While accepting the best actor award at the BAFTAs, Joaquin Phoenix drew attention to the fact that the list of nominees was all-white. 'We send a very clear message to people of colour that "you’re not welcome here"... It is the obligation of the people who have created and benefit from the system of oppression to be the ones to dismantle it.' Watch the speech here.
MJR is about addressing legacy of both colonial enslavement and industrial exploitation. One of the most significant events in UK history affecting the latter was the Peterloo Massacre of August 16, 1819 in Manchester when 60,000 peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators were charged by cavalry resulting in 18 deaths and over 700 severe injuries. Described as “the most important political event ever to take place in Manchester.” by the Guardian (founded as the Manchester Guardian as a direct outcome), the 200th anniversary of Peterloo will take place next year. Many events and activities are being planned to mark the anniversary (more information here) and MJR is helping plan one of these: a special commemorative service at Manchester Cathedral on July 7. More details to follow.
Also marking this anniversary is the Mike Leigh film 'Peterloo', now on general release in cinemas. The film tells the story of the context and build-up to the events of August 16, 1819, and of the day itself. It gives a telling insight into the conditions of the working classes and comparative ease and wealth of the factory owners and landed ruling classes that resorted to drastic measures to hold onto their power. Many reformers and commentators of the time compared the plight of the working classes to that of the enslaved, referring to 'white slavery', and a number of abolitionists were also involved in the struggle for worker's rights. The film leaves the viewer to draw their own parallels with modern-day Britain. Recommended for those who wish to learn about an important piece of our history, which, like the truth about enslavement and colonialism, has been conveniently neglected.
I Am Not Your Negro is a new documentary film by Raoul Peck based on an unfinished manuscript by James Balwin (author of recently republished 'The Fire Next Time') called Remember This House. In it he told the stories of three of his friends who died before they reached 40: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. This review in The Independent comments: "Baldwin was writing more than 30 years ago. Not so much has changed since then", but the intention is to provoke rather than induce despair. More...
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