On October 31, to mark Black History Month, international charity Christian Aid will be showing MJR documentary ‘After the Flood: the church, slavery and reconciliation' to all of its staff worldwide. Christian Aid UK Climate Justice Church Programme Manager for Black Majority Churches and MJR trustee Sarah-Jane Nii-Adjei said: "Christian Aid has a global ecumenical platform and will be raising the profile of this film to staff from the UK (including colleagues from Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and countries we work in. Different teams can then contact MJR if they would like to licence the film for training and development purposes." The internal event will include a panel discussion with Rev Alton Bell, Chair of MJR and Prof Robert Beckford sharing more about the film.
Rev Guy Hewitt will take up this post in November and lead the Church’s Racial Justice Unit. It follows a recommendation from the unit in its April 2021 report 'From Lament to Action'. The announcement follows the resignation of the Archbishops' Adviser for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, Dr Sanjee Perera who hinted a potential tension over her role's continued place alongside the Archbishops' Racial Justice Commission.
Ordained in 2005 Rev Hewitt has a background in social policy and development, working internationally on issues of marginalisation, economic enfranchisement, racial justice, youth empowerment, and gender equality. He is a staunch critic of the UK government over its handling of the Windrush scandal, saying in 2018: “The UK is still not at ease with race. Colonial history is still not taught here. The modern global Britain, with a multicultural society, is still an aspiration rather than a reality.”
Chair of MJR Rev Alton Bell commented: "Although MJR welcomes the appointment of the CofE's first racial justice director, we hope this is not just another PR exercise analogous to the shuffling of the deckchairs on the Titanic. We want to see concrete evidence of change. We want the CofE to take the lead in reparatory justice practices, such as: changing the way slavery is taught in schools, advocating for a national memorial to those who were enslaved, and returning stolen artifacts. We wholeheartedly welcome the new racial justice director if this new position is a catalyst for systemic change".
Read more here.
Research by the Church Commissioners into a Church of England investment fund has revealed that for over a century it invested large sums of money in a company responsible for transporting slaves. 'Queen Anne's Bounty' was formed in 1704 to help support poor clergy. In 1739 its accounts showed £204,000 (estimated to be worth £443m today) had been invested in the South Sea Company which had an exclusive contract to transport slaves from Africa to Spanish colonies in South America for more than 30 years from the 1710s. Church investments in the South Sea Company continued well into the 19th century and the fund today is worth £10.1bn.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has said he was "deeply sorry for the links". "This abominable trade took men, women and children created in God's image and stripped them of their dignity and freedom. The fact that some within the Church actively supported and profited from it is a source of shame. It is only by facing this painful reality that we can take steps towards genuine healing and reconciliation - the path that Jesus Christ calls us to walk."
Read more here and here. Read the Church Commissioners report here.
MJR's documentary ‘After the Flood: the church, slavery and reconciliation' reveals more of this history of complicity with colonial slavery on the part of the Church of England and other churches, and also talks about the reconciliation Justin Welby speaks of. Find out more here.
Black Equity Organisation (BEO), the UK’s first national civil rights organisation established to advance justice and equity for Black people has been launched by some of the country’s most influential Black figures, including shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, academic David Olusoga, chief executive Karen Blackett, business leader Dame Vivian Hunt and artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah.
Launched to coincide with the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, BEO is founded on the premise that systemic racism not only exists but plagues millions of people across Britain. The legacy of historic policies and attitudes means that 50% of Black children live in poverty, Black mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth and at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black people were four times more likely to die from Covid than white people.
The organisation has been compared to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in the United Scales, founded in 1909 by key Black progressives.
Read more in The Independent. Or in The Guardian here. The launch of BEO has been supported by six law firms - more.
A proposal for the Church if England to appoint racial justice officers in each of its 42 dioceses has been turned down by the Archbishop's Council due to cost. It was a key recommendation from the 'From Lament to Action' report published in April after years of inaction over institutional racism. Co-chairs of the anti-racism taskforce that produced the report, the Rev Arun Arora and the Rev Sonia Barron, said they were “deeply shocked and disappointed” and that it “boils down to a matter of priorities” and would “inevitably lead to conclusions as to how much or how little this matters to decision-makers in the church”.
