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Soon to launch after months of toil is:

Book Cover - Design by Derek Edwards/Patwa

Book Cover - Design by Derek Edwards/Patwa

Myths, Facts & Feelings – Bristol and transatlantic slavery.

In an effort to respond to views in the communities across Bristol on the subject of transatlantic slavery, this 40 page booklet represents a cathartic journey. Through community research, consultation and commissioning; with academic guidance and creative application, this project has materialised as this small publication.

Myths, Facts and Feelings offers knowledge, ideas and questions toward a more mature understanding of the undervalued history and legacy of transatlantic slavery.  From the viewpoint of one city in the West of England, we see how a past reflects on our present and how it can be harnessed to determine our future – in Bristol and around the world.

The launch takes place on 29th November 2010 in Bristol.

Produced by Firstborn Studios

Design by Patwa

Published by Bristol Race Forum / Community Media SW

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Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod,
Fri, January 15, 2010
 

Fascinating to listen to other perspectives on a subject.

In this case, community readio – KPFK Radio -on ‘what’s really going’ on in Haiti.

Of course it’s not what ‘really’ going on any more then any other media(ted) framing of experience. However in the Ocean of the other stuff, these perspectives give some insightful counter views.

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Haiti map

Haiti in the World

It is a profoundly painful experience to see Haiti suffer so in the wake of this huge earthquake.  With staggering figures in the British press of 100,000 and predictions up to 500,000 dead, it is one time we hope that this is another exaggerated media story. However the actual quake and its deathly rubble is one thing, but the shortage of clean water and absense of adequate medical supplies in the country will certainly take its toll on the poverty bound nation in the wake of the shaking ground.     

The international relief effort is underway and we hope that their efforts are firmly, truly and effectively directed toward the people of Haiti.  It was really weird to see all the European charity workers on TV leaving on the planes, just when you would have thought their help was really needed. Though it was good to hear that skilled and experienced relief workers from the UK, Europe and around the world were on their way also.  And it’s especially good to hear that American forces are being directed towards this cause instead of just protecting oil pipelines and poppy fields in the Middle East.  Though of course, in addition to the humanitarian concern, the US also has the political pressure to stem any flow of refugees from the island toward its nearby borders.      

If a donation is something you can offer then choose a route to get your funds to the Haitians.  Two such routes are ……      

http://www.dec.org.uk/ – Disasters Emergency Committee – Officially coordinating the British efforts across lots of international charities.      

http://www.yele.org/  – WYCLEF JEAN’s (Haitian born) fundraising outfit which has to date raised almost half a million dollars.      

It is understandable that people may have donation fatigue and cynicism towards such appeals but we hope you still do what suits you and your conscience. Even if that’s a heartfelt prayer.      

Haiti - as tourist destination

One reason that Haiti is so important to Bristol 2007 is that it was the first post-colonial state outside of Africa to become independent and led by African people.  The revolution in St Domingue which ran from 1791 to its independence in 1804 was a prime example of  ‘Slaves Who Abolished Slavery’ , to quote the title of one of  Richard Hart’s books.  As a French colony, and a very profitable one for France,  the call for ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ that accompanied the French Revolution in 1789 had a huge impact on the enslaved, the ‘free blacks’ and the ‘gens de coleur’ (people of colour, like Coloureds in South Africa – basically mixed race people) on the island.  The French Revolution basically led to the rise in revolutionary sentiment on that island , and other French colonies, who wanted a piece of those enlightened ideals.      

First the ‘Coloureds’ went to France to seek equal rights themselves. This they got reluctantly and partially, though not for long.  They even got seats in the French parliament.  There was much division on the island between coloureds, blacks, whites and all such divisions meant that it took a while to realise the French ruling classes were not really ready to give up slavery or their profitable colony.   In 1791, a revolution on the island kicked off   – key players were Toussaint L’Overture, Dessalines and Voodoo priest Boukman.  All were assassinated, tricked or captured at some point though not before ultimately succeeding in their creation of a state. It took a while. After trickery and deception from the French;  bolstering by military collusion with the British in the Caribbean – even though they were generally at war with other during these  times –  and years of bloody conflict before St Domingue became Haiti in 1804.   In 1794 France’s new idealist republican government even abolished slavery altogether before Napoleon seized power and restored slavery in French colonies between 1796 and 1804.     

