Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Held on the 31st October 2007 At the Thomas Morton Hall â€“ Leith
An Introduction Multi-Cultural Family Base is a voluntary agency which aims to enhance the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and their families directly and through the education and training of students in caring professions. Multi-Cultural Family Base is committed to promoting human rights, valuing diversity, providing equal opportunities and working in a way which is flexible, respectful, caring and empowering. Multi-Cultural Family Base is committed to involving users and stakeholders in service planning and provision.
The Event We hosted a public event in October 2007 to recollect the history of Leith and deepen our understanding of its part in the Slave Trade. It is important for our society to remember the appalling suffering of so many people who were brutalized and enslaved and to recognise that our wealth and culture were built on the profits of that trade. If we genuinely wish to move forward into a nonoppressive future then black and white people together have to confront those ghosts of our heritage and seek to change those aspects of our culture and institutions that perpetuate oppression and discrimination. The event also commemorates the bravery of those who fought for Abolition.
The DVD enclosed gives both a historical outline of the Slave Trade in Leith and considers its relevance today - as well as capturing the mood of the day. What follows is a short summary of speakers and performers to complement the DVD. The Day Lunch was provided by Sikh Sanjog, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Many thanks to “Punjab’n de Rasoi” Trishna, Jagdish, Rani, Ashan, Kulwinder, Pritam, Shaani, Darshana, Paranjit, Raj. Many thanks to the Swietlica Drummers, Tommy, Bartek, Kuba, Dawn and Niall, and guest drummer Michael for 3
their participation and the provision of their great musical talents! The Dvd was directed and edited by Steven Braxton from BraXtonImage. Thankyou also to Sandy Harris. Also our thanks to Marcin Potepski for his creative design of this booklet. Key note speech from our Chairperson Geoff Palmer OBE. “A potted History” Geoff Henry Palmer is Professor Emeritus of Grain Science at Heriot Watt University near Edinburgh and has received various awards for his research and community work. He believes that ‘equal opportunity’ is a pointless concept if people do not have the means to realize opportunities. Education should be used to 4
ensure and secure rights. However, if education fails the law cannot afford to fail Mark Lazarowicz MP for Edinburgh North and Leith speaks about commemorating 200yrs of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, reminding us of the role many communities played. He congratulates MCFB for our ongoing work in this area and for organising an event with such a powerful reminder of this history. (Can attach letter) Next to perform were Rachal Milne, Evelyn Wands, Eunice Clason and Rebecca Milne. Together they are ‘Spirit and Soul’ and they have been singing together for 10 years. Their songs are drawn from all over the world, in recognition of the developing aware-
ness of the multicultural nature of society. As a group they have developed workshops for a variety of communities, schools and organisations in Edinburgh, Mid and West Lothian and the Falkirk area. Their performance on the day tells the story of a young black woman and all the indignities that befell her and the horrors she witnessed. “We wanted to show that although physically she was enslaved she managed to maintain an inner strength and sense of self that allowed her to remain hopeful and determined – she never forgot her name – and escaped in the end”.
industry during this time – particularly the movement of Scottish ships to the Caribbean and their return with goods. Eric also kindly facilitated a session with the ‘Discovery Gang’ about this topic. “The Discovery Gang” - a must see performance!
Eric Graham, a maritime historian and author talks about the Slave Trade and its connections with Leith. Eric has extensive knowledge of the shipping 5
Belle Christie, Fatima Elhag, Robert McGovern, Huzaifa Khan and Jesse Tucker. Our Discovery Gang was set up to run for 5 weeks before the AGM event. We were a group of primary school young people from 5 different schools in the city who all wanted to be involved in commemorating the Abolition of the Slave Trade. First, we met with Geoff Palmer who
talked to us about where, when and who the Slave Trade was about. Geoff talked to us about the boats and the Triangular Trade. We learned a lot of things we didn’t know about sugar cane, coffee and tobacco. Then, Eric Graham – a maritime historian – came to talk to us about what
it was like being a slave, we made slave collars and rewards posters and 6
learned about what it was like on the Slave ships. Eric was very interesting….and a lot of fun! The third week we met, we visited the Museum of Edinburgh. We were shown around the exhibition “it didn’t happen here” by Sheila Asante. We enjoyed this very much and learned a lot of new things like there are all sorts of places in Jamaica named after Scottish places….
We then had a workshop about how the exhibition made us feel. The last time we met before the event we had a lady called Ethelinda Lashley
come and help us create a dance routine to describe what we had learned over the weeks. Our dance was called ‘Breaking Free’ and we performed on the stage at the Event. You can see us perform on the Dvd enclosed With Special thanks to Tao Nyangon7
dore And Karen Nimmo for their time and support. After the ‘Discovery Gang’ performance the event continued with a personal reading from Kukumo Rocks – A black Historian and Performance Poet. She recites “Aint I A Woman?” Following this Mukami McKrum recites from stories written in the slave narrative - ‘Incidents in The Life of A Slave Girl by Harriet A Jacobs, who lived from 1813 to 1897’. These stories describe the resistance, strength, resilience and the staying power of the women who endured all manner of hardship in order that they could survive and protect their children. Harriet’s story is a good example of how the abolition of slave trade did 8
not mean the end of the injustices of slavery. Mukami is the Chief Executive of Central Scotland Racial Equality Council. Born in Kenya but has lived in Scotland most of her life. She was educated in both Kenya and Edinburgh. She has a deep commitment to all issues of human rights, justice, peace and equality at local, national and international level. She is a founding member of Shakti Women’s Aid and campaigner against violence particularly to women and children. She served for many years as a Commissioner on the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the World Council of Churches where also served as the Moderator of the Women’s Advisory Group to the Central Committee. She was the first Convenor of Scottish
Churches Agency for Racial Justice and served as commissioner on Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe and Churches Commission for Racial Justice where she is currently a member of the Education committee. She is a board member of several interna-
tional NGOs working with women, poverty alleviation and responding to conflict.. The next speaker was Ghazi Hussein, a Playwright and poet performing his poem “My Next Visit”
My Next Visit Mother, next visit bring me logic with no lies Smuggle me freedom in your eyes, Or a language that has been understood Because I’m confused in which language I should cry. Mother, next visit bring me hope Ask the full hidden moon how I can cope, In this darkness where the tide of oppression runs so high I’m like a fledging without food, without wings to fly. Mother, my cell is smaller than my size My body like a question mark, a river on a map, completely dry, Mother, prison has made me less than myself Each day more than once I die. Ghazi Hussein English by Alison Davis
Cathy Macnaughton, Chief Executive of Multi-Cultural Family Base, summed up this memorable day by giving warmest thanks to all those who had contributed, and who had shared their knowledge and lived experience to help us to understand the savage history of chattel slavery and Leith’s
involvement in the Slave Trade and in the fight for abolition. The work of the young people in developing the exhibition and performing today was inspiring. The powerful messages heard today reaffirm the importance of continuing to strive for social justice and to oppose oppression.
Many thanks to everyone - staff, students, performers, speakers, drummers and ‘Punjab’n de Rasoi’ for their support, without which the event would not have been possible. A special thanks to my colleagues Sarah Malone and Ruth Stroud who were invaluable in both the planning and preparation for the day. With kind thanks Bina Chaudhry.
Published on Aug 2, 2009