Elizabeth Henry, who resigned as the C of E’s race adviser last year, said: “To say it’s too costly is a gross insult. It’s to say racial justice is too expensive when it is a foundation of our faith. This decision is a disgrace. We have to stop waiting for the church to allow us racial justice. I pray black and brown people will vote with our feet.”
Other recommendations in the report included that shortlists for senior clergy should include at least one appointable candidate of a minority ethnic background by September, with an expectation this occurs for all other jobs in the Church.
Read more here and here..
At an extraordinary meeting on March 2 Bristol City Council voted in favour of a motion for "Atonement and Reparations for Bristol’s role in the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Africans", becoming the first city outside London to do so. The cross-party motion passed by 47 votes to 12 and was the result of a grassroots campaign dating back many years.
Cllr Cleo Lake said in the meeting: “Reparations, as I hope was made clear in this motion, does include but goes beyond monetary compensation. The contribution of African civilisation, culture and people versus how we have been treated is one of the world’s great paradoxes". She added later: "I want to be very clear this is not about rewriting history, but rather about casting a bright light on it. Instead of clinging to comforting myths about Britain’s heritage, let’s face up to the reality of our history – let’s talk about it – and let’s learn from that to create a better future for all of us.”
Mayor Marvin Rees acknowledged the complexities in conversations around race, class and social immobility and spoke of the need for discussions around reparatory justice to be attached to real policy. He added: “I’m not just a mayor, I still experience the world as a black man and, even within this organisation, I experience the consequences of having black skin. Race does not disappear just because we want to wish it away.”
Read more here. Watch a recording of the meeting here.
In a recent article in the Independent, Noah Berlatsky comments on the speech by Donald Trump's defence lawyer Bruce Castor, one that has been universally castigated as bumbling and incompetent. Berlatsky strikingly states that: "the truth is that Castor could have stood up for two hours and made farting noises with his underarm, and his client would still be acquitted." Republican senators have already indicated that they will vote to acquit before hearing the evidence, never mind weighing up, the merits of the case. The GOP is a white identity party, committed to traditional hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and wealth. Trump is their perfect president because he shows "that the only qualification for rule is to be white, straight, Christian, male and rich".
Ta-Nehisi Coates 2017 article "The First White President" for the Atlantic argued that Trump is "a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact" – meaning he was the president who had no qualifications, talents, accomplishments, or experience to his name other than his identity as a wealthy white man.
Berlatsky continues: "White supremacy is not actually an ideology of superiority. It’s at base an ideology of entitled inefficacy. The Trump ethos is that the most incompetent, foolish, evil white man in the country is worthy to rule simply because he is a white man." Protecting that privilege seems to matter more to Republican senators than the rights and wrongs of the January 6 Capitol invasion and Trump's role in inciting it, even though theirs were among the lives endangered.
Read the full article here.
Manchester City Council has announced a public consultation on who should be remembered in public spaces as part of a review of statues, monuments and memorials in the city. The council says it is not looking to ‘eradicate’ some of Manchester’s past but to instead understand its ‘history, heritage, and the context around it’. Mancunian's views will be sought on the appropriateness of existing pieces of art. This will also shape policy on artworks that will be commissioned and displayed in the future.
A review of every statue in Manchester was announced days after Black Lives Matter protestors marched through cities across the UK last year. Approval has already been given for a statue of Len Johnson, a black boxer from Clayton who was denied championship bouts because of the colour of his skin.
The consultation is being supported by charity Manchester Histories. Read more here. See the consultation here.
Two major British firms have pledged to make payments to representatives of black people, as well as those of other minority ethnic backgrounds, as they seek to address their founders’ roles in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.The pub chain and brewer Greene King and the insurance market Lloyd’s of London both revealed on Wednesday evening that they would be making the reparations.
Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie said: “It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s.” He added that the firm will “make a substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business”.
Lloyd’s of London said it would “invest in positive programmes to attract, retain and develop black and minority ethnic talent”, as well as providing “financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for black and minority ethnic groups”.
Records of British slave ownership archived by researchers at University College London (UCL) show that founder members of both Greenes and Lloyds owned slaves and were compensated as part of the Government bail-out of slave owners in 1833. The slaves received nothing.
Read more 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.
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