Walter Tull Poems

In December 2014 an event held by Philosophy Football to mark the role that football played during the Christmas truce in World War One, poet Musa Okwonga performed the poem below.  “Searching for Walter Tull”, he had been commissioned to write for that event to reflect on the life of one of the first black professional footballers in the UK (for Clapton FCNorthampton Town and Spurs), and the first black man in the British Army ever to lead his white peers into battle. As the day of my reading drew closer,

Musa found himself more and more moved by his story, and the reality that the best and the bravest of human beings too rarely get the lives that they deserve. The title of this piece refers to the fact that his body was never found; but, despite that, he still left a remarkable legacy behind.

Searching for Walter Tull

Walter Tull.

His life was the ink that stands out on history’s page.
The orphan, this mixed-race grandson of a slave,
The footballer slow in stride but swift of thought,
The soldier who survived the Somme
But who died in World War One’s injury time.
A few weeks from the end of that churning conflict,
In no-man’s land, as he was leading a charge,
Life handed him the red card.
Months earlier, in Italy, he had been the maker of history,
Going where no person of colour or Negro had been allowed to go before,
A black officer leading his white peers into the hungry mouth of War.
So loved was he by his men, that they risked their lives to recover his body after his death.
But Walter Tull‘s slumbering form was never found;
And, a century after his death, we are still looking for him now.
Known for his calm when the world was aflame,
We need his memory at this time
When the humanity of Britain’s immigrants is being so furiously denied.
So sleep well, Walter Tull, and we’ll do what it takes
To ensure that, to your story,
The world remains awake.

Poem by Musa Okwonga

Poet Musa Okwonga
Musa Okwonga is a true polymath – or, as they say in his adopted home of Germany, a “Multi-Talent”. He is an acclaimed poet, author, journalist, broadcaster, musician, social commentator, football writer and consultant in the fields of creativity and communications.

Musa has written articles, features and opinion pieces on culture, race, sexuality, gender, music, sport, politics and technology for a range of publications including Africa Is a Country, ComplexDevexThe EconomistESPNForeign PolicyProspect, The Blizzard, The GuardianThe IndependentThe New HumanistThe New Statesman, and The New York Times.

The winner of the 1996 WHSmith Young Writers Competition, Musa is the author of two books on football, A Cultured Left Foot (Duckworths, 2007) and Will You Manage? (Serpent’s Tail, 2010), the first of which was nominated for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. In 2014, he co-wrote and presented The Burden of Beauty, the BBC World Service’s flagship documentary about the World Cup in Brazil. He contributed to The Good Immigrant, an award-winning collection of essays about race and immigration in the UK, and to Change Gonna Come, a compilation of poetry and prose which won a 2018 YA Book Prize Special Achievement Award from The Bookseller.

Visit Okwonga.

Walter Tull Poem

EMDAD RAHMAN

Black history is a chance to mull

Over the inspiring life of Walter Tull
From an orphanage to lead a white soldier
The British Army’s very first black officer

Walter found it so tough at Spurs
Joined Northampton to escape racist slurs
Herbert Chapman and peace with the Cobblers
Alas no appearance for Glasgow Rangers

Walter lived life with dignity and aplomb
He fell tragically in the Battle of the Somme
Now coins commemorate this “Negro”
He is truly a bonafide British hero

The 1914 Manual of Military Law specifically excluded “Negroes” and “Mulattos” from exercising command as officers.

Poet Emdad Rahman MBE

Emdad Rahman’s work including his writings has been celebrated in the Muslim world. He has been shortlisted four times for the prestigious Muslim news awards. His voluntary work benefits Muslims as well as non-Muslims alike whether it is coaching, mentoring, teaching or serving the homeless. Emdad’s activities have impacted the Muslim world by enhancing its reputation and inspiring countless others to stand up and contribute to their communities ball over the world. It has also greatly helped to break down negative stereotypes of Muslims. His work involves volunteering with young and old, male and female. His impact has been based on genuine hard work and a lot is highlighted on his blog – www.tsu-doh-nimh.blogspot.co.uk

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