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Slavery Remembrance Day – the journey continues

5 September 2013 by Richard

Flower arrangement saying 'We remember'

Another Slavery Remembrance Day has now passed but this does not mean that we consign its message, what it means to the people of Liverpool and beyond, to one side for another year. The core message, that of “We remember” from the descendants of enslaved Africans, members of the Diaspora and the wider public only has meaning when we work to make sure that the sacrifices, and achievements, of the ancestors are recognized to make the world a better place. Idealistic, maybe, but without a “dream” the legacies of four hundred years of enslavement, and resistance, would be forgotten. The world is not yet a place with full equality and freedom for all, free from discrimination or racism, but it’s a place where many people refuse to let the past sleep, to go unrecognized. 

This year’s annual slavery memorial lecture guest speaker was the renowned historian Professor Verene Shepherd, whose talk was titled ‘Enough be done enough! Women, enslavement & emancipation’. It was a powerful talk, not only remembering the role that women played in emancipation; often forgotten voices from the past, but highlighting the continuing campaign for justice, in the form of reparations and specifically noting the recent developments on the international stage and CARICOM’s announcement that a National Reparations Committee would be formed in each CARICOM member state which includes such countries as Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Countries which in their own way felt the heat of oppression during the transatlantic slave trade, what professor Shepherd termed the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, and which Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda said had impaired the region’s development economically, culturally and socially.

This is a debate which will gain in prominence, especially with the support of influential academics such as Professor Shepherd and Professor Sir Hilary Beckles author of ‘Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide’.

The Museum’s ethos of campaigning to challenge ongoing racism and discrimination was reinforced by asking Symon Sentain from the Stephen Lawrence Trust to say a few words at the memorial lecture and having Gee Walker, and members of her family, mother of Anthony Walker and patron of the Anthony Walker Foundation, lead our Walk of Remembrance through Liverpool City Centre on the 23rd, finishing at the waterfront outside the Merseyside Maritime Museum building in readiness for what is at the very heart of all the events, the libation. Later that afternoon we screened ‘Akwantu: the journey’ by Roy T. Anderson with a panel discussion which focuses on the Director’s personal journey to explore his Maroon roots, the renowned freedom fighters of Jamaica.

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