09-12-2014

Enriching Public Discourse – Empowering African People

Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman

Project Summary

‘We do not see reparations as the answer. Instead, we should concentrate on identifying ways forward, with a focus on the shared global challenges that face our countries in the 21st century’.

This is our Coalition Government’s position. No argument is offered to support the conclusion our Government has already reached, behind closed doors. There is no debate.

‘Why do we want it? Why do we need it? Well we need it because people are still suffering today as a result of enslavement and colonisation. Racial discrimination grew out of them. As a matter of fact, racial discrimination came about in order for them to justify enslavement and colonisation’.

This is the argument that Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham, made, when, in 1993, in response to the Abuja Proclamation, he set up the African Reparations Movement (UK).

UCL is collaborating with the African Reparations Transnational Community of Practice —academics are collaborating with activists—to enrich our public discourse, with explicit discussion of arguments, in favour of repairing the wrong of European enslavement, European colonisation, and European neo-colonisation of African and diasporic African peoples.

Academics produce knowledge—at least, this is what we’re told. Yet, academics in Europe have failed to produce knowledge to explain why and how Europe should repair this European wrong. It is as a result of this failure that public opinion and political representatives are against repairing this wrong.

Activists, by contrast, have long been producing knowledge to explain why and how Europe should repair this European wrong. However, these activists face at least three challenges, each of which our project aims to tackle.

First, activists have focused on developing legal and jurisprudential arguments, both of which have proved difficult to win. By bringing them into conversation with political philosophers, we aim to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and skills, that both activists and academics can use, to change the very terms of the debate.

Second, the diasporic African community in Europe is largely unaware of the knowledge these activists have produced. By equipping this community with a ‘reparations toolkit’, we aim to empower them to advance the grassroots-led International Social Movement for African Reparations.

Third, academics in Europe have failed to take seriously the knowledge produced by activists in Europe. By showing them that arguments developed in collaboration with activists are much more powerful, we aim to foster an enthusiasm, among academics, for co-producing knowledge with activists in the future.

On Sunday 12th October 2014—the International Day for Reparations Related to Colonisation—we will bring together, at the Black Cultural Archives, activists and academics, to co-produce arguments that respond to the concerns and motivations of diasporic African peoples in London and that explicitly tie these concerns and motivations to repairing the wrong of European enslavement, European colonisation, and European neo-colonisation of African and diasporic African peoples.

This event is also generously supported by the UCL Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC)

On Wednesday 8th April 2015—15 years to the day Bernie died and at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre —by equipping them, with the arguments that the activists and academics have co-produced, we will empower diasporic African peoples, to enrich public discourse, during the first year of the UN International Decade for People of African Decent and the campaign for the UK’s general election.

If you would like to take part in co-producing these arguments, please send a one-minute-long, or one-page-long, clip, podcast, or blogposting, to uctynat@ucl.ac.uk, by Saturday 23rd August 2014—the UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of “Slave Trade” and of its Abolition, which commemorates the self-empowerment and self-emancipation of the diasporic African people of Haiti.

 

This article first appeared on the main UCL website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/european-institute/research/grants/2013-14/reparation

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