What the Black Labour Movement must do! – Ade Sawyerr

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Black Labour: Speaking for Ourselves!!!! –  6th December 2017 at Peckham

Labour missed an opportunity in the 1980s to embrace and consolidate the support that it had from the mass of African and Caribbean people.  These people had mostly voted Labour at elections and the rejection of their own movement, Black Sections, was a kick in the teeth for most of the activists especially since the leadership was often unwilling to support them as candidates in winnable seats in areas where there were a lot of black people in the population.

I attribute this rejection as the reason for our inability to grow confident activists who should rise within the party without patronage.  The result now is that we cannot influence policy and help set an agenda within the party that would encourage more race equality.

The past couple of years have presented some opportunities but we are still so slow to take these up to create a formidable movement that should reflect our electoral usefulness to the party.

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The party has agreed to the formation of the Black Socialist Section in the party, but this has not quite translated into the political success of activists from African and Caribbean communities.  The issue of the name is important, there are many who are Labour who are not comfortable with the socialist label.

An Ethnic Minority Taskforce is in operation that incorporates BAME Labour, Chinese for Labour, Somalis for Labour, Labour Arab Group and Africans for Labour.  The concern is that the voice of the A4L will continue to be muted if it continues to be reactive to issues within the party and expects that it will be called to the table to discuss issues of importance to the party.  Even now that there are several persons of African heritage in the shadow cabinet, we are in danger of having the agenda set for us if we continue to be docile.

We know that the talk at our dinner tables and when we are on our own is about how disenfranchised we are.  We know that whilst it is easy for people to demand all women shortlists at party selection we still do not have the clout to ask for black only shortlists.  We privately admit that the party is taking us for granted and by extension taking our community for granted.

We have seen an organised well-resourced movement grow to have influence within the party within a short space of time!

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We know that as councillors we are rewarded with cabinet positions when we do not complain too much and that to a large extent we are easily set against each other; we get recycled and are almost always in danger of being deselected.  We even suspect that the leadership is ambivalent about promoting more race equality lest it result in a perceived backlash from the majority community and yet we continue to do nothing about this state of affairs.  We allow ourselves to be more disempowered

But we know that there is a lot that we can do!

We know that Labour has always been a broad church with the competing forces between modernisers and traditional Labour , Blairites against Corbynistas and new Labour against old Labour and we assist in this divide when our issues are about racial equality and looking out for the best interests of our black communities.  Even as we speak today there is a battle for who are the legitimate owners of the Momentum Black Caucus or Connexions!!!!

Our issues are about racial inequality and discrimination! Our issues are about poverty and marginalisation! Our issues are about jobs, hope for our youth, health and social care. Our issues are about anti-austerity.

If this is the party that we commit to, then we should let our voices be heard at the high table of our party.  But we can only do that if we are able to plan properly, organising appropriately and find resources needed to operate in a formal way so that we can become a force in Labour.  We must be bold and assume that we can set an agenda for the party acceptable to all.

We must be courageous, we must be resolved, we have to be united and we have to know how to set objectives that resound with will, we need to be able to plan our strategy and we need to organise to attract more black members to the black labour movement wherever they are – not too difficult since they probably vote Labour anyway.

So what must the Black Labour movement do to ensure that it can be listened to and that it exerts some influence in the party and amongst the large numbers of people who vote Labour at the elections?

Let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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ACHIMOTA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ARTS

ACHIMOTA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ARTS

Nat-Amartefio copy

By: Nat Nuno-Amarteifio

Since its founding, Achimota College and School as it was named at the time of its inception, has had a disproportionate influence on the creative arts in Ghana. In every area of creativity, music, painting, sculpture, literature and theatre, Achimota’s influence has been deep and consistent. This paper seeks to explore the reasons for this phenomenon and to identify some of the main reasons that made these achievements possible. We shall also examine the contemporary nature of this impact.

