Chief Angus and I before the march Some superb African dancing before the libation
I have just come back from the walk to commemorate Liverpool’s part in the infamous slave trade. It was a marvellous way to commemorate such terrible things.
We were led through Liverpool by the ferocious Kutumba drum band. I cannot begin to describe the enthusiasm with which these talented musicians carried their instruments, swayed and sashayed down Church Street to the Albert Dock through Liverpool 1 as if their lives depended on it.
Behind them came a motley collection of people. All races were represented, community leaders, civic dignitaries and most important of all members of the diaspora communities from the Caribbean and Africa whose ancestors were most affected by this.
Right through the march we heard nothing but lovely comments, applause and good will from all who saw us. People wanted to see what was going on and, at least in a superficial way wanted to know more and be involved.
This made me think of the previous weekend when a loathsome fascist group had threatened to destroy the harmony of our city with a ‘tooled up and masked’ march through the City. They came looking for trouble and if they couldn’t find it were prepared to start it. They were sorely disappointed. A handful of the ‘master race’ turned up and instead of causing havoc retreated to the left luggage office. How appropriate that this is where they cowered. Left luggage indeed pining for a past that never existed and no would want to try and recreate even if it had.
Of course there were two features which united these marches. And that is the movement of people round the world. Some moved in the past because they were treated as economic units. Some move today because of sheer desperation. They flee from tyranny, death, torture and starvation. Only a sub-human could describe these poor people as a ‘swarm’. They are no insects but people with the same hopes that you and I have. Let us not forget that slavery is not a thing of the past. People are bought and sold for money to be abused in squalid working conditions or brothels. The estimates for the value of this international trade vary between $20 billion and $70 billion.
In today’s slavery event we thought about the forcible removal of black men and women from their native country. From there they were moved largely to the Caribbean and the Americas. Their life was lower than that of the animals, humiliated, beaten and left to die when their usefulness had ended. But they never lost their dignity – they never lost their humanity.
But the people who tried to march through Liverpool last week have lost their humanity, if indeed they ever were human. Their views are ignorant and repulsive. They look on people from different cultures as being inferior because their way of life is a superior. These ill-educated thugs certainly do not represent my way of life, my culture and my country. They claim to be proud of their Country. So do I! I think our Country is one of the best in the world to live in/. I am not blind to its faults or its past. But I do feel that we have a reasonable view of democracy and community and respect for law that many others would love to see in their country.
I just wish that they and the other bigots from UKIP, the BNP and other blighted groups could have been in Liverpool today to see the reception that the walkers received. Liverpool was, as always, a tolerant and welcoming community. That is why the extreme right like UKIP and the BNP never have and never will flourish here.
We now need to think together of what we learnt today. We need to think of wat that means in terms of Macedonia and the desperation of the Syrian refugees risking the lives of themselves and their families in dingy ramshackle boats. Many of these people are brought through to Europe by paid traffickers because there is no proper system for dealing with them. In some cases they come from countries where there can be no system. In others because the wealthier countries such as ours have no understanding of the vitality and vigour that refugees and asylum seekers can bring to our Country.
I am not in favour of unrestricted immigration but I am in favour of our Country doing more. Some newspapers claim that the whole ‘swarm’ is seeking to descend on Britain. Not so. The preferred countries are places like Germany and the Nordic countries which already do proportionately more than we do.
Above all today’s event should remind us all that we are all of a common human heritage. In fact we are all descendants of Africans. Ironic isn’t it that humanity was born in the cradle of East Africa and from there spread to the whole world. Yet these descendants of Africans in National Action despite their own roots!
As an afterthought can I remind everyone that the Liverpool Commonwealth Association will be having its Inaugural General Meeting at 6.30 p.m. at Crawford House on 15th September? Here in a very practical way we seek to reunite those that live in Liverpool from our Commonwealth fellow countries in ways which will benefit both here and there. If you have an interest in these matters you will be welcomed.
Finally, my personal thanks to all those who made today such a great event. Led by the International Museum of Slavery and Chief Angus they gave the people of Liverpool the opportunity to show that not only do they live in a marvellous, diverse, multi-cultural city but also gave us the opportunity to show that they are very pleased so to do.