Suresh Grover: The reluctant hero
Just over a week ago Suresh Grover gave a talk to a group of young men and women, all taking part in a leadership programme run by SOAS University and the Borough of Tower Hamlets. It was both inspirational and moving.
I’ve known Suresh for about 15 years. He was one of the founder members of the groundbreaking Southall Monitoring project, which we worked with and supported. But it is his tireless campaigning, fighting against racial injustice, particularly for families that have lost loved ones in racial attacks that he is most well known for.
But during this talk Grover showed a more personal side to the fearless campaigner he his renowned for. Many didn’t even expect to see Grover, is father had just passed away and he was organising funeral arrangements. But he told the audience, ‘I made this commitment to you, and if at all possible I wanted to fulfil that honour’.
I guess in an unusual reflective mood he spoke about his childhood in the Northern Lancashire town of Nelson. ‘ I was just like any other kid. I loved my sport and was good as you might expect at cricket and other sports’. He went on to say, ‘but this was no ordinary time in Britain. The phenomena of ‘Paki bashing’, -targeting Asians-was prevalent, and difficult to escape from. At school and outside school I was a target. A 12 year old who literally had to fear for his life. One day they got me and stabbed me’, he informed a shocked audience. He didn’t go into great detail, only to say his worried parents moved to Southall, London, to be closer to their own community.
These early events would define Grover’s life. Instead of being defeated by them he would dedicate his life to fighting racism. Since then he has been prominent campaigns to help families, such as those of Stephen Lawrence, Zahid Mubarek and Victoria Climbie. All these cases led to Public Judicial Inquiries and consequent positive changes in race legislation. ‘ In those early days, the media were not interested in the injustice that occurred around Stephen’s murder. The tenacity of the Lawrence family would not let this go. I’m proud to have played a small part’.
The Monitoring group, which he is the Director, continues to campaign for families and BME communities.
After he spoke he was surrounded by the young men and women who wanted to know more about what it takes to be a leader. I overheard a few responses, all mentioned ‘maintaining your dignity and integrity’.
As the reluctant hero left the building he was given another rapturous applause.
And well deserved too.
Simon Woolley, OBV Director