Posts Tagged ‘emancipation’

Afrikans demand reparations

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Time for a little more colour on >Re:PHOTO, and looking back to warmer and sunnier weather at the start of August last year.

The Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March has been an annual event in London http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2014/08/aug.htm#rastafari since 2014, which was the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. Garvey had spent the previous two years working as a journalist and studying in London and founded the UNIA as as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora into “one grand racial hierarchy.” The organisers of that first march intended it as a one-off event, but others took over insisting it should be annual. This was the first time I’d managed to cover it since 2014.

Garvey chose the date as 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire. Claims for reparations for descendants of those enslaved by the Atlantic Slave Trade came to the fore in 1999 when the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission called for a payment of $777 trillion to Africa within 5 years, and in 2004 a case was brought and lost against Lloyds of London and Jamaican Rastafarians made a claim for £72,5bn for Europe to resettle of 500,000 Jamaicans back in Africa which was rejected. Other claims have been lodged on behalf of Guyana, Antigua, Barbuda and Barbados.

I felt a little apprehensive at photographing this event, and just a few people have shown a little hostility towards me, though many more have been welcoming. Anyone who has grown up white in the UK has obviously benefited from the historic proceeds of slavery (as so do those of any other origin living here) but I’m fairly sure that my ancestors were not among those carrying out and profiting from the trade. They will have been being exploited by that same class that was enslaving Africans; some thrown off their lands by the Highland Clearances to make way for sheep. Others will I think have been at the heart of the emancipation movement. They will have received nothing of the huge financial compensation that was paid to the enslaving class, which created a debt which members of the British public were paying off through taxation until 2015.

This year the march was divided into 9 blocs, although in practice there was a great deal of overlap. One of these was the Ubuntu – Non-Afrikan Allies Bloc which included Extinction Rebellion XR Connecting Communities.

While I think there is a firm moral case for reparations, I think the demands are unlikely to impress European or American governments, certainly not on the scale being claimed. And I wonder if the demand actually deflects from a more important need for decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean as well as other areas of the majority world, reclaiming national assets from the various multi-nationals that are now continuing the exploitation of the continent.

I left the march as it made its way through Brixton towards Parliament where there was to be another protest rally in Parliament Square.

Afrikans demand reparations


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