Kick It Out has tackled racism for 25 years, now the biggest danger is complacency
Exclusive interview: Sam Cunningham meets Herman Ouseley, the peer whose formative years in Peckham shaped a lifetime’s work.Kick It Out has spent a quarter of a century fighting racism and discrimination out of a room. The room has changed location a few times, and taken on various guises, but it has always been only one room.
First it was a room in a small unit in the Islington Business Centre in Angel. Then it was a small room above a pizza parlour in Moorgate. Now, it is a much larger room which it shares with the Football Foundation, in one big office space in Whittington House, west London.
In many ways, the organisation started in the bedroom of a Peckham house in which five families shared a kitchen, outdoor toilet and tin bath, where a young boy born in Guyana slept between his mother and stepfather. Herman Ouseley spent 17 days travelling across land and sea with his mother to England in 1957.
He was not a Lord then, just an 11-year-old boy trying to make sense of a scary world. But already, as they settled in south London, Ouseley was developing the instincts to deal with a lifetime of conflict and learning the bravery to fight racism and discrimination in a badly divided society.
Kick It Out, English football‘s antidiscrimination campaign, has been a focus for the last 25 of his 73 years. Violence and intimidation The glass milk bottles regularly hurled through the window of their Peckham residence as he rested between his mother and stepfather were shattered symbols of the bitter racial discontent which began to harden Ouseley’s core. As did hearing stories of excrement being shoved through letter boxes and houses being attacked with firebombs.
“You had to have eyes in the back of your head but keep them down when you walked the streets,” he recalls to i, reflecting on a quarter of a century of Kick It Out, ahead of the organisation’s birthday on Sunday.
“That’s what I came into. The abuse I received in the 90s around Kick It Out – I was already hardened to it.”