Welcome to a round-up of the latest additions to The Africanist.

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Publications

Articles

There are seven new articles.

The first is by Ta-Nehisi Coates who frames the story of white America’s approach to its Black population as a Letter to My Son.

In this he notes, “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

This was published in 2015 but the sentiment resonates now as he outlines how American society is built on a historic foundation of violence embodied in a story of torture, theft and enslavement as well as eschewing democracy for Black people. It tells of the struggle of having to live within a system that offers no hope as it is unwilling to change.

The second article is Humanae from the photographer Angélica Dass.

In 2017 she recognised that despite the fact that it was 128 years since the last country abolished slavery and 53 years since the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King, the colour someone’s skin determines the first and last impressions.

Rather than the common tendency to use the artificial tags of white, red, black or yellow for race, she came to the idea of a photo project to highlight the different hues of humankind. In doing this she used the nose as the starting point to determine the corresponding Pantone colour for the background. This includes film footage.

The third article is by Pankaj Mishra about the truth about colonial violence and how that impacted in the First World War.

This is a comprehensive look at how the contributions of millions of Indian, African, Arab, Chinese and Vietnamese soldiers and labourers who fought with British and French forces in Europe were dismissed then and is still even now unacknowledged and uncommemorated.

This article places these racist imperial attitudes in context and shows how the inability to exam the past means that it continues to impact on the experiences of Black people in present society.

The fourth is in the present in which Ian Cobain looks at the reality of the dishonest framework in which history is retold in Britain in his article Lying about our history?

This was written after the recent toppling of the Colston statue during the Bristol protests which was closely followed by the British Prime minister’s comment “to tear [these statues] down would be to lie about our history”. It sheds light on the systemic and wilful destruction of evidence relating to Britain’s colonial presence in the relevant countries which might have embarrassed the government. This led to the incineration of documents ensuring the concealment of actions taken to maintain power thereby erasing the whole truth of British colonial histories for countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Cyprus, India, Malaya, South Africa etc.

The fifth article was spotted at around the same time and is by Gurminder Bhambra which again leads from the toppling of the statue into one which question whether the time has come to acknowledge the truth about Empire. It considers that recent events have opened up the way in encouraging people from different backgrounds to consider the multiple injustices represented by the statue that stretches from slavery through colonisation and into the present.

The sixth article moves the current debate forward in an article by Kehinde Andrews. It explores 20 ways to bring about lasting change in light of the new spotlight on racism following the worldwide protests expressing outrage at police brutality and racial inequalities following the killing of George Floyd. This has prompted a discourse on what is needed to make effective change to combat racism. This article gives the reader tangible practical steps to make a difference.

The final article is an opinion piece by Shree Paradkar which starts, ‘Dear brown people…’ It is an important comment on an anti-black racism within brown communities that contributes towards white supremacy. It raises the issue of how brown aspiration to be aligned to whiteness means that they are complicit in having their presence being used as a tick-box to diversity in order to avoid true multicultural progression, to their own detriment.

Films

There are three film entries.

The first a Jane Elliott interview on the The Rock Newman Show. Jane is an internationally known educator, anti-racism activist and feminist known worldwide for her “Blue Eyes Brown Eyes” exercise. Her exercise followed in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968.

She used eye colour to enable white children to experience the racism that is pervasive in American society. This has led to death threats and conflict with her own family. This filmed interview captures her life story.

The second is a Pathé film from 1955 called Our Jamaican Problem. From the mid 1950s there was a recruitment of workers from the British empire to plug the labour shortage.

British citizens from the West Indies responded but their arrival created nationwide concern as the 10,000 that had come in 1954 would be joined by a further 15,000 the following year. Their reception had clearly given enough cause for concern such that in 1955 this film was deemed necessary to allay the fears of the home population.

The footage gives some insight into the life they left behind and glimpses of their experiences at that time, as their anticipation of hope changed to a more realistic landscape of prejudice.

The third is a clip of an appearance by Obianuju Ekeocha on BBC World News, where she discusses the issue of contraception in Africa with the presenter, Yalda Hakim. This forthright exchange debates whether the significant aid allocation by western governments to African nations to access contraception is welcomed by Africans themselves given their other priorities for survival.

The fourth is a succinct film of little more than 5 minutes by Anthony Hazard telling the history of the Atlantic slave trade and what too few textbooks told. It depicts the historical, economic and personal impact that the forcible removal of more than 10 million Africans to the Americas had.

Directory

There are six links that have been added to the Directory.

The first is the Getty Images website which holds the world’s largest photo library organised as exhibitions, photographic galleries and collections. Your search criteria will bring a wealth of fascinating and sometimes surprising outcomes.

The second, Americans who tell the truth, uses a portrait gallery to focus on people who courageously address issues of social, environmental and economic fairness. It includes biographies introduces inspirational American citizens some of whom are more known than others.

The third is The National Archives Collection which has been added to the Flickr platform so that people can interact with it more easily. The World through a Lens (CO 1069 series) section holds a diverse collection of images with a rich variety of content. The archives have been housed there with little information attached about the people or content and invites the public to comment and share their knowledge.

The fourth, The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network are an independent psychotherapy specialist organisation working mainly with Black, African, South Asian and Caribbean people. They recognise that there is an inequality of access to appropriate psychological services for those people from that heritage background so they aim to redress this by not only working with the oppressed but also by providing training to their members and other specialists who also have an interest in undoing the impact of racism as a means of improving mental health.

The fifth addition is the Anti-apartheid Movement Archives which has the
history of the Anti-apartheid movement 1959-1994. It is a resource site that tells the stories of the anti-apartheid movement and its campaigns to support the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. The AAM also campaigned for the freedom for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola, and against South Africa’s attacks on its neighbours.

The website shows how hundreds of thousands of people all over Britain took part in anti-apartheid activities. There are learning resources and films of demonstrations, concerts and narratives of those involved. Parts of the AAM physical archives are held across England, Wales and Scotland.

Summary

Publications:

  • Articles – destruction of Black bodies; skin in Pantones; race and statues; WW1 colonial violence; lying history; 20 anti-racist actions; anti-black racism within brown communities
  • Film – Jane Elliott (Blue eyes/Brown eyes); Windrush Pathé film; contraception in Africa; the slave trade
  • Podcasts – BBC Witness Black History

Directory:

  • Getty images
  • Americans Who Tell The Truth
  • The National Archives Collection / Flickr
  • The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network
  • Anti-apartheid Movement Archives

Image – Odwira Festival, Ghana (Credit: Isaac Acheampong)

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