United We Stand
Despite suffering a racist attack, Noel Martin refused to seek revenge and is teaching youngsters how to tackle ignorance and hatred
Written by Poppy Brady
DIALOGUE: German minister Burkhand Jungkamp and Lincoln Moses (right)
LEGACY IS a word sometimes used too casually these days, but Noel Martin, an innocent victim of a brutal racist attack almost two decades ago, more than does it justice.
Since the horrific assault in 1996, which left him paralysed from the neck down, Martin has devoted his life and energies to making sure future generations never stoop so low to racist revenge.
Martin’s life nearly came to an end when he was working as a plasterer in Germany, just outside Berlin in an area known as Blankenfelde – Mahlow. Two neo-Nazis chanting racist abuse hurled a concrete block through his car window, causing him to smash into a tree.
He is now a quadriplegic, needs 24-hour care at his Birmingham home, but he is devoted to organising cultural tolerance exchange visits between youngsters in Blankenfelde and Birmingham.
With a loyal team of staff, Martin has made huge strides to obliterate the ignorance of racism by getting young people from both countries to learn about each other’s way of life, play football together, cook together and learn not to judge each other by the colour of their skin.
Martin launched the Noel and Jacqueline Martin Foundation to promote racial tolerance in memory of his late wife Jacqueline who died of cancer 13 years ago.
One of Martin’s staunchest supporters, Lincoln Moses, has just returned from a week in Blankenfelde where he and a group took 16 young people got out of their Birmingham comfort zone. For some, it was their first trip abroad.
“Every trip we make, it never ceases to amaze me how these young people change once they are out of their own home environment. It broadens their horizons in life,” explained Moses, who also runs the Birmingham-based Continental Star Football Club, a social enterprise that helps people in marginalised communities and other social groups through football.
Club officials also act as ethnic advisors to the Football Association and the anti racism campaign Kick it Out.
“It helps them to look at life differently he said and we know these exchanges leave a lasting impression on some. They learn that integration is better than segregation and return home as different people.”
On this recent trip, the youngsters met Burkhand Jungkamp, the German Secretary of State for youth, education and sport. Each group on every trip also visits a memorial in honour of Martin. The tree he hit in Blankenfelde has been replaced by a granite monument which explains what happened on that fateful day in June 1996.
The perpetrators of the attack were sentenced to eight and five years in prison respectively, but they have now completed their jail terms and are free.
Martin said: “These exchanges give youngsters the chance to step out of their own lives for a short while to meet new people and form new friendships.
“Once they start talking and playing football together they soon forget about colour.”
Source: The Voice Newspaper online