Designed by Jacob V Joyce and Monique Jackson this mural is a visual public archive of Brixton’s radical local histories. The Wall of Respect for Radical Histories of Railton Road employs a Pan African perspective which places Black British anti-racist activism in dialogue with global struggles against colonial and state police violence. Commissioned in the summer of 2021 by 81 Acts and completed with the help of a crowd funder this work commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton Uprising. The mural, painted by Joyce with help from Ailsa Yexley, Iman Mahdy, Buki Bayode, Hannah Jones, Parastou Miri, Sola Olulode and Lizzie Ried is located on the the new 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning building in Herne Hill.
Railton Road was once known as ‘The Front Line’ due to the sheer amount of anti-racist and counter hegemonic activisms which erupted on this street. A commemorative blue plaque which reads ‘The Front Line’ is painted into the top right corner of the mural. Beneath it local artist and often forgotten hero of black British LGBT history Pearl Alcock leans out of a window. Framing the scene on the left an art work by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, another LGBT icon and member of the Brixton Artist Collective, looms over a sleepy eyed Rasta opening his door in fluffy slippers. References to local orginisations include the CLR James Supplementry School, radical squatted book shop 121 Books and a banner which reads ‘Black People Against State Harassment, B.A.S.H,’ a self defence campaign group also based on Railton Road. The Black Panthers, The Gay Liberation Front, Race Today Collective, and many other anti-racist, queer and feminist groups have been founded or run on this radical South London road.
The mural attempts to subvert colonial art history traditions by centring characters that opposed imperial occupation and state violence. The viewer is directly addressed by a crowd of historical black characters who look at each other and out beyond their framing, over the heads of encroaching riot police. A fire breather and stick fighter from the 1881 Canboulay Uprising against British colonial police in Trinidad and Tobago defend the central crowd. Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana, a spiritual leader of the Shona people and key figure in the 1889 Chimurenga Revolt against Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa’s colonisation of Zimbabwe also stands amongst the central crowd.
Key figures and histories within the mural include Black British activists Darcus Howe, Olive Morris, Liz Obi and Pearl Alcock. Local firefighters who took a knee in the 2020 Black Lives Matter London protests kneel beside Cherry Groce whose death at the hands of Brixton Police sparked a second uprising in 1985. A young Sikh boy shouts holding his fist in the air, his pose and image taken from iconic images of the 1979 Southall uprising against the National Front.
Monique Jackson and Jacob V Joyce are currently making a learning resource which highlights more radical histories surrounding the Brixton Uprisings.