WHEN I first heard of a ‘new’ scandal of institutional racism, at the Yorkshire County Cricket club, I thought back to growing up in Bradford.

I had had my fair share of racist abuse. I recall being encircled by white children in the playground at school to which I was bussed, who held hands and moved around me, chanting racist nursery rhymes.

Bradford was not unique in this sense: from Brick Lane and Newham in London, to Southall, Watford, Nottingham, Birmingham and Oldham, in fact across the country wherever we lived, it was a similar story.

Whilst over three decades separate me from the cricketer Azeem Rafiq, I wondered if he too might have heard some of the racist chants which were in circulation long before he was born. Such as this one from Sheffield,

‘Ding dong the bells are flashing, we’re going to go P*** bashing’.

‘P*** bashing’ was not just a bad mouth phenomenon of children on playgrounds, insulting those of us of Pakistani origin. Indians, Bangladeshis, Kashmiris, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Latin Americans and Africans were seen through this prism.

There were insulting nuances for people from different parts of the world as well, but the racist heart was the same.

It was a daily, and sometimes more a nightly pastime where white youth would hunt us. However, it was not something we took lying down, but fought back against it, individually where we had to, but we also organised community self-defence as well, against both street and institutional racism, of the police, the Immigration Service and even within the trade union movement, a fight far from over.

Given the widespread nature of the racist wave of street violence; murders in Southall/London and the New Cross Massacre where 13 black youth were burnt to death, we had learnt from bitter experience that the police were either incapable of defending us, or unwilling, or were themselves institutionally racist and would often end up criminalizing the victims, such as the Virk brothers.

We were Muslims, Sikh, Christian, Hindus, believers and of no faith. We were Asians, and Africans, united as black people, and supported by anti-racist whites.

On numerous occasions we mounted organised defence of our communities. For example, I was part of a patrol on the corner of Lumb Lane and Marlborough Road, in Bradford. I stood together with many a courageous friend of the past, especially some of the departed, such as Anwar Qadir , Saeed Hussain and Geovani Singh. Racists often fled when they saw we were organised.

It was the very process of organised self-defence that led me and 11 others, in 1981 to be arrested in the case that became known as the Bradford 12.

Bradford was going to be invaded by racist skinheads. I was one of the leading members of the United Black Youth League.

We called for an organised defence of our communities. Up and down the country there had been petrol bomb attacks by racists.

We too made petrol bombs, but on the day there was no racist invasion of the city, and no petrol bombs were used, but we were arrested on terrorist charges and were looking at life behind bars.

Shortly after we were charged, a public meeting was held to defend us in the Arcadian Cinema. According to Fazal Mahmood, one of the organisers of the meeting, “We didn’t think many people would come, but around 800 did. It was the most charged public meeting I have ever been to”.

Thousands of people from Bradford, across the country and internationally, supported us, and following a tense lengthy trial at Leeds Crown Court, we were all acquitted, and in the process, the right of organised self-defence became legally established for the first time in British Law.

An African proverb says, ‘If the lion doesn’t tell its story, it becomes the story of the hunter.’ By making a film on the Bradford 12, we will tell our own story, of how we fought for a just world, to challenge the way we were treated. This is still important to fight for today.

I am a member of Migrant Media, a film collective. We are the makers of the mutli-award winning and ground breaking films Injustice (2001) and Ultraviolence (2020) and are going make a film on the Bradford 12.

We intend not only to make a film, but do so in a participatory manner, working with the younger generations, and in the process of making the film, we will collect and make available as much of this heritage we can to the coming generations.

We welcome any support from people and organisations who feel our story is worthy of being told. This could be practical production support, financing and screenings of the finished film.

Most importantly, we are particularly asking those with any visual records, such as photos or videos from the 1970s and 80s, not just of Yorkshire, but any part of the country which shared this history, to contact us by email at bradford12film@gmail.com or Instagram @migrantmedia

* Tariq Mehmood’s latest novel You’re Not Here, published by Daraja, is about one brother who goes missing in action in Afghanistan, while the other falls in love with an Afghan girl in England.

His films Injustice can be viewed on Vimeo and its follow on, Ultraviolence is being distributed by the British Film Institute.