Renowned Jamaican-born British cultural studies pioneer and “organic intellectual,” Stuart Hall, had a gift that many of us as scholars and activists of the African diaspora strive for: a stunning ability to historicize the present, to contextualize those contemporary phenomena that appeared to be new or unprecedented. We are endlessly indebted to Stuart Hall for his contributions to British cultural studies, sociology, Caribbean studies, media studies, his incisive criticisms of neoliberalism, and his public scholarship, among his many pressing and prescient scholarly contributions. Here, however, we would like to structure our in memoriam around a period in Hall’s life that was critical to the development of his political consciousness: the period of mass migration of West Indians to Britain symbolized by the arrival of the Empire Windrush and the subsequent period of civil unrest. Punctuated by a sharp increase of race-based hate crimes (most notably in Notting Hill) and race riots, the period of the 1950s through the turn of the twentieth century marked for Hall the development of a widespread “unresolved contradictoriness” around issues of race. His insights about this period not only bear a striking resemblance to our contemporary sociopolitical moment in the United States, but also have important implications for the targeted increase of violent policing tactics on black communities.
One of Stuart Hall’s most remarkable analytical maneuvers was his ability to both situate what appeared to be singular “events” within a broader sociohistorical lineage and recognize what role they played in shaping a particular political present and future. In John Akomfrah’s documentary The Stuart Hall Tribute, Akomfrah includes footage of the organized protests that emerged as a response to the murder of Kelso Cochrane, an Antiguan-British immigrant who was stabbed to death by a group of white men in Notting Hill in 1959. Stuart Hall remarks on this moment in British history, noting that it was one of the first moments that there appears a “national black presence on the streets around an issue,” and that he could see “a national black politics emerging.” Hall historicizes this moment further in his “From Scarman to Stephen Lawrence” where he includes the murders of Blair Peach, Colin Roach, Stephen Lawrence, Michael Menson, Cherry Groce, Cynthia Jarrett, Keith Blakelock, and others in a long lineage of crimes that demonstrate that “black people have been the subject of racialized attack, had their grievances largely ignored by the police, and had been subjected to racially-inflected practices of policing.” The conundrum of this moment for Hall was the simultaneous rise of a discourse of “multiculturalism” in Britain, where structural racism thrived “not against, but cozily inserted within, liberalism.” Hall noticed that it was possible in this moment to discuss the increasingly diverse demographic of Britain in a way that made the targeted violence against black communities and the unpunished misconduct of the police appear to be aberrations, rather than the logical products of institutional racism. Put simply, Hall writes, “There has been change—but racism just as deeply persists.”
It is impossible not to reflect on his words without recourse to the simultaneity of the “post-racial” discourse precipitated by the Obama presidency and what can today only be described as the targeted, state-sanctioned extermination of black life in the United States. Images of the protest marches in Notting Hill from Akomfrah’s documentary bear a strange resemblance to the protest marches we see in Ferguson, Missouri today for the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth who was fatally shot by a police officer. As Stuart Hall once reflected on the 1970s protests against stop and search laws in Britain (or “sus” laws), we now grapple with many iterations of such policies—from “stop and frisk” to “stand-your-ground” laws—which heighten and sanction a lethal suspicion of black bodies. Where Stuart Hall once decried the failure to address “how to hold officers directly accountable…how to make the ‘cost’ of proven racist behavior by police officers, witting or unwitting, directly impact on their careers, pay, promotion prospects and indeed job retention and retirement awards,” we now repeatedly call for similar measures following the justice system’s failure to adequately penalize the officers responsible for the murders of countless black women and men in the past decade. While the national, sociopolitical, and historical contexts of our moments differ, we must consider: What can we learn from Stuart Hall’s assessment of his moment? How might he have characterized the march of history between his context and ours within his framework of “new” forms that act as re-castings of the old? How might we?
Widely revered for the boundlessness of his imagination and the rigor of his commitment to the study of the quotidian machinations of power, Hall has galvanized so many of us through the years with his unwavering commitment to and enactment of black radical politics. Hall once described the exigency of “a politics that is more self-reflexive, which is constantly inspecting the grounds of its own commitments, which can never hope to mobilize or inscribe support in an automatic way.” In a political and cultural moment in the United States where we are witnessing the two-term governance of a black president and simultaneously witnessing, at increasingly staggering rates, both judicial and extrajudicial killings of black women and men, Hall’s call to “inspect the grounds of our commitments” is more urgent today than ever before. While much of what we admire and honor about Stuart Hall’s life is about his hopefulness for the unpredictable emergence of resistant forms even within oppressive structures—about underlining for us the possibilities for improvisation in the interstices between signifier and signified—it is perhaps his strategic combination of pessimism and optimism that resonates more poignantly.
