Legacy of Slavery

Heritage: Who Do You Think You Are?

Black people whose families come from the Caribbean have a fractured heritage. The process of slavery endeavoured to remove African language, custom, culture and family identity from those enslaved, and only remnants of African culture prevail in the Caribbean. You may only be able to trace your family tree back to a plantation or, if you are very lucky, find out which part of Africa your ancestor was captured from, as records of families were rarely kept. Ricky Riggon, of ACSERG (African and Caribbean Social and Economic Regeneration Group) in Walsall, has managed to trace his family tree back to an African boy captured from Sierra Leone. He has written a book, Life as a Riggon, telling the story of his Jamaican family’s journey from enslavement to freedom.

 

“Tracing your family tree can be a rewarding process, and programmes like "Who Do You Think You Are?" have proved to be very popular. But if your skin is black, you will have to dig deeper to find traces of your family. History has been rewritten, excluded or destroyed. So where do the blood lines begin?” - Glenis Williams

Ricky Riggon with his book

 

History

“Black young people are not taught any history that is relevant to the experience of their community. History is taught from a European perspective. We need to counteract this by showing a Black perspective of the same history. This will show how negative attitudes towards Black people have been built up by distortion. For example, to justify slavery, the Europeans perpetuated the myth that Africans were savages. European explorers also made sure that evidence of advanced ancient societies in Africa were systematically destroyed during explorations. All of this paved the way for the justification of the colonisation of Africa.

We also need to remember the history of Black achievers and those that fought for the civil rights of Black people all over the world. Did you know that the inventor of the traffic lights was Black? Also that the first blood transfusion was carried out by a Black man, who later died, needing a blood transfusion that was denied him because doctors refused to give him blood from a white person.” - Huldah Henry

Racism

“...until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes; …until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; …until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship… will remain but a fleeting illusion.” - Haile Selassie, 1963

Prejudice and discrimination on the basis of skin colour or cultural difference are still present in our society today. People’s attitudes are shaped by their families and by society around them. The more individuals and groups that stand up and challenge racism in all its forms, the nearer we will get to stamping it out.

“It’s an everyday experience and manifests itself in different ways. It can get you down, knock your confidence, and bring self-doubt. Sometimes it’s blatant and obvious, sometimes subtle and people don’t even know they are being racist. It still hits the same way.”

 

Anthony Walker - murdered with an ice axe in a racially motivated crime near to McGoldrick Park in Huyton, Merseyside.

 

Stephen Lawrence - attacked on 22 April 1993 in Eltham, an area of southeast London.

 

Inequality

National statistics show that Black people are over-represented in the mental health system and in prisons. On average, they are likely to have a lower income. Black communities tend to have higher infant mortality rates, and are less likely to achieve at school.

 

All institutions are now challenged by law to examine their policies and practices for inequalities, under the Race Relations Amendment Act of 2006, following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. The inquiry found the London Metropolitan Police to have been institutionally racist in their investigation into his murder. We hope this act will bring about change, and make a difference to the way services are delivered to Black people in this country.

 

Redressing the Balance

Against all odds, Black people have achieved great things over the generations. They have overcome the horrors of slavery, and the prejudice in Britain on immigration, to make their mark on the local community. They have found ways to support each other, through the development of Black organisations that care for elders, encourage training and self-development, build infrastructure and educate the young. We celebrate the achievements of the Walsall African and Caribbean Organisations: The Black Sisters Collective, ACSERG, ACCA, TORA, Akasha, IGBO.

 

Multiculturalism and Stereotypes

“White society enjoys Black music and dance, loves to eat Caribbean and African food, cheers when races and matches are won by Black sports men and women, and yet white society continues to perpetuate racist attitudes. We need to rise above this ‘pick-and-mix’ selecting from a stereotyped image of Black people, and find ways to empower Black people to become integrated into all parts of society.” - Deb Slade

 

From Colonialism Through Independence to Third World Debt

Western colonialism raided parts of the world of their natural resources, exploited the local people, and moved populations across the world for free and cheap labour. As colonialism subsided and independence was gained in countries all over the world, these new governments, with little or no infrastructure or leadership in place, found themselves at the mercy of the global market. The World Trade Organisation makes the rules on who can trade, where and how, and The International Monetary Fund lends money to governments at extremely high interest rates. Governments borrowed money to build up their farming and industries, only to find they could not comply with the impossible conditions of the loans.

The conditions and high interest rates make it impossible to pay off the loans, leading to more borrowing and so, what we now know as the Third World is trapped in debt.

 

“We should all join the campaign to cancel Third World Debt.”

Jamaica’s farming industry has been undermined by American imports flooding the market, by America monopolising the supply of food to the tourist industry, and by unfavourable export restrictions, all ensured by the conditions imposed on loans from the IMF.