David Oluwale was a British Citizen from Nigeria who came to the UK in August 1949 but who was let down by the authorities and those who were paid to protect him. A brutal and sustained programme of harassment led to Oluwale’s death, when he was repeatedly hounded by police over a number of years and finally was chased into the River Aire on 17th April 1969. His dead body was found downstream in the river two weeks later.
It is fifty years since Oluwale’s death, but it became national news in 1970 when a whistleblower revealed the level of deep-rooted prejudice and harassment against Oluwale from within the police force. A belated investigation began and a cover-up was unearthed which heaped shame upon Leeds as a city, leading to two senior police officers – Geoffrey Ellerker and Ken Kitching – being charged with manslaughter, perjury and grievous bodily harm. They were cleared of those charges but found guilty of assault and imprisoned.
David Oluwale’s legacy in Leeds
Oluwale’s horrific mistreatment left a legacy, in that authorities have pledged to be more welcoming and supportive of the homeless and people with similar problems to those of David, and largescale reform of the city’s police units also took place. The people of Leeds still remember Oluwale, with a charity set up to celebrate his life and to work to ensure that such abuse and mistreatment never reoccurs.
The David Oluwale Memorial Association (DOMA) was officially formed in 2008. The charity ensures that this very important story, and its implications and legacies, is not forgotten. DOMA was identified as one of Ison Harrison’s ‘Big 40’ charities in 2018 when we celebrated our 40th birthday, and the links go back to our partner Ruth Bundey, who is a patron of the charity and a long-standing supporter of it.
2019 events to remember Oluwale
In 2019 there have been a number of arts-based events organised on the 50th anniversary of Oluwale’s death, notably in April with poetry reading, songs and speeches, short films and exhibitions. A video entitled “We Are All Migrants” was made by Leeds Beckett University, featuring the Harrison Bundey Carnival Troupe of 2017 which took King David Oluwale as its theme. The film won the Best Short Film award at the Hebden Bridge Festival.
Each year, the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread’s Masqueraders troupe take part in the carnival and this year they stood to challenge hostility and division and pledged to stand together hand in hand, particularly on the poignant anniversary of Oluwale’s death.
Ison Harrison – proud to remember Oluwale
The 50th anniversary of David Oluwale’s death represents an important landmark in the cultural development of the city of Leeds. DOMA’s future plans involve the creation of a garden on the banks of the River Aire to provide an exciting artistic venue but also a safe space for the vulnerable, the needy and the homeless.
To find out more, visit https://rememberoluwale.org.