Darcus Howe toasts the Brixton boxer who beat Tyson
At my local pub, we toasted the victories of a Brixton boxer and a Jamaican sprinter
None of us expected it. The professional boxing career of Brixton's Danny Williams was seemingly headed nowhere. Then he went to Louisville, Kentucky and, as a 9-1 outsider, knocked out Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion, in the fourth round.
When I was filming a documentary, England My England, with Peregrine Worsthorne, he was astonished at how gentle and ordinary Brixton was. The propaganda had told him otherwise. Even now, middle-class blacks recoil in horror at the mere mention of Brixton. It is firmly implanted in their minds as a drug-infested, murderous hole.
Danny Williams could not avoid the opprobrium. He was described as weak, talentless, lacking in heart and bottle. He had worked his way up from the bottom, encouraged consistently by a close group of friends from childhood. He made up for the lack of explosive talent with unrelenting determination.
Danny's success is not all. At the Crystal Palace stadium, Asafa Powell beat Maurice Green, the Olympic champion, in the 100m sprint, announcing that another new talent was at large. Powell is a 21-year-old from Jamaica. But Brixton is known as the capital of the Jamaican diaspora and, therefore, claims his victory as its own. Danny and Asafa, though not present, were at the centre of celebrations in my local pub.
These victories came at the right moment to offset the humiliating defeat of the West Indian cricketers at the hands of what is quite an ordinary England team. A beleaguered community always invests in its sporting representatives a mighty and, at times, overwhelming responsibility. The cricketers are now the victims.
Alongside all these discussions in pubs, in barber-shops and on street corners, another ray of light emerged. A group of young women has offered a glimpse of our sporting past. At the corner of Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Road in Brixton, they have mounted an exhibition, "Black Gold", which dramatises the contribution of our great sportsmen past and present.
Brixton ain't that bad after all.
Darcus Howe's Who You Callin' a Nigger? is on Channel 4, 9 August, at 11pm