health Team (CEHT) objections to Hibiscus Caribbean Elderly Association (HCEA) Temporary Event Notice for an event...28th February 2020 - Newham Council Licensing Sub-committee 27 February ", and the subsequent internal report to Hibiscus’ Board: "The administration of Temporary Event Notices by the Licensing Sub-committee and the Environment and Sustainable Transport Directorate 20.04.2020" on the Council' administration of Temporary Event Notices to Hibiscus' Board. The Appeal process is well on the way and the Hearing date 27 May fast approaching. Here it is noted that the Council has not produced any of the four complainants as witnesses, instead relying of the evidence of Environmental Health personnel whose evidence is completely tainted, and a police officer who states that on the evening of 5 February he heard loud music whilst sitting in his car with the windows closed, but got out of his car, stood on the roadside and made a video recording of background music, he also states that he arrived at Hibiscus at about 00.30am, however this is not supported by Hibiscus CCTV record which has him entering the building at 00.19am and leaving at 00.20am
In addition to petitioning the Court, the appeal will be heard on the 27 February at Stratford Magistrate Court, Hibiscus has sought to engage members of the public directly and launched an online petition calling on members of the public to support its case for the reinstatement of its licence and draw to a halt the destruction of the black community's secular infrastructure. In the five weeks since publication the petition has attracted 30,470 signatures and insightful and valuable comments: - "How disgraceful of Newham Council. Who are these four households who complained? How does it take so few complaints to shut down an essential service… and always they do it ... through licensing. You clearly don't care about the needs of our community. Racism raises its ugly head ...yet again" Claudette Henry. "Sad but true another sign of ingrained institutional racism". Alex Mahabal. "We need to provide resources for the community especially after the paralyzing isolation created by the pandemic. People’s emotional wellbeing and community cohesion should be the paramount consideration on this decision" Paulette Ryan. Here it must be noted that Newham Council' decision was taken at the hight of the pandemic and unsurprisingly there is no reference in its deliberations as to the conjoint impact of its decision to revoke the licence, on race relations and community cohesion. Instead, it has embarked on a campaign to vilify Hibiscus and encourage the publication of lurid and obscene caricatures of its Members and guest: black pensioners, their funeral gatherings, church services weddings and a range of other activities as rowdy and screeching neighbours from hell. These abhorrent stereotypical racist caricatures of black people are fuelled by the actions and propaganda of Newham Councillors and staff "Environmental Health officer Ian McConnell said: "This premises has resulted in 24 complaints of noise and antisocial behaviour since 2018. The licence holder has not complied with the terms of their licence or temporary event licences." Propagating and promoting pejorative views of minorities in our society, particularly when facilitated by government, legitimises that view and serves only to generate tensions hostility and conflict between communities and inimical to good governance.