  • FROM THE RICHEST PRODUCER OF ALL EUROPEAN COLONIAL  SLAVE-PRODUCED WEALTH, HAITI IS NOW DESCRIBED AS THE POOREST COUNTRY IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE!
    (see The Truth About Haiti’s Suffering )
  •  

    Danny Glover is due to shoot a film about Toussaint in 2010.      

    Toussaint pic

    Toussaint

    We are very keen to see this story out there because it’s an important and iconic story.  There’s  hearsay, rumour and this-and-that being said about the film’s provenance, script, sources of funding and the like, but it also just needs to get out there. Whoever the cast, whatever the outcome, it would be good if it just comes out.   If you don’t like Glover’s film, make another one.  Maybe about Dessalines or the Priest Boukman.   However, for now, Glover must have the connections and impact to make sure that a film happens at a level of profile and production values that positions this story as an important piece of world history.  And one that shows us why this island is a place of vital significance to the ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ ideals.  So with that in mind, we should support Glover and his endeavour to do so.     

    Of course the Abolition story in Britain does not go into this rebellion stuff much. The British establishment chooses instead to paint hagiographic portraits of William Wilberforce freeing the poor slaves.  Though in truth it was revolutionary actions like the Haitian Revolution and the Sam Sharpe rebellion in Jamaica, Bussa in Barbados, the French Revolution itself and so forth that brought an end to that period of slavery.       

    Yes –  we know that slavery is not really over but transformed into worship of the dollar bill, the pounds, the pence and the yen, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour.  But with that in mind, Bristol2007 hopes you can see why Haiti represents a powerful place to direct some of ours bankers’ bills right now.      

    And after the Relief effort, it would be good to keep an eye on that island to see how else they cope ;  how else we can help;  or how we might be inspired by them.  Not only in the aftermath of natural disaster but also in the light of the ongoing political and economic turmoil that Haiti has experienced in recent times, under poor leadership in a hostile world.      

    As you might see from the picture below. This is Haiti normally, BEFORE the Earthquake. That image might give you an idea of it’s economic place in that world.  

    Everyday Haiti-before any earthquake-a place for ‘cast-off’ clothes from the US. (- click to go to tomorrowmuseum.com)

          

    Background information:

    ABOUT HAITI ? – – – – >

    CLICK HERE TO SEE ‘ THE TRUTH ABOUT HAITI’s SUFFERING      

    Haiti’s poverty – as for other poor countries hit by natural disasters – leaves its people wide open to the kind of devastation that has befallen them. And make no mistake, Haiti’s poverty is not just bad luck or something inherently faulty about its natural resources and people. The country has been kept underdeveloped by decades of political and economic interference from Washington to ensure that this former slave colony continues to serve as a cheap source of agricultural exports to the US and as a labour sweatshop for American corporations making textiles and other consumer goods.

    should “former slave colony” really read- 
    ” REBELLIOUS former slave colony”

     

      CLICK HERE TO SEE A BBC COUNTRY PROFILE

     

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    Myths and Facts

    or

    Facts and Feelings?

    This working title for this book project is a bit problematic.

    The idea of myths suggests something that is not ‘true’. Something that is a part of folklore, usually involving supernatural and celestial beings.  The kind of ‘myth’ we are supposed to be dealing with here though is like:

    Slaves were kept in caves in Redcliffe.

    or

    Blacks were sold on Blackboy Hill.

    Blackboy Hill on Port Cities website

    Blackboy Hill on Port Cities website

    While I could not say that this is absolutely untrue, I am aware that established historical orthodoxy on the subjects suggest that such things were certainly not the norm.

    The other kind of ‘myth’ we are dealing with is

    ‘That’s such a long time ago, let’s move on’.

    Usually that comes from a feeling that we should change the subject and not talk about this anymore.  We’ve learned over the last few years that it’s important to acknowledge these feelings. It’s not a ‘myth’, it’s an opinion and since it’s accompanied by an emotional charge, then there is a reality to it.   Any book on Bristol and transatlantic slavery,  published now, addressing popular prominent ideas about the subject should touch on such common feelings and ideas too we feel.

