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Friday, 4th Sep 2020

Enslavement reparations needed

Green Party motion to be debated at next week’s Bristol Council meeting calls on the Council under the Mayor’s leadership to provide more support for black cultural centres in Bristol and to lobby the government to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice which would discuss reparations for the trafficking and enslavement in African people.

 The motion is being proposed by Green Councillor and Bristol’s former Lord Mayor Cleo Lake, who made headlines in 2018 when she removed a portrait of enslaver Edward Colston from her office.(1) Councillor Lake is a founding member of the Countering Colston movement which campaigns against the public celebration of Colston in Bristol’s institutions and spaces, and she has been active within the annual national reparations march.

 The motion, which was co-authored with the Stop the Maangamizi Campaign and former Green MEP and Lambeth Councillor Scott Ainslie, was proposed by Councillor Lake at a previous council meeting in July but didn’t make it to discussion – this time the motion is a ‘silver’ motion which means it is likely to be debated and voted on during the meeting.

 The motion’s key points call on the Mayor and Council to:

-          Ensure the Mayor’s new commission on Bristol’s past includes an audit to trace the flow of wealth from the slave trade into the city of Bristol and its citizens down the generations to the present day

-          Write to the Prime Minister to request that the government establishes an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice to acknowledge, apologise and formulate a plan for reparations

-          Ensure all schools in Bristol are implementing the ‘One Bristol Curriculum’ which highlights the city’s black history and contributions global of African heritage people

-          Carry out an audit of housing conditions for people of African descent in Bristol

-          Protect and support Bristol’s black-led cultural institutions that are currently underfunded and under-resourced, such as the Malcolm X Centre

 In July Labour and Green councillors worked together to pass similar motions in Lambeth and Islington.(2) Councillor Cleo Lake said she was delighted her motion would be going to a debate and hoped it would have the support of other parties.

 She said:

“My motion calls for important symbolic action from the UK Government, as well as practical local demands to tackle inequality here in Bristol, such as committing proper support to black cultural centres, ensuring children in Bristol are taught about our city’s full history, and an audit to make sure housing conditions for black Bristolians is fit for purpose. At the national level, an all-party Parliamentary Commission is a key first step in achieving justice and starting the conversations we need to have as a society about our past and present - I think it’s right that reparations is part of that conversation.”

 Discussing reparations, Cleo added:

 “This isn’t just about monetary compensation, it goes much wider than that and is a movement that has existed for centuries, ever since the first transgressions of our humanity as African heritage people. The first step is an acknowledgement by the British state that what happened was wrong and a formal apology should follow – this is an essential step to repair, as so far our experiences of historic and ongoing wrongs have been denied. We also need to see an active commitment from the government to prevent further injustice.”

 Cleo also urged members of the public who support the motion to submit statements to the council meeting. She said:

 “This motion is significant, timely and historic. It represents good democracy in that it combines grass roots activism and movements such as 'Stop The Maangamizi Campaign' with the political system. The time has come to right the wrongs that plague society and keep it from being equal and equitable. It has been an intergenerational struggle that landed on the doorstep of Bristol, a city built off the backs of our African ancestors. I urge us to answer the call and place ourselves on the right side of history.”

Notes

Reparation motion here>>

Call for support here: https://www.facebook.com/cleo.lake/videos/10157206399530966 

1)     E.g. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/19/slave-traders-portrait-removed-from-bristol-lord-mayors-office

2)     See: https://love.lambeth.gov.uk/call_for_action/, http://islingtontribune.com/article/members-unite-for-racism-fight

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