Archive for the ‘slavery’ Category



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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.     

    (see The Truth About Haiti’s Suffering )

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

    Toussaint pic


    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 ? – – – – >


    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”




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    I’ve written before about the fact that I am not begging for an apology from Britain and the other slave trading countries.  An apology should be something they offer sincerely, and not something that I should have to beg for.  That said, the disdain in which they continue to trample on the reality that is the legacy of the slave trade as if it is meaningless disgusts me.

    This morning I woke up to news that Gordon Brown said “the time is now right for the UK government to apologise for the actions of previous governments.”  This was quoted from a letter in which he has agreed to apologise for the UK’s role in sending thousands children to former colonies.  According to the story on the BBC News website:

    “Under the Child Migrants Programme – which ended just 40 years ago – poor children were sent to a “better life” in Australia, Canada and elsewhere. But many were abused and ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.”

    The  Child Migrants Programme dates back to 1618 “when a hundred children were sent from London to Richmond, Virginia which is now one of the United States of America. The final group arrived in Australia in 1967.”  (see here for history.)   I am pleased that Gordon Brown is apologising for this terrible state-sanctioned policy by a former UK government, as it was an abuse of power that has led to generations of physical, psychological and emotional abuse and damage. 

    The apology for the Child Migrants Programme is long overdue, and has been the result of much campaigning from individuals and organisations such as the Child Migrants Trust

    This then leads to an obvious question.  I am sure you can see it coming.  What about an apology for slavery, to the descendents of slavery?

    I am not concerned with reparations in a financial settlement, but rather reparations of an emotional settlement.

    The UKs involvement in the slave trade began at much the same time as the Child Migrants Programme in the early 1600s. (see here for history).  Abolition of slavery across the British Empire did not happen until August 1st 1834.  In many ways the Child Migrants Programme was the slavery it imposed on it’s own people (children) in parallel with the transatlantic trade, sending white children to live in the colonies to prop up the emerging ideology of white supremacy across the world.  It is good that the UK is now apologising for its turning its own children into slaves.  It is estimated that over 130,000 children were stolen and shipped away from their mothers and families over the 4 centuries.  So how about an apology for over 6 million African that the UK enslaved over the same period?

    In recent days there have been questions in the UK press asking if West African leaders should apologise for their part in the slave trade.  I think that is a valid question as it is no use ignoring the fact Africans also exploited their own people, though the benefits of that trade were all manipulatingly weighed in the Europeans benefit, and the cruelty inflicted on the enslaved Africans in the middle passage and beyond were not known to the African people who captured their own and sold them to the white men.  But in the spirit of the emotional reparations and honesty needed to learn from slavery in any meaningful way, yes it is still a valid question about whether African leaders should apologise. 

    This honesty however is not helped by the closed minded defensiveness that happens when the issue of an apology is discussed in the UK mainstream.  For example, see here for a mind-boggingly blinkered article in the Telegraph from “journalist” Ed West, in which he suggests that the descendents of enslaved Africans were done an ironic favour by being enslaved, as they are now doing “better” than their ancestors that still remain on the African continent.  He says this with no acknowledgment that if the Europeans had not exploited their presence on Africa in the first place in the 1600s through to today, under the various guises of Empire, slave trade, colonisation, commonwealth and free trade, then the continent would be doing just fine today by itself. 

    The confusion, turmoil and brutality that Africa finds itself in today is due to the systematic exploitation from European countries over the past 500 years.  It is no wonder that some African countries are in such a mess today with its depressing news of eye watering cruelty that some Africans are now inflicting on themselves.  It is a continent that has not been allowed to know itself for the past 400 years.  In the mid to later 1900s when the European carved invented African countries were given “independence”, it was like telling a child that has never been allowed to go outside his/her house  or think for themselves, to leave home forever at the age of 18 and fend for themselves.

    Europeans conquest for Empire has caused a blanket of confusion over the entire world that is still being felt to this day as witnessed in the political turmoils of countries such as Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Iran, South America, Pakistan, India and nearly every country in Africa.  But as Nneka sings in the post below, simply blaming European oppressors will get us nowhere.  We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, tell them to go f*** themselves and get on with our own lives.  That is easier said than done if you are a five year old dying of Aids in Malawi, but African leaders need to step up and do the right thing.  So far they have not, and many have only depressingly served in their own interests.  Though they have had good teachers.  If the recent expenses controversy in UK government had happened in any African country you can imagine the headlines.  Many African leaders today are leading countries based on antiquated European laws, laws that have long since been revised in their ‘mother countries’, (see this BBC article from Zambia as an example.)

    If there is anything that many African leaders can do today, that they can learn from this present UK government, it would be to apologise to their people for their own failings and for the corruption and exploitation of past regimes.  African leaders need to move forward and do the right thing in the spirit of emotional and honest reparations.  Though for that to have any effect, African people ourselves, on the continent and in the diaspora, need to want to move forward in an honest way.  A body needs to want to heal, in order for wounds to actually begin healing.  No amount of bandaids or kind words will help.

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    I was lucky enough to attend the slavery trail in Bristol, with only a small group we embarked on this journey where we would learn about slavery and its past. The four of us walked through Queen Square and heard all about the things that had taken place there and the people who were involved. There was so much information to recieve but none of it stuck in my mind, there was nothing within the trail or that was heard that made me feel the need to challenge what I had heard or make me listen more attentively to what was being said.

    We learned who the statue was situated in the middle of Queen Square, walked across Pero’s bridge, looked at the plaque situated on the front of the Shakespere public house, stood outside  Merchants House, saw a few other places and ended at the Redcliffe caves. The Redcliffe caves were said to have stored slaves over night when they came off of the slave ships, it was at this point that I felt something,  like I was actually at a place were black people were kept captive, locked up unable to walk freely as I am today. Then to hear that black slaves were never kept in Bristol is a total contradiction to what stories I have been told in my lifetime. I mean no black slaves what do you mean? after speaking with my mum she informed me that slaves were sold on corn street and i know that i’ve been told that before, so now how am I  supposed to feel. Why is the truth being hidden,  I mean its already happened but why try to deny it.

    My feeling towards the myth that black people were not kept captive is anger and annoyance why is there a trail about slavery in Bristol then. Going on the walk did’nt help me at all, I dont feel that I got anything from it and would not go again, for me this chapter is done its about time we made a new trail which shows the rise of black people , where it all started, who was the first black person to fight for their rights, what did they achieve and continue from there.

     I am not a slave I am free but my mind is not free from thinking like a slave . When will I decide to take responsibility for my own history? Embracing my african carribbean ancestry and making it a positive aspect of my life?  I believe that only then will I be able to share my awareness with my siblings, nieces and newphews, family and friends.

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    A good question to ask is where am I going with this? what results am I looking for?, what will happen differently when the results are in? As a child I never celebrated black history, I dont remember much about any historical figures, I dont remember my mum, dad or granparents telling me about role models or heroes that were black, where I want to go from here is to re-establish the fact that black people will and can rise up, they can work together within their communities for their communities. 

    From here I want  to celebrate my people together, enabling them to share their perspective of the theory and its effects in todays society but also giving them a chance to commemorate all that young, old, light, dark black  people have achieved.

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