    How long is ‘too long’ and what is meant my ‘move on’ are some arguable points right there. But such ideas are common. It’s difficult for people not get agitated or uncomfortable when exploring this subject.  Is it like talking about the Nazi implemented Holocaust in Germany?   It would be great to see our capacity for such conversation in Bristol to mature. And it is completely possible But first there is the need for the alleviation of much ignorance.

    Knowledge will lead to understanding and hopefully some shifts in feeling. Like it or not our thoughts and feelings do impact on our realities today. Even when something has come out of nothing like Tracy thought that Brian said some stuff about her.  It’s still going to affect how Tracy and Brian relate to each other.

    This book, if anything is to be added to the dialogue in the city must address FEELINGS.  It must enhance the dialogue. Especially after all the fireworks from the Abolition 200 moment has long sizzled out, gone soggy and got stamped into the streets of yesterday.

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    A FEW COMMENTS FROM THE OTHER GUY!

    DISCLAIMER: Too much of this entry is about finance, and doesn’t take account of human life and dignity neither past nor present. Apologies if it offends. It’s making a point about something which has been reduced to monetary values.

    Given how much the Bristol Corporation (now Bristol City Council) and the city’s merchants and industries made out of enslaving Africans, I would say that £250k is miniscule recompense.

    Since there is no-one putting the case for the £250k, I will attempt to clarify how it could be. The question of how to spend any money is of course central. So far this has not been put, so the only idea out there is that they are still commemorating the slave trade. Now this does sound like a waste of money. There is no ‘black’ and ‘white’ divide here either, which is refreshing. The allocation of this money has been universally rebuked.

    Now there are a few things to highlight here:

    1) There is a programme of activity that has been somewhat ignored by the official 2007 programme.

    2) The allocation of £250k to the Legacy Commission is not seen as a one-off commemoration payment but a means to leverage further funds for sustainable activities – including education, health, and cultural representation.

    3) What’s it worth anyways, two hunnud and fiddy kays?

    Let’s start with point 3)

    Bristol was Britain’s premier people-trafficking port in the 1730s. According to Lord Hugh Thomas in his academically respected tome ‘The Slave Trade’,

    “Bristol was sending nearly fifty ships a year to Africa between 1728 and 1732, carrying well over 100,000 slaves on them….The most prominent merchants in Africans in Bristol were Isaac Hobhouse, who undertook forty-four slave voyages between 1711 and 1747; James Day, with fifty-six voyages between 1711 and 1742; Richard Henvill, who began slaving in 1709; and later James Laroche…who was far the biggest slave trader of the city, sending out 132 slave voyages between 1728 and 1769”

    [p. 245, Picador 1997, hardback. ]

    Now to looking at JUST ONE ‘profitable’ voyage in 1755, and quoting the correspondence of one Henry Laurens, a merchant of Charleston,SC , Hugh Thomas goes on

    ” ‘…Capt.[William] Jeffries [on The Pearl, owned by Thomas Easton & Co., of Bristol] arrived here the 10th instant with 251 pretty slaves….’ Most sold at between £270 and £280 each, ‘a very great price for Angola slaves’. Laurens was able to tell Easton that he had made £52,294 on this voyage.”
    [p.269, Ibid.]

    With a little homework and the help of this website:
    (http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/?redirurl=calculators/ppoweruk/ ) it reveals something of the monetary value. Using the money calculators £270 (the price received for each Angolan) we get this :

    £270 0s 0d from 1755 is worth £32,336.86 using the retail price index up to the year 2007. And, in 2007, £52294 0s 0d [the money made on that journey] from 1755 is worth £6,263,050.40.

    And don’t bother doing to math to try and work out the 251 x 275 (avg.), it won’t work, as you have to take account of other things sold, and whether this is just profit or total revenue, other costs etc. This also doesn’t take account of the human cost of those who died on the way ‘black & white’….etc. But it serves to illustrate the scale of the thing.