Colonialism begun in Africa in the final decades of the 19th century when Europeans scrambled for terrritories and took political and military possession of its lands. In India, British rule lasted over two centuries. In Africa colonialism was expected to last at least as long until Africans absorbed the lessons of pax britanica and learnt to govern themselves. The 1920s was a time of unbridled and unapologetic racism. Accra, the ramshackle capital of the colonized Gold Coast was recently segregated along racial lines. The goal was political but the official reason was medical. The policy was justified as a necessary measure to save European lives from African diseases by keeping the two races apart, especially at night. It was generally believed by European medical specialists that Africans were immune to the effects of malaria but that their blood was full of the parasites. The evening was when mosquitoes fed on human blood and transported their contaminated cargo across racial lines to infect Europeans.

On January 28, 1927, the Prince of Wales College and School, Achimota was formally opened. The campus upon which the school stood was segregated. No Africans could stay there overnight without official sanction. It took the personal intervention of the Governor to obtain permission for Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, nominated for assistant headmaster, to spend a night under the same roof as Rev. Alexander G. Fraser, the headmaster.

African culture was regarded by many Europeans as backward and retrogressive and the African middle class bought into this perception. In 1918, Kobina Sekyi a Cape Coast author and social critic wrote a play called the Blinkards. It was a devastating satire on the nascent African middle class of the 19th century. Their social ambition was to strip away all identification with their cultural roots and to present themselves as English gentry. It was a cartoonish portrait of delusion and deliberate self-deception. The play warned of the consequences when a society loses its moral compass.

Against the background of these perceptions, the three principal founders had every reason to be proud of their achievement. For one thing, in the tight colonial world they inhabited, they had been accorded the rare honour of a royal visit. The heir to the throne, Edward, the Prince of Wales was himself present to bestow his name on the institution. The three men, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, a brigadier in the British Army and Governor of the Gold Coast (1919-1927),   Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, a native of the Gold Coast, born in Anomabu and educated as a cleric in America, and the Reverend Alexander G. Fraser, a Scotsman and professional educationist were loyal to the crown. They belonged to the liberal and progressive wings of European politics and fervently believed that the key to African emancipation was education. The institution they created was designed to justify their hopes and ambitions. They saw the visit as the ultimate endorsement of their enlightened beliefs. They gave birth to a school, and let loose ideas that would lead in three short decades to the end of British rule in the Gold Coast.

The school was created to challenge the existing racial conventions and to instill pride in the nations’s putative leaders. Its motto, designed by Dr. Aggrey and displayed boldly on a heraldic shield, was composed of black and white piano keys. Its message declared that all races are equal and as necessary for civilized harmony as the black and white keys on the piano. At a time when aristocratic and middle-class women in Britain were barred from parliament and other bastions of authority and privilege, the school admitted children of both sexes and educated them together and equally. In 1924, when African culture was regarded by many Europeans as backward and retrogressive, a Department of Anthropology was established on the campus. It was headed by R.S. Rattray, a noted anthropologist. He was given the responsibility and the means to research Asante culture and to make his conclusions available to the government for policy guidance. Rattray employed his students as research assistants and undertook field research in the towns and villages around Achimota and beyond. These communities contained demobilized former soldiers from all over the country. The results were published and used to teach local history. The exercise demonstrated the lie that Africans lacked a history.

Continue reading “ACHIMOTA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ARTS”

Race Equality and the Black Experience in 2017 – the current debate

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Was at the House of Commons yesterday to take part in this debate.  this is my presentation.

Inequality remains a problem in the United Kingdom, especially for black people.

There is a still a penalty for being black, there is a penalty in stop and search, in health, in education, in the criminal justice system and in dealing with people with learning difficulties, there is an ethnic pay penalty and a penalty in doing business.

 

The government needs to tackle inequality!  This country will not be a better place when inequality is still glaring, and our younger people are not getting the jobs that they are ordinarily qualified for even when they go on to higher education.  Without true equality, the country will be unstable in a way that will affect community integration and social cohesion.

