Brent Council’s Black & Asian Staff Forum organised a very well-attended talk programme on March 14 2007 at Brent Town Hall on the theme: ‘Turning Negatives Into Positives’. Kwaku was invited to speak on the topic of Abolition. Starting from the first visit to the coast of west Africa by Europeans in the 1470s, he touched on many of the points covered in the Handy Events Summary found below in this blog. Although one must accept that there can be no excuse for the heinous crime of slavery, in line with the theme of the programme, to round off his talk, Kwaku asked the audience to quickly jot down issues they found positive or negative from the slavery to abolition narrative. The feedback is itemised below.
One person noted that more should have been said about the African freedom fighters, such as Sam Sharpe. Each area within the so-called ‘New World’ has its share of freedom fighters, from Nana (Nanny) the Maroon in Jamaica, Kofi in Guyana, Bussa in Barbados, etc. Also, some people asked about books and other resources to improve their knowledge on the subject.
First of all, the libraries provide a useful and free resource, as does the internet, though the latter requires caution to be exercised. A few websites are highlighted in the ‘Was William Willberforce REALLY An Anti-abolition Pioneer?’ blog below. For those that are interested, the book I gave out, it is entitled ‘Made In Britain: inspirational role models from British Black and Minority Ethnic communities’ (Steve D’Souza & Patrick Clarke) (Pearson £9.99).
A new book coming out this month, which I’ll be buying at Amazon.co.uk because it is being offered at half price is ‘The Oxford Companion To Black British History’ (David Dabydeen & Cecily Jones) (Oxford University Press £30). There is the perennial tome ‘Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain: Black People in Britain Since 1504’ (Peter Fryer) (PlutoPress !8.99). The following self-descript titles may be of interest: The Trader, the Owner, the Slave: Parallel Lives in the Age of Slavery by James Walvin; The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman (Born 1789 - Buried 2002) by Rachel Holmes; The Great Abolition Sham: The True Story of the End of the British Slave Trade by Michael Jordan; The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation by Richard Vinen; Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005 by J.M. Coetzee; Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism by Christopher Leslie Brown; Abolition!: The Struggle to Abolish Slavery in the British Empire by Richard Reddie; Black Ivory: Slavery in the British Empire by James Walvin; The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) by Olaudah Equiano; A Short History of Slavery by James Walvin; and Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery by Adam Hochschild.
Finally, Ms Serwah was invited on March 16 2007 to give two separate talks on the Abolition to journalism students at City University. Though their questions showed an interest in the subject, the revelation at the start of each talk that these students were generally unaware of the commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade, the African freedom fighters, or even William Wilberforce or the currently promoted film ‘Amazing Grace’, has led Kwaku and Ms Serwah to think about producing a short film, which shows the Abolition narrative in an engaging manner – to be kept informed on programmes of this project, you can join our mailing list be emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: please add me to your mailing list).
Another form of exploitation began after slavery was abolished, which was colonisation
Black race/people undervalued
Dehumanisation of the African
Destroyed families and cultures
Forced removal from homeland
Had the abolitionists made a case that the Africans had been kidnapped, perhaps millions would have been saved/freed sooner
Lack of self-worth
Loss of lives
Loss of self confidence
Mental slavery still persists
Post 1807 abolition of slave trade - people were killed/thrown overboard to avoid fines from the illegal trade in slave trafficking
Post 1807 abolition of slave trade – slavery still continued
That there was no law against slavery, but there was a law against kidnapping, and the Africans were kidnapped
The trade has stopped, but it is still an issue within our lives
Undermined the black race
Africa has a vast and rich history - slavery was an odious crime against humanity – however Africa’s history is much wider than just slavery
Culture/diversity brought to different countries outside of Africa
Determination to make the most of the freedom acquired
In the long run, the trade and slavery were abolished
Increased cultural awareness
Movement of our people – a widened African diaspora
Resilience: ‘(Something Inside) So Strong’
Slavery to be remembered, but strength taken from it for us to move on
To be proud of being black
We need to familiarise ourselves and educate ourselves about history, and take control of our lives