This year marks 70 years since the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It was drafted in 1948, with no more than 50 countries getting involved – and today, we have over 190 who have co-signed this much needed legal text. And never before has this been such a vital piece of affirmation, than now in present day. When there is so much uncertainty in the world. Whether it’s politics, war, and economy – we need voices to stand up for basic rights now more than ever!
I was so happy to learn that National Museums Liverpool was taking part in the anniversary of the human right declaration. This year, to mark the occasion, artist and activist Ai Weiwei designed the flag which seems simple and unassuming at first glance, but then inspecting in detail, the footprint, which has lots of tiny white dots, actually represents those who are fleeing conflict – who are often barefoot – with nothing but the shirt (if) on their backs. It was inspired by a recent trip he took to the Rohingya refugee camp – this therefore became the symbol of the human struggle.
Across National Museums Liverpool, we have an array of programmes, events and exhibitions that give the voiceless and voice, and portray images of unity, peace and demonstrate our efforts to strive for a better world. Double Fantasy in Museum of Liverpool is just one example of this. Of course this exhibition touches upon the iconic relationship between Yoko Ono and John Lennon, but it also explores their unwavering campaign for peace. We have many response areas throughout this exhibition where we invite you, the visitor to share your messages of love, peace and solidarity.
Across the waterfront is the International Slavery Museum which serves as a permanent reminder of our unforgettable past. Currently we have the exhibition Continuing the Journey which is a media collection of oral histories, photography and film, exploring issues which affect people of African heritage, born, raised or living in Liverpool’s locality. It explores the struggle of Merseyside’s Black community to obtain racial equality and social justice from post war Britain to the 1980s.
As an organisation we encourage dialogue, and discuss the importance of universal human rights. The involvement of NML in #FlytheFlag70 is a small contribution to a bigger issue – but no involvement, however small it might be, is trivial. The flag flies proudly on the Edmund Gardner ship.
Our workshops for schools and groups:
We are always looking for new projects for our Student Ambassadors to work on. And this is what our Ambassador, and this week’s guest blogger, Laila Waraich has been working on most recently:
Although originally I had wanted to meet Dave to find out about the impact of Africa Oyé for a feature in an educational card game we are producing, ‘Civil Rights and Freedom Fights,’ I ended up discovering much more than I expected about the intricacies of producing an event like this, and it’s great cultural importance in Liverpool.
Africa Oyé is an annual African music and culture event held in Sefton Park, Liverpool. The festival started in 1992 as a series of gigs spread out over several venues. Legend has it that the founder, Kenny Murray, chose Liverpool for his festival at random, by sticking a pin in a map.
Liverpool is an incredibly appropriate city to host a celebration of African culture, with the oldest Black community in Europe as well as the shadow of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which funded the growth of the city. Dave also stressed the popularity of the festival amongst locals:
“No event is loved in the way Oyé is loved,”
The main field that has been used in Sefton Park since the early 2000s is nearing capacity. . Another of the founders’ aims was to present a more positive representation of Africa than that of poverty and war which is common in mainstream media. Instead the event gives us an inspiring taste of the richness of African culture.
Dave McTague describes himself as one of Oye’s core team working closely with Paul Duhaney, the artistic director of the festival. Working within a small team, his title is ‘Head of Marketing and Partnerships’, but his role is varied; encompassing funding bids, planning of the event, marketing, data collection and social media management. I was specifically interested in the work Dave has been doing recently to increase the accessibility of the festival. Through audience analysis the team can work out which demographics are attending, and which aren’t. The data can then be used to make positive changes, or receive funding from a certain group. For example increasing accessibility for members of the disabled community by BSL signing the performances on the main stage, and creating specific viewing platforms and an access tent. Audience analysis has also helped the festival adapt to change. In the last fifteen years, the PR strategies needed to attract young people and students have moved on, with social media now playing a vital role. I hadn’t realised the amount of behind-the-scenes social planning required to keep an event like this diverse and effective.
Music is also central to Dave’s work. As well as running his own record label, Mellowtone, he attends the WOMEX Conference to aid in sourcing acts for the festival. Oyé’s appeal has widened recently as music from across the African diaspora, especially Afrobeat, has come to the forefront of modern pop. As well as a range of global acts performing a mixture of traditional and current music, there is a diverse selection of carefully-curated stalls and activities on offer every year.
Dave was really passionate about the family friendly atmosphere at the festival, noting that unusually for a festival of this size, people are generally well-behaved, and the community tends to ‘self-police’. Local businesses like Movema provide dance workshops in the Oyé Active Zone, while there are children’s events like the LFC skills classes as well as a range of African and world food stalls. There is also an opportunity for education; the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine ran a workshop where children were encouraged to make pipe-cleaner mosquitoes to spread malaria awareness. Even the fun fair is local, with multiple generations of the same family often working together.
Through the music, dance, food and other stalls available, the organisers have created a space that attracts a diverse mix of locals and visitors from every part of society. Oyé is an event that it is fun to be at, but I think it can also increase cultural understanding in the community. Rather than formal education, it is an interactive, enjoyable experience that can still challenge stereotypes of Africa and African people and have a positive impact on race relations in the city.