      (However these calculations may be total nonsense. In which case if you have alternative views on how to values 1755 money today, please post em. Let us know how quickly you get to £250k in today’s money)

      While many ventures made losses, of life as well as lucre, those trips that profited really did, with some supposedly turning up 100-300% profit. Hugh Thomas averages it out, in what is a complex calculation overall at about an average of 10% profit throughout. However we look at it, we are talking BIG money. These guys in Bristol were trading ‘legally’ between 1698 to 1807. That’s 109 years. Not accounting for those unregistered journeys before, during and after that time. And the Bristol Corporation ran it. On behalf of the merchants, and the trades and the people of the city. The related industries, corollary activities and spin-offs on the backs of Africans. Those profits came back to the whole of the Bristol economy, much more than the worth of some £1.50 or whatever per council tax payer that has been calculated by James Barlow et al.

      If however you wanna do the reverse you could probably work out what £250k is worth in 1755 money, or you can work it out directly in ‘slaves’ based on The
      Pearl calculations!

      Now let’s take point 2)

      What is the £250k allocated for. Now this has not been clearly defined, and the idea of the local media and the community groups and everybody else is that it’s to ‘commemorate’. Well the idea is Legacy. While there are many people who were glad to see the back of 2007 in as far as it dealt with the slaving business, there were many who expected all the hype to disappear and for the African agenda to die a quiet death. Well they were right, that’s what’s happening. However the Legacy Commission is the remains of the Abolition 200 group, chaired by Paul Stephenson. The idea behind it is to ensure that the 2007 thing don’t just go away. Not to hang on to the past, but to plant a more secure future.
      Stephenson, I know, is keen to see that money used to leverage in other money for other sources outside the city, which can contribute to those groups who are crying out for structural support.
      Even the official report from the city council (http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Leisure-Culture/Local-History-Heritage/abolition-200.en ) talks about sustaining the focus on 1) education, 2) health & well-being & 3) cultural representation. Of course, without the government pressure of a national commemoration this too can go by the wayside, like many other things that are uncomfortable, and just get buried. Like the programme proposed by the COBG at the end of 2006.
      Right now, the debate means that an education group in St Pauls for instance, which works with many African children is busy looking to get this £ that is going to support ‘more commemoration’. Whereas in fact, it could be money that is leveraging in further support for education, of which they could and should be a benefactor. Instead thanks to Cllr Eddy and the Evening Post, the blacks are at each others throats again. Killing the goose, and trying to dig out the golden eggs. And so the Knowle Westers are at St Pauls’ throats.

      And speaking of things that get buried, whatever happened to that programme of activity put forward by the COBG in the moment of glory when everyone was looking at them cos the Deputy Prime Minister was. Now the spotlight if off, where is that sitting?
      Which takes me to point 1)

      I have taken the Admin privilege of making a page for this paper clickable above – ‘Operation Maafa’ – (or the link at the end of this paragraph). This is a paper that was not buried, it was in fact still-born. Never really seeing the light of day, as there were too many people feeling threatened by the Introduction. [So I’ve taken another liberty and pasted that Introduction at the end so the paper starts with Vision & Purpose] Now if that was studied carefully, then I think people might see some productive work that has come out and could still come out of it for the benefit of ALL Bristol citizens. Some might have to look harder than others to see the benefit. Some are wearing spectacles that would never see the benefit, but either way, some light needs to be cast on it. So here it is again… https://bristol2007.wordpress.com/operation-maafa/
      The most telling thing about this paper when it landed, was that the voluntary sector, and teh black voluntary sector, who should have been in a position to deliver it, were totally unable to due to lack of capacity. That could and should be addressed. And this paper should be reviewed. It falls short in many ways, and there are partnerships to be had with the tentacles of the same Bristol City Council (formerly Bristol Corporation) to develop some of that Legacy programme.

