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Alumni Q&A: Roger Gibbs

We're really pleased to share this fascinating Alumni Q&A with Roger Gibbs, who was involved with Jacari in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Jacari was a political organisation tackling racial inequality through political discussions and activism.

1. When were you involved with Jacari?

When I was an undergraduate at Oxford between 1958 and 1961 I was involved with a number of student interest groups and societies and one of those with which I became most involved was Jacari. At the time the campaign against apartheid in South Africa was at its height and this was the focus of my interest and, as far as I can recall now, was what Jacari was mainly about. The Sharpeville Massacre occurred in 1960 and was an especially disturbing event. At the time the Algerian war against French colonialism was going on and I also recall attending a talk on the situation there.


2. What kind of activities were you involved in with Jacari?

A lot of the activity involved meetings. I was on the Committee, which was reformed during my time, which itself was a contentious matter. I was asked to lead a sub-committee looking at proposals for the future. I was also involved in a survey of Oxford landladies to find if they were prepared to accept persons of colour (this was before the first Race Relations Act).


3. Can you tell us the most vivid memory of your time as a Jacari volunteer?

As I understand it Jacari today is a rather different sort of organisation so I was not a volunteer in undertaking a job but a member because I was interested in the cause and wanted to create a fairer and more just society in Britain and throughout the world. I have a clear memory of Professor Kirkwood who spoke at several meetings and played a role in the organisation of the group. I do not now remember what his position at Oxford was but he was at the University of Witwatersrand and was closely involved with the group.


The other vivid memory I have is of spending a few days with a group in North Kensington in London shortly after there had been notorious race riots (I had been there with the local Liberals, actually sleeping on the floor in someone's premises), so that I think that my involvement with Jacari was more a consequence than a cause of my interest in racial justice.


4. What are you doing now?

I am retired having worked in the civil service for almost all my working life where, following my PPE studies at Oxford, I worked in economic departments.


5. How has being a volunteer with Jacari influenced you later in life?

My membership of the organisation has been an important background to my political thinking and attitudes.


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