In these troubled times, where we are witnessing first-hand the ravages that the afterlives of colonialism and slavery continue to wreak upon society, the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR) would like to send a message of solidarity and support to all of our members, as well as those on our mailing list and beyond. We hope you are well and safe.
While INOSAAR’s founding and mission have focused on the movement for reparations for Afrikan enslavement, genocide and colonization, and the subsequent enduring injustice and deformation of Afrikan identity that arose from this, we go on record as condemning the ongoing police murders and other injustices committed daily against Black peoples in the United States and worldwide. We recognize and affirm that these violations of human life and human rights are not new, but are part of a pattern of oppression and abuse extending from legalised chattel slavery to convict-leasing, from Jim Crow segregation, unequal education and inferior health care. We are appalled by the contemporary spate of murders by those empowered to uphold the law. We stand in solidarity with those in the USA and around the world who are calling for immediate legal redress and we reaffirm with Dr. M.L. King, Jr that justice too long delayed is justice denied.
As solidarity protests for George Floyd proliferate in certain parts of the world, INOSAAR members based here in the UK are drawing parallels with the protests in the US through amplification of the cry that “UK and other European Powers are Not Innocent”. Likewise, attention is being drawn to the fact that the hate crimes of Afriphobic and Anti-Black racism are not occurrences only in the Minority World of the Global North, but indeed occur massively in the Majority World of the Global South. Examples of such Global Apartheid racist crimes of hatred are not confined to police brutality, but also extend to wars of conquest and regime change that the United States, Britain, France and other NATO powers perpetrate in their quest for resources and other extractivist plunder; resulting in the worsening climate and ecological crisis that wreak the havoc of genocide and ecocide against which some of us in INOSAAR are actively engaged in various forms of rebellion including, decolonisational educational repairs.
That is why amongst the most important tasks that we would like all within and outside of INOSAAR to join us in advancing is organising and harmonising our efforts better to ensure that we can stop the harms that continue to occur and bring into being the holistic repairs that are needed now more than ever. It is in this spirit that we write to you with news of our recent activity.
First and foremost, we have finalised and submitted a new Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant to their Follow-On Funding pathway. If successful, it will enable us to put into action some of the recommendations that emerged during the meetings that were held in the UK and West Afrika with activist organisations and researchers as part of the former AHRC networking project (2017-19) linked to the UN International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD, 2015-24) [Reparations for Slavery: From Theory to Praxis, AH/P007074/1]. These recommendations can be found in our Global Report (September 2019).
Organized in collaboration with the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (UK) and the Association Panafricaine pour une réparation globale de l'esclavage (Benin), these meetings led to the creation of the INOSAAR and to a more holistic understanding of the meaning of reparation and reparative justice from Afrikan community perspectives. This included finding creative ways of healing the longstanding legacies of Afrikan enslavement, including cultural loss and environmental degradation, and highlighting the lack of research into models of reparation that engage with cultural, spiritual and environmental forms of repair. As we noted in our Report, many existing models favour top-down, state-led approaches that rely on international law courts and monetary repayment; whereas we identified the equal importance of grassroots, community-led initiatives that are focused on repairing the loss of Afrikan culture and spirituality, and the links between cultural/spiritual repair and the environment. These two interconnected areas form the basis for our bid to the AHRC. The first relates to the processes by which the descendants of those who were forcibly displaced from Africa are able to re-establish their cultural and spiritual links to the Afrikan continent; a process known as 'rematriation'. The second relates the ways in which struggles for reparative justice are underpinned by the need for 'Planet Repairs' and the role that Afrikan culture and knowledge can play in contributing to ecological and reparative social movements more broadly.
In response, we identified a three-phase project with specific aims and objectives:
- Phase 1. To create a high-quality video-documentary in Benin on cultural loss and the reconnection of Afrikan descendants to the continent with unprecedented access to Beninese cultural and spiritual sites;
- Phase 2. To expand Afrikan youth participation in reparations activism through a training workshop in Ghana focused on Planet and cultural repairs, including professional training in communications and video-making;
- Phase 3. To develop links to traditional Afrikan leaders in Ghana (building from our existing connections in Benin) through a workshop looking at rematriation and Planet Repairs, and the importance of policymaking that facilitates these processes.
Each phase aims to raise awareness and deepen our understanding of reparation as linked to cultural, spiritual and Planet Repair, while contributing to the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR). Working closely with Afrikan community and activist groups in Ghana, Benin and the UK, while using the experience of our existing network, this funding will enable us and our partners to expand the benefits of our network to larger numbers of interested communities. The video-documentary will promote the importance of cultural and spiritual rematriation, showing this to be an integral part of achieving reparation for Afrikan and Afrikan descended communities. The youth workshop will provide training in video-making and communication skills to build links and solidarity with the ISMAR and global climate change movements, such as Extinction Rebellion. The workshop with the Ghanaian paramount chiefs will act as a pilot to feed into public policy on Afrikan rematriation and Planet Repairs through traditional leadership structures. Together, these activities will make a positive contribution to the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (UNIDPAD) by promoting the importance of Afrikan heritage and culture to global movements for reparative and environmental justice that are so urgently needed today.
Second, we can report that the University of Edinburgh, where we held our first international colloquium on reparations in 2015, has officially signed up to the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium (USSC). The USSC is a network of universities that allows ‘participating institutions to work together as they address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities, as well as the complicated legacies of slavery’ in society today. USSC members often work to uncover their institutions’ historical links to Afrikan enslavement and achieve official recognition of those facts, as well as to think through the need for reparative justice and reparation. In Edinburgh, our INOSAAR work and our ‘Principles of Participation’ have been recognized as playing an active part in encouraging the institution to sign up to the USSC, and we will continue to urge them to adopt formally our Principles as the basis for future consultation with internal and external communities of reparations interest. Discussions on this matter are due to commence shortly and we will keep you updated.
In peace and solidarity
Photo by Judy Sutel