Figures from within Liverpool’s cultural and creative community share their opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement and the potential for change at a local level.
Sonia Bassey MBE – Chair of Africa Oyé and Mandela8:
Outrage. That was my initial reaction to the murder of George Floyd. A Black man was murdered in front of the world. Bless Darnella Frazier for really opening the world’s eyes to what has been happening to Black people for far too long.
I feel empowered by the show of outrage and the way the Black Lives Matter movement has enabled people to mobilise and vocalise their opposition to injustice. The very fabric of this city was built on slavery and is engrained in its culture, across all our major institutions and the city’s economy. Our largest Black festival Africa Oyé is under constant threat and pressure to become a ticketed event, yet there are major events in this city that have been funded without question. For far too long race and tackling racial injustice has been diluted and become hidden as part of the wider equalities agenda. It needs putting firmly back on the table and everyone needs to be accountable for action.
Liverpool’s history of slavery, it is important to understand here, it isn’t just about Liverpool’s history – it is about the history of the whole country and its implicit involvement in the slave trade. Tearing down statues shows how emotive people are about this issue; they are a visible symbol of people’s pain and suffering. There has to be a proper dialogue about where statues of slave traders go and their place in society now. The same dialogue needs to take place regarding street signs, not just here in Liverpool, but across the UK. Our city, historians, schools and tour guides can teach people of all ages far more by putting explanations next to the street names and barbaric reminders of slavery so every resident and visitor to the city sees the history for themselves, every day, everywhere. If all these reminders are taken away and housed in museums then the only people who see them will be visitors to museums. When was the last time you went to a museum? What I say about Liverpool can be said about every city in the UK.
We need to have the history of slavery in Liverpool embedded into the school curriculum. Until this happens there will never be any understanding of Black culture or value of Black lives. Mandela8 and other Black charities and organisations here in Liverpool and the UK are doing great work, but it’s not mainstream. Until we mainstream Black culture and Black education nothing will change. You are not born a racist. Racism is a taught behaviour and it pains me to think there are young people out there whose brains are being developed from an early age to hate someone for the colour of their skin.
Now is a time for action. A time for Black community led solutions and opportunity. I expect the many organisations and institutions who have made commitments to listen to what we are telling you and what we want. Then help us to do it, or act where appropriate for you to do so based on what we are telling you and what we want. Actions speak far louder than words. I hope the many statements made around Black Lives Matter were not made in vain. It’s good to look good, isn’t it, by saying the right thing? But it’s even better to do the right thing. I know what I want and I know our Black communities will also know what they want, and the countless black individuals whose voices are ignored. But that requires a proper dialogue with the institutions and economic strategists in this city. Far too many times have our ideas been stolen, our music plagiarised, our images sexualised or used as mascots of racial negativity and mockery for the purpose of jam jars, cereal boxes or t-shirts. When the cultural sector re-opens post-Covid, I want to see an end to the virus called racial hatred.
This piece is the first of a series of features on bidolito.co.uk.
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