Africology and the Voices of Black Folk presents: Origins, Migrations and The Concept Of Race.
On Wednesday 8th July, 7.30-9pm via Zoom meeting, join historian and playwright Khareem Jamal as he discusses the African origins of all people, subsequent migrations and the pseudo-scientific concept of race. This eye-opening event will provide clarity on the issues facing society today that are rooted in supposed differences in people groups, but that are more cultural than biological. Reserve your place now on the Eventbrite. Download a leaflet here.
Twelve years after publicly endorsing a campaign to build a major memorial commemorating the victims of the transatlantic slave trade when Mayor of London, now Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to provide funding to build the statue. In 2008 Johnson said it was “important that this history is never forgotten”, adding: “Hyde Park is a fitting site for a permanent memorial to the millions who lost their lives and the courageous people who fought to end the brutal transatlantic slave trade.” But no funding was forthcoming then, and the government declined to fund the Hyde Park memorial in December 2019.
Patrons of the campaign include Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Keir Starmer’s race relations adviser. The campaign organisers said: “Right now, there is no major memorial in England to commemorate the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. There are millions of people who were brought over from Africa in ships and kept as slaves. Many of them built Britain, but were subjected to cruelty and forced into inhumane conditions.”
To find out more, read this article. Visit the campaign website. A new £4m fundraising campaign can be found here.
Historian David Olosuga in this Guardian article states: "For people who don’t know Bristol, the real shock when they heard that the statue of a 17th-century slave trader had been torn from its plinth and thrown into the harbour was that 21st-century Bristol still had a statue of a slave trader on public display".
Edward Colston helped to oversee the transportation into slavery of an estimated 84,000 Africans, of whom, it is believed, around 19,000 died on the voyage. Their bodies were thrown into the sea. Olosuga comments: "The historical symmetry of this moment is poetic. A bronze effigy of an infamous and prolific slave trader dragged through the streets of a city built on the wealth of that trade, and then dumped, like the victims of the Middle Passage, into the water. Colston lies at the bottom of a harbour in which the ships of the triangular slave trade once moored, by the dockside on to which their cargoes were unloaded. The crowd who saw to it that Colston fell were of all races, but some were the descendants of the enslaved black and brown Bristolians whose ancestors were chained to the decks of Colston’s ships."
Olosuga goes on to condemn the "overt and shameless, but not unique" long defence of Colston's reputation which frustrated a number of campaigns to have the statue peacefully removed, or at least to have a plaque on it which told his whole story. "Today is the first full day since 1895 on which the effigy of a mass murderer does not cast its shadow over Bristol’s city centre. Those who lament the dawning of this day, and who are appalled by what happened on Sunday, need to ask themselves some difficult questions. Do they honestly believe that Bristol was a better place yesterday because the figure of a slave trader stood at its centre? Are they genuinely unable – even now – to understand why those descended from Colston’s victims have always regarded his statue as an outrage and for decades pleaded for its removal?
Read the full article here.
“The presence of that statue to a slave trader in the middle of the city was a personal affront to me and people like me.” – Marvin Rees, elected Mayor of Bristol, interviewed on Sky News on the removal of the statue of Edward Colston.
In this interview with Christianity magazine Rees also comments on what the Bible says: "We need to look at our political and economic system and learn the lessons from the Bible, because racism includes economic inequality. Social reconciliation depends on economic and political redistribution of power. The story of Zacchaeus is about reconciliation, but it's dependent on him giving back the money he stole. Too often people see forgiveness and grace as cheap. It's free but it's not cheap." Read the full interview here.
The University of Bristol has appointed Professor Olivette Otele as its first Professor of the History of Slavery. The appointment comes after a number of universities, including Cambridge, have launched inquiries into how their institutions may have benefited from the slave trade.
Professor Otele will undertake a two-year research project on the involvement of the University of Bristol and the wider city in the slave trade. Her research examines the various legacies of colonial pasts, understanding trauma, recovery and social cohesion, but also amnesia and reluctance to address various aspects of colonial legacies. She has already been working on these complex and sensitive questions for nearly two decades. Otele, who became the UK's first black female history professor at Bath spa University in October 2018, said she wanted the research project to be "a landmark in the way Britain examines, acknowledges and teaches the history of enslavement".
University Provost and deputy vice-chancellor Judith Squires said: "This new role provides us with a unique and important opportunity to interrogate our history, working with staff, students and local communities to explore the university's historical links to slavery and to debate how we should best respond to our past in order to shape our future as an inclusive university community."
Read more here and here and the official Press Release here.
Afua Hirsch has written a powerful opinion piece for the Guardian about the campaign to get a memorial for the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. It is titled: "Britain was built on the backs of slaves. A memorial is the least they deserve." The group Memorial 2007 have been campaigning for nearly 20 years, the memorial, “Remembering Enslaved Africans and Their Descendants”, has been designed, planning permission to place it in Hyde Park has been obtained, but the government has refused to cover the £4m cost of erecting it. The planning permission expires on November 7.