 

A more equal society will put the country back in better balance and will promote the equity that breeds more prosperity and the environment that engenders prosperity and the contribution to the wealth creation effort and more fairness in the distribution of wealth in this first world country.

 

We have certainly come a long way from those days of open discrimination, but there is still urgent work to be done by black people to keep up with the protest and campaign against racial discrimination.

 

We need to push for positive action now that our proportion of the population is growing.  It is no longer less than the 1% that it was in the 1970s when we pushed for the Race Relations Act 1976 to be passed.

Over the past 40 years, a lot of work has been done but we cannot afford to be complacent now that there are over 2 million black people and in some local area almost 50% of residents.

 

The black population is expected to reach over 10% of the working population in the next 10 years and yet black people continue to be discriminated against in workforce.  This is the time when the government must lead the way in implementing targets for the recruitment and progression of black people in their employment.  The question that needs asking is why were those targets that were promised in the Home Office stopped?  Were those targets dropped after an evaluation or was race no longer the flavour of the month. My answer is that let us bring the targets back; the targets may look symbolic but they may yet prove effective for the benefit of the black population, because other departments and other establishments may just follow that desirable example!!

Continue reading “Race Equality and the Black Experience in 2017 – the current debate”

Tribute in honour of the late Kingsford Nii Ahele Quarcoo – From GaDangme Nikasemo Asafo

Anyemi Nii Ahele Akwafro Matɔmatɔ Matɔade, yaa wo ojogbann ye Nuntso minshi

Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo

Tribute in honour of the late Kingsford Nii Ahele Quarcoo

Pleasant are Thy courts above,
In the land of light and love;
Pleasant are Thy courts below
In this land of sin and woe;
O, my spirit longs and faints
For the converse of Thy saints,
For the brightness of Thy face,
For Thy fullness, God of grace

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Our faith in God directs us to accept, with sadness, the passing of our brother and friend King Nii Ahele Quarcoo. For us whose lives he touched in his many roles, his untimely earthly departure, in answering the call of our maker, nevertheless leaves us shattered. His passing flashes a void physically and psychologically onto our consciousness, not only within our organisation Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo, but right through the Ga nation as well.

His dedication to his people’s cause on all fronts demand unquestionably that we pay tribute to King Nii Ahele…

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Another note on Atsiiimota the excellent school of our time!

Another note on Atsiiimota the excellent school of our time!

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Ade Sawyerr at Remembrance Service in London – 5th November 2017

Some 51 years ago, I entered Atsiiimota School, the Grey City on the Outlaws Hill, as a fresh-faced ’Nino’ boy.  In those days this great school was in my mind was situated miles away from Ga as we knew it then, bordering on the fringes of the city of Accra.

Tales were told of this strange and forlorn place, home to wandering spirits; a place where none dared to mention a name for fear of the named person being confronted by the mysterious spirits – jemanwojii – that roamed about. It was said that many slaves were kept hidden away from the authorities after the abolition of the slave trade. A place that could only be referred to as Atsiiimota – This was part of the folklore that gave rise to one of the most difficult riddles, – “Afoo taatso shi mifo ni miko” which translated means “no one cuts the root of the sponge tree but I have done so and taken it away”. The response was Atsiiimota Odonkofoi or in English Atsiiimota, a place of slaves.

The only other time that i had been to the school was when I attended the selection interview which was conducted by the then headmaster Mr Chapman Nyaho. I could hardly contain my excitement when I received my letter of admission; the school year had changed from January to September and I had done only 2 terms in Class 6.  On 23 September 1960, about a month short of my 10th birthday, I arrived in a taxi accompanied by a cousin, Kate Majorla Sawyerr, who was also in the school, with my trunk and Chop Box which I could barely balance on my head.   I was assigned to Guggisberg House where I was fortunate to have two older cousins, Ate Ofosu-Amaah  and King Ghartey Mould and a couple of classmates from Experimental School, Teddy Konu and the late Ekow Awoonor,  help settle me in.  And so it was that I was ‘protected’ from the usual bullying that was  meted out to all new students –Ninos.

