This prescient documentary Menelik Shabazz (Burning an Illusion) was made in the aftermath of the New Cross Fire in January 1981, in which thirteen young black people were killed at No. 439 New Cross Road, London. This was the home of Yvonne Ruddock, whose birthday was being celebrated that night and who herself was killed in the fire. The bungled police investigation outraged the black community and culminated in the formation of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, who called a massive day of action and demonstration that is the subject of this short film.
The slogan of the march, ‘13 dead and nothing said’ became a byword for the perceived indifference of the British state - Margaret Thatcher did not express her sympathy until two months after the tragedy. The final statement of the film - ‘this is only the beginning, not the end’ - was indeed accurate, as the march was to be the first sign of nationwide unrest in the black communities culminating in violent uprisings in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.