Anthony Lobo R.I.P
Anthony Lobo (end right) with -from left to right-late Haynes Baptiste, Molly Porter, Bishop Tripp and Yogi Sutton
Anthony Lobo, who died earlier this year, was the first Chair of CARJ, serving in that office from 1984 until 1990. He was among the group that established CARJ, and those involved chose him to lead them through the early years of CARJ’s development. Tony had a deep passion for justice, but this was tempered by a gentle, polite, non-confrontational style that allowed him to hear the sometimes conflicting voices of colleagues and enable them to work together productively. He was also a diplomatic presence, making CARJ a credible force in confronting both the Church and the wider society with some uncomfortable truths about racism.
Bishop Howard Tripp was appointed Ecclesiastical Adviser to CARJ, and he and Tony worked closely together for the next six years. Bishop Tripp has recently spoken fondly of him, recalling that ‘Tony often entertained me at Lincoln’s Inn and I visited him several times at Jackquets Court in Bexley.’
During its early years, CARJ had only enough funding to employ a part-time Administrator. Tony saw this as a positive factor, forcing CARJ to involve its members in the work of the Association. ‘Despite the fact that we do not yet have funds to employ a development worker, the work of the organisation expanded considerably, due largely to the work of our members and volunteers. Indeed, it can be seen as a positive strength of CARJ that because we only have one part-time administrator, members from all over the country have had to get involved in a very practical way in promoting racial justice, through conferences and meetings, parishes and schools, and through forging links with other people, Christian and non-Christian, who are working to create a just, multi-cultural, multi-racial society in Britain today’ (Chairman’s Annual Report, 1986-87)
During Tony’s six years as Chair, CARJ was very active, collaborating with others and involving members and friends in a number of important issues. One example of this was a series of education conferences in Birmingham, Croydon, Liverpool, Hull and Nottingham.
At the AGM on 27June 1986, Cardinal Hume spoke on Racism – the need for positive action. Some 3000 copies of the Cardinal’s talk were published and distributed widely in the Catholic community.
On 18 October 1986, CARJ organised a conference on police/community relations at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. The Conference was organised to follow up issues raised in the Gifford Report – the report of the independent inquiry on the disorders at Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham in 1985. It was chaired by Bishop Philip Harvey, who had been a member of the Broadwater Farm Inquiry.
One of the initial priorities of the new Association was to establish relations with black-led churches. In spring 1988 CARJ organised a Building Bridges weekend with Black Led Churches. The weekend was the culmination of three years’ work by CARJ to foster dialogues between Catholics and black led churches.
The AGM in Nottingham in July 1988 focused on the theme ‘Contemporary Issues in Multiracial Britain’ and was attended by more than 100 members and visitors.
In 1986, CARJ began to explore the possibility of producing an audio visual account of the history of black people in the UK. Despite its lack of funds, CARJ contributed £2500 to the project and CARJ members worked on the script over a number of months during 1987. In 1988 both a slide-tape version and a video were produced with the title Out of the Shadows.
The 1987 CARJ AGM in Birmingham was attended by nearly a hundred people from different parts of the country. The theme of the Conference was – Promoting Black Leadership in the Church.
About the same time, CARJ became involved with the plight of 500 Bangladeshi children in east London who had not had any schooling for long periods. This situation was seen to be due to both a lack of space in local schools and a shortage of teachers in London. Tony took a personal interest in the issue, and with CARJ’s assistance worked with some success to get Catholic schools in the area to take greater numbers of Bangladeshi children. A number of Bangladeshi families were also rehoused to areas where school places were available.
At the CARJ AGM in 1990, Bishop Tripp presented Anthony Lobo with a Papal Honour, making him a member of the Order of the Knights of St Gregory, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the community as Chairperson of CARJ during its first six years.