My pocket money for the ten-week term was ten shillings, one shilling a week which I gave to the Housemaster Mr Pratt at the beginning of the term. From the one shilling, I could feast on ‘dotch’ from Mrs Angbah, buy treats from Mr Doe’s Coke shop or sometimes from the Cadbury House Coke shop and still have change, which sometimes I took to the post office down the road from Gberg House.

Atsiiiimota instilled in me the belief that l could succeed in anything I wanted to, as long as I did not break any rules. But!  There were about 10 school rules which had to be adhered to and I broke as many of them as I could get away with. My favourite school rule was the tenth one – Every breach of common sense is a breach of school rules. I caused an eleventh rule to be introduced; no cropping of hair right down to the skull.  This, however, was not entirely my fault but morebecause my hair at that time grew at a fast rate and I had many a budding barber try to experiment with my hair which always went wrong.

The structured, regimented day began with the sound of the Rising Bell 5:30am followed by morning trotting before bath time. Students then had to make their beds, complete their chores in time for inspection by the Dormitory Monitor, some quiet time before finally setting off for morning service at the Aggrey Chapel, Oh, I forget that we had morning milk too. There were a couple of lessons before breakfast and more lessons mid-morning after snack time and still more lessons leading up to lunchtime.

After the afternoon siesta, there was games or groundwork depending on the season and then back to the bathroom, evening duties, dining hall again prep and then soaking – light or heavy – common room and then lights out.  we were fed so much that not only did I put on weight but I found myself growing much taller than the less than 4.10″ that I was before I entered the school

This regime was only varied in the week by the early morning work at the school farm to care for the animals.  The weekends were less structured but we had to clean up the house for inspection ever so often and for a notorious boy like me included many doses of punishment: project, fatigue, and detention and the very many table clearing duties that I was I think unfairly apportioned and  once a term we went on exeats – a trip outside the school.

Continue reading “Another note on Atsiiimota the excellent school of our time!”

Proposed Founders Day is based on historical fiction

As usual, very well written and argued addition to the debate. Maybe the issue will never be resolved but that would be a real shame – countries must move forward together, nations must not be polarised and states will attain maturity. A principled approach is needed at all times and rewriting of history serves no purpose at all. The history of a nation is what happened not what one would have wished to have happened.

ekownelson

Ekow Nelson

Last week the President sought to put the obsessive debate raging over the placement of the apostrophe in ‘Founders Day’ to rest. And he did so, like his immediate two predecessors, by authorising 21st September as a public holiday in honour of Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President while at the same time indicating his intention to seek legislation to declare August 4th Founders Day to commemorate the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in 1947.

Ghana already has a Founders Day called 6th March 1957 when the country came into being, so one wonders why we need another one. Far from settling the issue, this latter move runs the risk of reinforcing the perception that the President and his henchmen are pre-occupied with revising Ghana’s history to bolster the reputation of Dr JB Danquah.

Macaulay revisited

In his contribution to the debate on…

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Failed UGCC deserves no honour

We can debate who started the struggle for independence but we can’t dispute who achieved it. Surely, that alone should put this matter to rest.

ekownelson

Ekow Nelson

Last Friday the organisers of Ghana@60 commemorated the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in Saltpond, positioning it as an overlooked significant national event. The founding of a political party with no notable accomplishments is being touted as Ghana’s Birthday along with, or perhaps, instead of, March 6th, 1957. Sadly, the current President lent the authority of his office to a commemorative farce that flies in the face of historical truth.

False starts with no accomplishments
It is argued that the founding of the UGCC represents the conception of Ghana’s independence struggle. But is it? When exactly did the anti-colonial struggle begin? It certainly is not 4th August 1947. Prior to that there was the Aborigines Rights Protection Society and the National Congress of British West Africa, preceded by the Fante Confederacy and many others. As Professor Emmanuel Kwaku Senah has argued, “national histories do not…

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