John La Rose (1927-2006), a co-founder of the George Padmore Institute (GPI), was a poet, essayist, publisher, filmmaker, trade unionist and activist born in Trinidad. He was extremely influential and passionately committed to racial, political and social justice for black, Asian and Caribbean communities both in Britain and internationally. In 2015, his life was celebrated with an exhibition at Islington Museum in north London. It was the culmination of a five-year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In 2018, the GPI published Dream to Change the World: The Life and Legacy of John La Rose edited by Sarah Garrod, Nicole-Rachelle Moore and Sarah White. Inspired by the exhibition, it draws on the myriad photos, leaflets, posters, illustrations, artwork, handwritten letters and materials that had been on display a few years earlier. Each aspect of John’s life and the many organisations he was involved with is captured - from New Beacon Books, the publishing house he set up with Sarah White, to his love of poetry, to campaigns in which he played a pivotal role, such as the New Cross Massacre Action Committee and the Black Parents Movement.
The book offers a fascinating insight into the tireless and wide-reaching activism of a unique individual and the communities and organisations he galvanised around him. It also showcases the wealth of archival material housed at the GPI and the importance of preserving those materials for new generations. Dream to Change the World reminds us of the impact that a photograph, a poster or a handwritten letter from a point in history can have on our understanding of the struggles and victories of communities dealing with racial and social injustice.
Dream to Change the World: The Life and Legacy of John La Rose and other books published by the GPI can be purchased via the Discover page.
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