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.
Helen Legg – Director of Tate Liverpool
These have been the most sustained and intense anti-racist protests most of us will have seen in our lifetimes, perhaps only comparable with the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. This time the protests have been both local and global – occurring in small towns at the same time as most of our major international capitals. We’ve seen Black and white people march side by side, participating in a deeper conversation, about education, about teaching the history of empire and colonialism, about structural and systemic racism. We’ve seen a lot of pain and anger, but the demand for change is loud and clear and the moment has the potential to be transformative.
Before moving to Liverpool I lived in Bristol, whose relationship to the slave trade is very similar to Liverpool’s. Liverpool has the only slavery museum in the UK on the docks, Bristol had a statue of Edward Colston, whose prominent role in the slave trade was simply not understood or acknowledged by many people in the city. I’ve found Liverpool to be much more open and aware of its role in the slave trade, which isn’t to say that more can’t be done. But slavery is only the first chapter in this story and its legacies need to be more fully appreciated. How much do people know about the ways in which slavery was perpetuated after abolition? About the colonial system? About Jim Crow laws and Civil Rights in the US? Even about the Toxteth riots? And how does the worldview created by this racist history continue to manifest itself, in Grenfell, in the Windrush scandal, but also in the everyday lives of Black people? I studied history to A-Level and covered none of this at school which I see as a real failure of our education system. I became aware of it because of the work of artists and writers and musicians and filmmakers who are alive to slavery’s aftereffects. Our culture plays a really important role in raising consciousness.
Most cultural organisations have been working to change for some time now but that change hasn’t been fast enough or deep enough. I hope we’ll see organisations being much more proactive and engaged when it comes to the difficult work of structural change. This will be aided if organisations make their plans public and report back on progress against them. At Tate, we’re committed to dismantling the structures within our institution that perpetuate inequality. There are a lot of new cultural leaders in Liverpool with the same energy for change.
This piece is part of a series of features on bidolito.co.uk. Read more here.
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