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A short history of violence

19 March 2014 by Richard

Copy of IMG_2199

Dr Richard Benjamin, Head of the International Slavery Museum looks at the different ways museums have told the story of violence. Read more…

Let’s keep Mandela legacy alive

10 December 2013 by Richard

green and yellow banner with the words Liverpool 8 against apartheid

Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid banner used in the 1980s.

Like millions of people across the globe I was saddened to hear the news that one of the great leaders of modern times – and a true freedom fighter – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba, has passed away.  Such news is often hard to digest; things really don’t quite seem the same when someone of such stature, such presence and indeed familiarity is no longer with us.  But someone like Mandela will always leave an enormously influential legacy – in his case – hope rather than hate.   Even though he spent 27 years of his life in prison for his beliefs, fighting for political freedom and social justice, he still had the courage and character not to be engulfed by rage on his release from Robben Island in 1990. Read more…

If walls could talk…

17 October 2013 by Richard

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Barbican Estate, London

Hello, First of all, please do check out our diverse list of Black History Month activities including several related to our most recent exhibition British dance: Black routes. Read more…

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.  Read more…

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building

2 September 2013 by Richard

 Martin Luther King building

Richard Benjamin on the steps of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building

On the 28th August we opened the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building, which is next to the International Slavery Museum.  It was opened to the public just for the day, for a series of events to commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s now iconic speech. This has became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech – delivered on the steps of the iconic Lincoln memorial in Washington, D.C. on a scorching hot summer’s day in 1963 to a crowd of over 250,000.

Read more…

Money (That’s What I Want)

25 July 2013 by Richard

Blog

Hello,

Well in the words of the great Barrett Strong Money (That’s What I Want)”*Recently there has been some debate around the Bank of England’s plans to replace Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill in 2016 as the face on our £5 notes.  However, it has also been announced that Jane Austen will be the new face of the £10 note in 2017, an attempt at counterbalancing the lack of women.  People are right to scrutinize the individuals who are being considered-and that have appeared on previous notes-which clearly shows a lack of diversity, not becoming of a modern society. Now it is positive that Austen will indeed be seen on future currency but there will still be a lack of Black and Asian and other ethnically diverse faces.   Tokenism some may shout, maybe, but visibility and presence are often the first steps in people understanding how British society has “no singular ‘island story.’” Read more…

Talking the talk, walking the walk

14 June 2013 by Richard

cutting the ribbon at the start of the Walk for Freedom

2013 Walk for Freedom

Hello,

It has been a varied month since my last blog.  It was a pleasure welcoming Garvin Nicholas, the High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago at the end of May for a tour of the International Slavery Museum (ISM).  My colleague James Hernandez came along to meet the delegation, a nice dimension was that he has Trinidadian roots.  As part of the tour we went into the Anthony Walker Education Centre which among other things has a display of Caribbean flags, except, quelle surprise, Trinidad and Tobago.  The High Commissioner kindly offered to send the Museum a flag for our collection.  He was very impressed with the Museum, especially the inclusion on our Black Achievers Wall of a number of Trinidadians & Tobagonians such as Lord Learie Constantine, Dr Roi Kwabena and CLR James. Read more…

Remembering to forget

17 May 2013 by Richard

The image shows the railings and the remains of the Auscwitz ii concentration camp

Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp near the Polish town of Oświęcim

On Wednesday I gave a talk for the West Derby Society at the very grand Lowlands built in 1846.  The taxi driver, on being told what I did for a living, said something along the lines of ‘great museum, but not everyone in Liverpool supported and profited from slavery.’  I explained that we don’t say that, we talk about Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, and of course we focus on Liverpool, it is after all where we are located, Liverpool took the trade to a new level, there were over 5,000 slave voyages made from the port plus several other  facts. I also pointed out that new research is shedding light on the diverse range of people (plantation owners/profiteers not the enslaved) that were awarded compensation under the 1833 Abolition Act (there was a Slave Compensation Commission) which shows that it was not just MP’s or the well-known merchant families but regular business folk too who profited from the enslavement of Africans.  Read more…

Back on the road

18 March 2013 by Richard

The Chapman Family Collection in Tate Britain

Objects from the collection of artists Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Hello,

I was in London recently for a series of meetings. I usually have a few hours to kill before getting the train back so I often have a bit of a busman’s holiday, checking out a new exhibition or snooping around some gallery.  I always seem to end up frantically rushing back to Euston in rush hour too.  This trip was no different and although I like to think I’m an experienced visitor to the capital at one stage I had to ask a postman, a shop assistant in Liberty’s, and two bobbies where the nearest tube station was.
Read more…

Republic Day in the Land of Many Waters

22 February 2013 by Richard

Guyana flag

The image shows the colourful Guyana flag

Hello,

First of all I would like to wish members of the global Guyanese family a Happy Republic Day for tomorrow.  On 23 February 1970 the Forbes Burnham led government proclaimed Guyana, The Co-operative Republic of Guyana and ended Guyana’s constitutional tie to Britain. Guyana though remains a member of the Commonwealth.

The birth of Guyana as a republic is now also closely associated with the annual Mashramani festival or ‘Mash day’, derived from the Amerindian language which according to the Guyanese Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport means ‘the celebration of a job well done’. The festival has a carnival atmosphere and is one of the most spectacular annual celebrations in Guyana. Read more…