      Now for me, it’s not that I am so bogged down, or tied up with this money. But I got very frustrated about the many public views about what it wasn’t. And to see groups who could be supporting it, OR MOREOVER AT LEAST SUPPORTING EACH OTHER, with a bigger picture in mind, set to squabbling for scraps. Now is it best to give a few crumbs to a group in St Pauls or Knowle who will need much more than what they are offered now, to run for one year, and then see them all screwing up their face in December 2008 again? Or invest in a strong and sustainable voluntary sector that has to capacity to deliver services and have the capacity to manage itself, build skills, resources and creative ways of educating, healing, entertaining, informing or whatever.

      250 or no 250! Either ways these black groups, white groups, asian groups, muslim groups, legacy commissions and wot not will all be looking at each other hatingly. As these stories of peanuts which make the press giddy, are divvied up to cupped hands of slathering desperados with over-low aspirations, beaten down annually by the budget round.

      Not saying how to spend it, but rather how to look at it.That’s my £250k’s worth anyway. In old money that’s probably about a tuppence.
      Aw I dunno you do the math then!

      Signed,

      THE OTHER GUY
      🙂

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      Have been away otherwise would have commented sooner on the £250,000 FOR SLAVERY COMMISSION story!

      This is just a quickie response.  More substantial ones to follow.

      DISCLAIMER: SOME READERS MAY GET ANGRY ABOUT WHAT YOUR ARE ABOUT TO READ.  THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE WHO WRITE THIS BLOG SO IF YOU KNOW US, PLEASE AIM YOUR ANGER AT THE RIGHT PERSON.  JUST SO YOU KNOW, I’M ME, NOT THE OTHER ONE!

      As we’ve said in one of the first posts on the blog (see here), and more recently here – slavery fatigue set in at the end of 2007 and the debate needs to be taken much further than that.  The awareness needs to go further than slavery.  The education needs to be taken wider, beyond and before slavery history.

      I don’t mind admitting that I was shocked at the news as I cynically thought, like most other people, that as soon as 2008 arrives any mention of slavery would be buried and tossed aside like a dead mouse.  So I’m pleased it’s still on the agenda, but ultra cynical about what they have planned.  As much as I love the arts, (some of my best friends are artists!!),  there needs to be something more substantial than a temporary exhibition about slavery or a theatre play or art exhibition.

      Why not invest the money in inner city schools or community centres or build a permanant monument or…I don’t know.  (Empty of ideas at this late hour!)  But hot on the heels of this abolition money is news of the £80,000 for the Muslim census.  Non-liberal white working class Bristolians won’t be happy and a certain party (I won’t mention their name!) will be only too happy to exploit these events for their own sordid aims.  They say you can’t please all the people all of the time.  Well the council can’t please many people much of the time! 

      Then in the same breath we hear news that the Old Vic is in trouble, and Kuumba is shakey, and our schools have just dropped 4 more places down the league tables due to crappy GCSE results.     

      None of these things can be fixed simply by throwing money at it, but the council doesn’t seem to know what to do with it’s money to the point where we are all confused about what we want and where the prioritise are.

      In the sober light of day I say the priority has to be sorting out the education problem, for all Bristol’s children regardless of ethnicity.  Raise the level of education and take the children up a level with you.  Easier said than done obviously.  (But as I saw on ITV West tonight, some bloke who was the first to swim the English Channel has a statue up somewhere along the Severn, with the words inscribed, “Nothing that is great is easy.”)

      What to do with that £250,000?  I think it’s great that after so long the city is facing up to its past, but we who have been campaigning for this for so long also need to know when to move on.  (Easier said than done I know for the down-trodden folk in the gutter of society, but we have to help him/her move on, and not to encourage them to wally in the gutter of self-worthlesses that is also called mental slavery!)

      Obviously more people need to be educated on the history of slavery, but that education can’t be done by investing short term in loads more theatre shows and poetry readings.  I would also say all the emphasis shouldn’t be in heavy handed slavery education in schools because it can have a reverse effect on the self-image of the black child if not handled sensitively.   Yes it needs to be taught in schools for everyone to hear about, but personally I would rather teach it at home to my children.

      So, what to do with that £250,000? 

      Other than setting up a research centre which investigates & address all the city’s educational and cultural problems, I would say to stick it in a high interest account, and don’t be too quick to spend it all at once. 

