23 July 2015 by Lucy Johnson
Continuing the Journey at the International Slavery Museum gives an insight into experiences of racism in Merseyside. Leila Romaya from Stray Cat Media tell us more about the project and how it developed…
” ‘Racism is a cancer on this earth’ said one contributor to the project, poet and urban griot Levi Tafari. Continuing the Journey provides a powerful platform that acknowledges the racism that people of African and Caribbean heritage have experienced and continue to experience.
The project’s aim was to give contributors a voice to share their often painful and traumatic experiences of racism through film, photography and audio recordings, as well as offering a wider platform for learning, discussion and debate so that we can work together towards a more cohesive, respectful and accepting future in which illogical racial and cultural stereotypes have no place in our lives.
Community partners Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre and Steve Biko Housing Association supported the project sharing the activities to their service users and networks. This reach was increased through word of mouth as contributors talked about the project within their communities. The response from this call out for experiences was overwhelming and could have continued beyond the scope of the project. Contributors and audience members have suggested that there are many more unheard voices and Stray Cat Media will endeavour to extend this reach in the future.
Contributors shared specific experiences of racism without knowledge of what other members of their community had shared. Sadly it became apparent that the effects of racism begin in childhood – with memories dating back to children as young as 5, as in ‘Clint’s Story 1969’, and even younger. Stray Cat Media worked with local community members and sixth formers at Broadgreen International School to develop an animated film. It was created through photography, drawing, watercolour and digital manipulation for each of the individual assets. This approach resulted in a powerful animation, which all participants were proud of.
“I feel angry, proud, like that useless child, but having a much more constructive way to tell people. It’s weird I locked it away, well the feelings, and I am glad that you have given me a way to close it in a positive way. Young people are learning right from wrong because of the excellent and positive way you are getting it across. My feelings are mixed but positive. … I questioned the title “Continuing The Journey” but it so is apt, because the journey unfortunately will continue. But at least others and I can clearly see positives are coming out of the journey.” Contributor Clint Agard
Themes naturally began to form emphasizing that racism affects every strand of life from friendships, education, work, family, housing and everyday encounters. Ten of these shorter experiences were formatted into two minute films and are on display at the International Slavery Museum. The earliest of these experiences dates back to the 1920s. Race equality campaigner and activist Maria O’Reilly recalls her father being spat at as a baby in his pram and then her being chased from a community party, aged 3. Others recall experiences in education, employment and with the police with the most recent contribution happening in 1998. The International Slavery Museum display also includes photographs and quotes shared by a selection of our contributors, with the full photographic body of work permanently housed at the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre.
All the experiences demonstrate the strength and resilience of the individuals who shared their experiences and continued their journey despite the pain they were subjected to. 31 people shared their experiences through audio recordings – resulting in an invaluable archive of hundreds of experiences. And although the sharing of the experiences was difficult many commented on its benefits.
“How it felt when I gave my story?… It felt like a weight off my chest because I never really said anything like this before, I never went into my past life that deep as I did today.” Contributor Tony Welch
“You know I think one of my regrets, is we never did this with the generation before us. It’s absolutely critically important…Who knows in a hundred years time … the generation of kids … can see where their history comes from and I think it’s important.” Contributor Wally Brown
The team also filmed some of the experiences which resulted in a 20 minute documentary film highlighting racism and its impact. The film is moving, shocking and powerful, as one young audience member, Serli, explained:
“It was surprising and inspiring to see what people have been through before us and how they have moved forward – it gives me strength to continue my journey.”
For the Stray Cat Media team, it was an honour to meet such resilient people who had the strength and insight to see the power of the collective. Continuing the Journey is a testament to all who have struggled against the injustice of racism and who continue to fight against it. We are extremely proud to have had the opportunity to document a community’s journey and share these important teachings through the display at International Slavery Museum and look forward to continuing to disseminate this significant body of work through an educational tour so that young people can challenge racist actions constructively and influence future generations.”
If you would like for find out more about the project, or get involved in the educational tour please contact Leila@straycatmedia.org.
Kindly funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Liverpool One Foundation.
Partners – International Slavery Museum, Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre, Steve Biko Housing Association, St Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Academy St Francis of Assisi and Broadgreen International School.
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