This week’s guest blog has been written by artist Dano Wall, who designed a stamp which puts Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Dano kindly allows us to use the stamp in some of our public education sessions at the Museum. Find out how and why he came up with this fantastic idea, as he writes:
On April 20, 2016, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced plans to add Harriet Tubman to the front of the revised twenty-dollar bill, moving President Andrew Jackson to the rear. Lew instructed the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to expedite the redesign process, and the new bill was expected to enter circulation sometime after 2020. Read more…
Guest blog from Emy Onuora
(Emy Onoura is the author of Pitch Black. Emy Onuora has an MA in Ethnic Studies and Race Relations from the University of Liverpool and has lectured extensively on issues of Race and Sport within higher education)
Raheem Sterling’s willingness to put himself forward as the spokesperson for a generation of black footballers is commendable, if only in the context of previous generations of footballers who were forced to suffer racist abuse in silence, even in some cases going as far as to insist that they used racist abuse as a motivator for improved performance. His challenge to the game’s leaders and opposition fans, and support for his team mates has marked a significant shift in black footballers demand to be treated with respect and dignity, has given other players the confidence to speak out and demand change. However, it’s his focus on racist attitudes within the media that’s had the most wide-ranging impact.
Sterling highlighted how his City team-mates, one black and one white received very different treatment by the Daily Mail. Tosin Adarabioyo and Phil Foden had each purchased a home. The headline on the Adarabioyo story read “Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week splashes out on mansion on market for £2.25 million despite having never started a Premier League match.” The headline for his white team mate Foden, read “Manchester City starlet Phil Foden buys new £2m home for his mum.”
Sterling’s exposé prompted several days of hand-wringing and self-reflection from both the print and TV media. They openly wondered how it could be that they could be so discriminatory and how it was they had no or few minorities in their newsrooms or making editorial decisions. They began to throw around terms like unconscious bias and wondered what they could be done to make sports media more reflective of the range of diverse groups who love and have a stake in the game.
However, clearly missing from the debate was any detailed discussion of the role that the mainstream media plays in generating and supporting a climate of outright hostility and overt racism against immigrants, their children and grandchildren, inner-city youths, black music, black crime, black gangs, black parents and so on and so on, all of it designed to generate click-bait and sell papers and generate advertising revenue.
Football as has been said often and quite correctly, reflects society, and the rise in racist incidents both in English and European football, is a reflection of an environment that serves to empower the far-right and racists more widely, and is fuelled by the normalising of hateful ideas, speeches and actions by mainstream politicians and mainstream and social media.
Outside the rarified environment of football, there has been a significant rise in racist violence against groups and individuals, and increased racist attacks on mosques, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, but the media’s willingness to support opposition to racism on its back pages, enables the same business-as-usual hate-filled, opinion pieces, leader comments, headlines and articles to be written about minority groups on its front pages. What’s happened, is that In football parlance, the sports departments have taken one for the team. This has allowed the blame to be shifted to sports journalism, and enable the media to state its commitment to anti-racism in football while its hostile reporting continues.
Of course, the fact that in 2019, Sterling, Danny Rose and other black footballers are still the cause of debate as to how they should be protected, reflects the fact that football’s leadership has never prioritised their duty of care, to allow them to play free from racist abuse is an indictment of the game we all love and of the society we are all a part of and have a stake in. Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose, Wilfred Zaha and many other high profile and not so well-know players are doing us all a favour and reminding us that to create a society free from discrimination, requires opposition to racism not just when it concerns football, but also when it is actively fostered by those with the means and power to shape and form opinions.
Who is Sara Collins?
I studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for 17 years before pursuing my lifelong ambition of writing a novel. I obtained a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Cambridge University, where I started writing my novel in late 2015.
Why are you going to know all about Sara next month?
The Confessions of Frannie Langton will be published by Penguin (Viking) in the UK on 4 April 2019. Read more…
We are proud to have added two exceptional BAME women to our Black Achiever’s Wall this International Women’s Day (8 March 2019). Sandi Hughes is a feminist film-maker, DJ, poet and activist. And Lady Phyll is a celebrated speaker, writer and LGBTQI campaigner. Read more…
The annual poll aims to find the public’s favourite Art Funded work of the year, and to celebrate a year of helping museums and galleries acquire great art. You can help and support us by voting!
‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ is a significant acquisition for the Museum- and the UK.
It is the first painting in our collection to show the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition. The artwork dates from around 1800 and the artist is unknown. The foot of the canvas reads, ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’, a variation on the more common version, ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother’. Read more…
Shaina West is a real life superhero, with a backstory to rival an Avenger and an alter ego fighting to change the stigma around Black women on screen. In this guest blog, Shaina explains how she overcame the adversity of a road accident to reinvent herself as a pioneering stunt actor and the anime-inspired Instagram star: The Samurider:
“The choice to become a stunt actor was not a particularly hard one, I feel like through minimal shaping of my own, my life led me towards it – it’s been an incredible ride! It all started when I was 20 and the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible motorbike accident. It left me stranded in hospital for weeks with a fractured neck and broken thumb. My boyfriend of the time broke up with me and I lost my job. A series of unfortunate events indeed! Read more…
In this guest blog for the Sankofa project and as part of Black History Month, artist Helen Woolstencroft reveals how family and history play an important role in her sense of identity as an artist. In this moving tribute to her grandparents, Helen tells us about the source of inspiration for her work:
“From a young age, I was always curious about my family. Being of mixed race heritage, I always wanted to know where I fit into the world. I was captivated by my Grandad Lionel, and always wondered what his life was like in Barbados before he came to England during the Second World War. Read more…
We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.
As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race. She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more…