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      As the embers of the 2007 begin to fade into 2008,  our reflections of the year that has been a commemoration of the slave trade abolition are filled with a mix of disappointment and optimism.Bristol, as one English city steeped in and materially enriched on the people-trafficking two centuries ago, has seen itself in the spotlight throughout. The politicians national and local have made strenuous efforts to ensure the celebrations , ooops should that be commeration, had been fitting for the nature of the (A)ct.


      18th century Bristol dockside

      With an initial rush of congratulatory noises about the high-minded morality of Abolition, rebukes came from the Afri-conscious and the left, asserting instead that  ‘Slaves Abolished Slavery’ (to use the title of one study by the learned Richard Hart), not white liberals. This was to remove some of the wind in the sails of the movement for celebration. And the commemoration took on a more dialectical tone.

      For some (council staff and commemoration organisers mostly), the criticisms themselves were a problem. The COBG opposition was particulary loud and threatened to de-rail the move towards a smooth running ‘event’ (as the year was characterised). However, this added the Anti-thesis to the Thesis to create the Dialectic. The COBG position was to make a powerful call for a dissociation of African people from the ‘celebrations’. While this was unlikely to be embraced by those around who saw for the first time, their own culture and history being looked at directly, it was enough to change the tone to a more realistic / truthful(?) perspective. It was the first time for a long time (since 1980s),  that Bristol saw ‘Black politics’ come into the centre.

      One tricky area in Bristol was that the lack of senior African heritage people in the council meant that the year was headed up by a Asian heritage man as one of the more senior ‘black’ figures in the culture department. He had also spent a number of year working in the community sector. This led to the revelation of some other flavours of -ism. Of course, in council terms he was ‘black’ enough, though that political definition (i.e. BME) proved to be a nonsense on this occassion, where detractors demanded something more culturally specific. Awkward for the council, they battled on. Though later that officer seems to have floated up to work on national activities on the commeration year. Where presumably, people were more eclectic, and the public scrutiny less parochial.

      In the end, 2007 was mostly about safer cultural events rather than action on social and political equality as demanded by the antagonists. It was rather like 12 black history months one after the other, Any event bearing a hint of ‘black’, vied for incorporation and a branding with the Abolition 200 logo. We also saw a lot of mainstream and other organisations taking on the mantle of the slave trade to grab some of the attention and a wad of the cash, put aside by the council and national lottery, for commemoration activity. Fair enough it’s was meant to be a city-wide country wide thing, but it remains to be seen how much interest many of them will retain in the subject.


      Abo’ 200

      March 2007 was the pinnacle, where you couldn’t turn without being bashed about the head by the slave trade. The BBC coverage was something. It got so intense around March, I was bored to death with it. Despite being 1) interested and 2) involved in making a programme for the Beeb (with Marvin Rees). This programme argued that there still existed a racial fracture, unspoken of in recent times. That black and white did not really understand each other still.  It also considered that working class whites needed to be considered in the changing face of Britain as they are in danger of feeling ignored. And this debate rages on – even on this site, with BNP supporters making their presence felt on a daily basis.
      The one thing that this year can clearly assert about the slave trade story is that in a city like Bristol, it can no longer be denied that there was involvement in this trade. This is unlike twenty years ago, when you could go into library and ask about Bristol’s role in the trade, and a librarian would say there was none. Ignorantly.   However the real(ish) views of many white Bristolians about the subject could be heard on BBC Radio throughout 2007, and the truth is that little has changed or been understood about the impact, implications, legacy and politics.  Much of this though is due to the fact that the media debate has not moved beyond the horrors of the middle passage, and plantation life, or the bollocks about apology. There are so many levels yet untapped. Subtleties, Contradictions and 500 years of untold stories.
      Human cargo
      Artist Impression of Human Cargo & the Middle passage –
      in Bristol Empire & Commonwealth Museum
      The worst and most damning example of that is the Merchants’ Quarter debacle. The city centre renaming highlighted the ignorance, intensity of feeling and underlying racism and insecurity around this whole subject. And then, after being pushed to rename, because ‘Merchant had something to do with the slave trade’, the developers landed on ‘Cabot Circus’ after public consultation. A bloody joke indeed.  In my view, the Merchant could have been reclaimed, with Bristol having deemed itself a fair-trade city. But with Cabot, who was sent to “occupy and possess” new-found-lands, there is no redeeming, and all the energy had been spent against the Merchants. Most of Bristol did not, and still do not understand what that was even about. In this respect nothing has changed, sadly.