Hirsch argues that: "the country’s treatment of people descended from this history could not be more shameful. From the institutionalised racism they experienced fighting for Britain in both world wars, to the attempts to deport members of the Windrush generation just last year, they have endured the worst of what Britain has had to offer.
She says that the campaign is not "requesting a favour for a marginal section of society. The history of how we came to be this nation is a history for us all. If we can’t dignify it with a simple memorial, one whose location, design, importance and even planning permission have already been established, then we really have lost the plot."
Read the full article here.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has endorsed a proposal for a British slavery museum in the city to help combat modern-day racism as "welcome and timely". The idea has come from the Fabian Society which says the museum could help address discrimination against London’s black and minority ethnic population by challenging centuries-old tropes about racial inferiority.
The Fabian Society report in which the suggestion is made quotes Omar Khan, the director of the Runnymede Trust: “Until and unless Britain comes to terms with this history it will be impossible to understand much less eradicate the views that continue to justify racial inequalities today. It is unacceptable that the capital city of a nation that built a global empire and its wealth in large part as a result of its role in the slave trade has no significant museum or monument marking the role that London and Britain played in these historic atrocities." Bristol, Liverpool and London were the three main cities to benefit from the slave trade. Both Bristol and Liverpool already have museums covering this aspect of our history.
David Olusoga, historian and presenter of the BBC Two documentary, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners, also endorsed the proposed museum. “The impact of the slave trade and enslavement is already stamped onto the fabric of London, but in ways we have learnt not to notice. Britain played a central role in the Atlantic slave trade and the fortunes built on the back of slavery flowed back to Britain. A new museum, in the heart of the city, would help us to acknowledge a history that for the most part is hidden in plain sight.”
Omar Khan added history dictated that the government and London’s financial sector had a “moral obligation” to help fund a museum.
Read an article on this story here. Read the Fabian Society release here.
This poem was especially written for the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre by Andrew Rudd, Poet-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral, and featured in the Peterloo Commemoration Service on 7th July. A collectable letterpress ‘broadside’ print of the poem is available, in a limited edition of 200. The title lettering by Stephen Raw, is taken from a clandestine banner made after the massacre. This broadside has been printed at the Incline Press, Oldham by Graham Moss and Kathy Whalen, and costs £5. Please contact Andrew Rudd if you would like one.
Poet-in-Residence Manchester Cathedral
The Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, is urging the government to make lessons on migration, belonging and empire mandatory in every secondary school in England. The Windrush scandal has exposed a “shocking lack of understanding” at government level about the winding up of the empire. At present just 4% of pupils taking GCSE history choose the “migration to Britain” option, which also covers the topic of the British empire.
The report states: “Migration and empire are not marginal events: they are central to our national story. As it stands the story we are telling is incomplete”. The reports findings are contested by the Department of Education, however historian and broadcaster David Olusoga said: “I find it hard to believe that the Windrush scandal could have been possible if we were a country that was aware of and educated in the history of empire, decolonisation and migration after 1945.”
Read more here and find the report itself here.
Last Sunday's service at Manchester Cathedral to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre was a successful balance of penitence and lament, with celebration and re-commitment to justice and equality. It was developed from a suggestion from an MJR trustee, concerned that the churches complicity in the original tragic event and the consequences for legacy should be acknowledged.
On August 16 1819 when 60,000 people gathered at St Peter's Fields in Manchester for a peaceful protest for democratic rights, the watching magistrates – several of whom were clergymen – panicked and ordered cavalry to charge and break up the crowd. What became known as the Peterloo Massacre saw at least 15 deaths and several hundred injuries, many of them life-changing. The churches mostly took the side of the authorities. This event was hugely influential politically and formative in the emerging radical character of a growing city. This character would include the dismissing of the church by the ordinary working people as being not for “us” but a part of “them”.
The legacy of such events is carried down the generations to the present day, so we felt this significant anniversary was a crucial time to make a statement. A large congregation, including a number of civic dignitaries, gathered to participate in and be challenged by prayers, art, poetry, testimony and music. Worth particular mention is poet Andrew Rudd's “Rants, Whispers and Cries: Thinking of Peterloo” with its six “Beware-itudes” (depicted in banners by artist Stephen Rawe) which drew modern parallels with the tragedy of the original event. This all led up to an inspiring message about peace, peacemaking and the Prince of Peace from Rev Dr Deirdre Brower-Latz, principal of MJR partner the Nazarene Theological College, which was followed by a Holy Spirit-filled piece of improvised music from classical music ensemble ‘Epiphany’ which captured the moment and atmosphere superbly.
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