The battle to preserve our spaces of criticism—especially now for those of us experiencing the effects of neoliberal austerity measures that have, in part, resulted in budget cuts to the humanities—is an urgent, and familiar, endeavor. Our work is, and has always been, an enactment of what Hall described, via Gramsci, as “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” In Kobena Mercer’s tribute to Hall’s life for Soundings journal, he writes, “Stuart always conveyed a feeling of hopefulness that came from his unflinching ability to see how bad things could get politically.” Hall’s capacity for imagining the most pernicious and radical enactments of an ideology, a skill that prophetically anticipated the grip of Thatcherism in Britain, also permitted him to recognize the “emergent forces,” the “cracks and contradictions” in such systems. This approach pushed him to defamiliarize his surroundings, to see himself as an eternal “familiar stranger” within forms and structures that sought to articulate themselves as common and unremarkable. He recognized that commonness and familiarity often became the most important terrain for our struggles for social justice. As Hall writes in his and Alan O’Shea’s “Common-Sense Neoliberalism,” “common sense is a site of political struggle”; the example of his life and work push us beyond automatic commitments to “common sense” values and toward understanding what role these crystallized beliefs play in our social and political realities.
In light of his insights, we are galvanized in our own contexts to recognize the historicity of the present—to acknowledge that “history is never closed but maintains an open horizon towards the future.” We are encouraged by the clear continuities between his moment and ours to establish international solidarities around all iterations of global anti-blackness, emerging as a consequence of what Jemima Pierre calls “the legacy of European empire making in the analogous histories and experiences of African and diaspora populations.” We are impelled toward a fortification of the critical link between our work in the field of Black studies and our lived experiences and to continue mobilizing creatively, strategically, and fearlessly in his memory.
 See, for example: Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation,” in Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader, ed. Houston Baker, Manthia Diawara, and Ruth H. Lindeborg (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Stuart Hall, “Encoding, decoding,” in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During (London: Routledge, 1999); Stuart Hall, Portrait of the Caribbean (New York, N.Y: Ambrose Video Pub, 1992); Stuart Hall, Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices (London: Sage in association with the Open University, 1997); Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben, Formations of Modernity (Oxford: Polity in association with Open University, 1992); Sut Jhally and Stuart Hall, Race: The Floating Signifier (Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2002); Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order (London: Macmillan, 1978).
 The Empire Windrush was a British ship that is known for one of its most famous voyages between Jamaica and London, carrying nearly 500 Caribbean immigrants—who became known as the “Windrush Generation”—to Britain. The arrival of this ship is viewed as critical moment in the growth of the British Afro-Caribbean community.
 Stuart Hall, “From Scarman to Stephen Lawrence.” History Workshop Journal 0, no. 48 (1999): 188.
 One notable example of this is Policing the State: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order, a study that examines how the British press’ widespread coverage of “muggings” in the early 1970s—a form of crime that had existed prior to this period and was in no way “new”—served to catalyze a “moral panic” in Britain that would become the justification for an “authoritarian consensus” and a “conservative backlash” (Hall et al. 1978) against minority communities in Britain. The study recognizes this phenomenon in the press as a calculated response to the increasing diversification of Britain’s demographic. Furthermore, Policing the State proceeded from an analysis of the serviceability of conservative ideological projects across the Atlantic, between Britain and the United States. It examines how “the use of the term [“mugging”] with reference to American experience may have fostered the belief that something quite new to Britain had turned up from across the Atlantic.” (Hall et al. 1978) In this tribute, we take our signal from this methodological approach, as we attempt to understand the relationship between the political environment of the second half of the twentieth century in Britain and that of the contemporary United States.
 Hall, “From Scarman to Stephen Lawrence,” 188.
 Ibid., 194.
 Ibid., 188. This is a phenomenon that Hall is careful to note was not “the result of deliberate and planned policy but the unintended outcome of undirected sociological processes.”
 Ibid., 192.
 Ibid., 196.
 John Akomfrah et al., The Stuart Hall Project, directed by John Akomfrah (2013; London: British Film Institute, 2013.), DVD.
 This is a strategy that fundamentally came to characterize not only Hall’s work, but the work of the scholars he influenced—such as Hazel Carby, Kobena Mercer, and Paul Gilroy—during his tenure as head of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. The scholarly approach the center proffered—characterized by an interdisciplinary methodological approach and an interest in quotidian and “popular” forms of cultural production—came to be known as “The Birmingham School.” Hall’s influence might, for instance, be seen in Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic in his description of “countercultures of modernity” as “black political countercultures that grew inside modernity in a distinctive relationship of antagonistic indebtedness.”
 “Stuart Hall: On Obama,” YouTube video, posted by “ExplodedView MEF,” September 10, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKm8MW-FdX0.
 Akomfrah, The Stuart Hall Project.
 Stuart Hall and Alan O’Shea, “Common Sense Neoliberalism” Soundings, no. 55 (2013): 10.
 Hall, Representation, 3. This commitment to quotidian enactments of political ideologies, of course, undergirded his work, Representation, which thinks carefully about how meaning is produced, particularly in the popular domain of language. He reminds the reader of the link between language and social life, noting “cultural meanings are not only ‘in the head.’” They organize and regulate social practices, influence our conduct and consequently have real, practical effects.
 Jemima Pierre, The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Blackness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 222.