African Remembrance Day took place over 2 days – It was held in partnership with the Windrush Foundation led by Arthur Torrington, and was an important element of the year long “Making Freedom” series of activities and exhibition to mark the 150 anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean. The theme for African Remembrance Day over the 2 days was The ‘Black Family’, focusing on how family relationships had survived slavery and responded to political, social and economic factors in the subsequent years to the present. Both days were held in The Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham North London.
Historian Robin Walker tackled these issues in his keynote speech for the African Remembrance Memorial lecture On 31st July. In front of an audience of 60, he discussed the resilience of the black family when confronted by numerous challenges. He also provided a stunning critique of the official response in the Caribbean, UK, and US, which has attempted to pathologise the black family as dysfunctional and chaotic. A lively Q & A followed, with Walker finally, urging better teaching of black history, and more ownership from black parents and communities in supporting young people in order to consolidate and expand the progress made so far.
The Remembrance Day ceremony opened with Chair Onyekachi Wambu, welcoming 200 people in attendance, followed by opening prayers, drumming and songs leading up to 3 minutes silence at 3.00pm.
The keynote address was given by Councillor Patrick Vernon, owner of the Every Generation website on black and African genealogy and ancestry. He talked about tracing his ancestry and supporting others to do likewise. He also mentioned the options available for using DNA to trace your ancestry to Africa. He reiterated the importance of remembering and celebrating all our ancestors, not just the celebrated ones. Vernon, was followed by Felicity Heywood, a museum curator and journalist, who has been on the trail of some of the oldest African populations in the world – the Batwa of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, many of whom remain as hunter gatherers. Even for the settled Batwa, their plight was pitiful, as many had been marginalised by the African farming and pastoralist communities which surround them and have political and economic power. She urged African here to get involved in speaking up and protecting these vulnerable families and communities.
Following the keynote speeches, there was an open mic reflecting the theme of the day. with poets, drummers and members of the audience speaking to the theme of the day.The Griot Chinyere led the charge with story telling. Several others, poets, singers, drummers and members of the audience, contributed with poems, drumming and songs. Members of the community also contributed with witness testimonials and statements.
The day concluded with the singing of Redemption Song, sharing and partaking of food and drink , socialising and networking. An announcement was also made that the theme of 2014 would be African belief and religion.