      The opposition to the year, ironically led to some interesting collaborations, while claiming it was insignificant. The Africentric response, Operation Truth, Ligali, and so forth was most memorably, and bravely captured in Toyin Agbetu’s performance in Westminster Abbey. This was one man who refused to lay down and be a house nigger. I was most disapponted however in Trevor’s (Sir Phillips) reponse outside the abbey when I asked him what he thought. It was like he had made so much effort to convince the authorities to let black rabble in, and look what they do. Well it as only one, as the rabble weren’t roused. Gentrified and in their Sunday best in the presence of none other than the Queen and Prime Minister, noticably no-one else left. Despite his pleas of ‘Rise up you Africans’. The Africans sat in their pews and looked at their shoes. Unlike the Bussas, Sam Sharpes, Malcolms and Toyins of this world.

      Leonard Parkin - rebel leader
      Rebel Leader Rising Up

      Carnival Heroes
      Fes’ 2007 – from 50 Cent to Empress Menem

      Fes’ (st pauls carnival) went down well.  Probably because it had little to do with Abolition. Or did it? I wonder if the expanded route and invitation of UK wide mas’ and carnival artistes’ to the Bristol event, could be sustained without ‘Abolition funding’.

      Cos even before the end of the 2007  year,  we heard about the cultural weakness that Bristol is facing.

      Despite everything being so cultural this year, the city is threatened with the loss of at least three key cultural institutions.
      1) The British Empire & Commonwealth museum announced its immenent departure, city lack of support from Bristol council and lack of footfall from visitors. Naturally they are poised to move to London where they can get a much more interested audience for the story of how Britons ruled the waves.
      2) The Bristol Old Vic, founded from Guineas made in slave trading,  and until recently , the oldest working theatre in England,  now  sits dark on the queitened, cobbled King Street.   And
      3) Kuumba , the supposed hub of African Caribbean arts in the region is racked with internal struggles and a complete lack of vision and community support that threatens to bring it down.

      These are interesting for two temporal reasons.

      1) this is happening during a year lavished with African and global culture and promise of remembering our histories
      2) it’s on the brink of the the year that Bristol would have been Capital of Culture, had it not lost out to Liverpool.

      Not to mention the loss of Imax, Wildwalk, no Concert venue…. and who knows what else is going to be off the cultural map. That’s how we go into 2008.

      Bristol 2008 -capital of culture bid lodo

      Mr Babbage say urggh urghh!

      So as the face of Bristol (and Britain) changes yet again, so too the cultural and political agendas. And as predicted by the Africentrics – after this year is done they’ll forget about us and go onto someone else. Well that’s as maybe, but have ‘we’ not learnt anything about self-motivation and mobilisation. Usually only to be found in tragedy and conflict. What about everyday Kujichagulia, Umoja and all that!! It aint just for Kwaanza.

      The aforementioned optimism? Well I would settle on the fact that with the intensity of this year clear,  it has been recognised as the beginning of mainstreaming the African-British story. While many remained unconvinced of the value of such a chapter being brought to the fore,  I’d say that given the enrichment of the British Empire in almost half a millennium of slaving activity, then I’d say there is still a lot to learn about it. Hopefully as the embers fade and the dust settles, we can begin to make cooler, more educatted considerations of this story and its impact. If the legacy is that at least one African heritage historian emerges with academic rigour and the calibre of a Eric Williams, CLR James, Richard Hart or Madge Dresser, then we will be making progress.

      Politically there is still some way to go. Just look at the BNP flavoured comments on this site if you can be bothered.

      Economically, we still like our cheap-to-the-producer-marketeer trainers, and consumer goods that keep people enslaved today. Like we nah learn nuttin.

      Slavery Today

      Our cheap-to-make consumer goods- makers protest
      (photo in BECM)

      peace, love and hope for our human futures

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