Now is the Time for an Official Apology for African Enslavement
- 7:30 pm
24 April 2023
House of Commons TBC Room | Free
House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
On 19 December 2022, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, ushered in a historic turning point, as the Netherlands became the first major European national government to formally apologise for their role in enslaving Africans, as well as a formal commitment to spend over £200 million of government funds and resources toward remembrance and restoration work in the former Dutch enslaved colonies.
Prime Minister Rutte’s apology comes after city governments, including Amsterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht, issued formal apologies for their own legacies and benefits from the system of trafficking and enslavement of African women, men and children.
In 2006, after a statement of apology by the Archbishop of Canterbury which sparked dialogue among church members, and the formal initiation in 2019 of an investigation into its involvement and support of slavery, the Church of England finally on 10 January 2023 committed £100 million over nine years to address past wrongdoing.
In more recent news, members of the Trevelyan family travelled to Grenada in February 2023 to atone for their ancestors’ role and financial gain in the plantation system. Following a heartfelt formal apology on 27 February to the victims themselves and their descendants, family member, BBC Correspondent, Laura Trevelyan has pledged £100,000 in reparations, donated to the University of the West Indies, with the wider family keen to establish a future reparations fund.
Moderated by Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group-Afrikan Reparations (APPG-AR), the meeting, takes stock of this moment of growing debate and movement on the issue, examining the multi-dimensional aspects associated with apologies and reparations, and proposing pathways for future mobilisation and action.
The growing apologies, and instances of reparations are not unique – coming on the heels of longstanding demands from people of African descent over the last 500 years for justice and accountability. AFFORD Institute, in its role providing secretariat services for APPG-AR, is formally launching the African Apology & Reparations Directory at the meeting. Initially previewed on 25 March UN International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Directory will offer a historical and updated record of apologies and reparations that have been made by different bodies, including governments in Europe and Africa, traditional chieftaincy institutions, churches, universities, businesses, as well as individual apologies such as represented by the Trevelyan family. Members of the public will be invited to update the online directory on an ongoing basis.
Professor Verene Shepherd is a world-renowned social historian and advocates for gender justice, racial equality and reparations for European colonialism. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and assumed the post of Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2022. She is also the Director of the Centre for Reparation Research at the University of the West Indies.
John Dower is a director in film, television and interactivity, and a Trustee of the Directors Charitable Foundation. Alongside other members of the Trevelyan family, he recently travelled to Grenada to deliver a public apology for their ancestors’ ownership of more than 1,000 enslaved Africans in the country. In its apology, the family also urged the British Government to enter into negotiations with Caribbean governments to make appropriate reparations through CARICOMs.
Esther Stanford-Xosei is an internationally acclaimed jurisconsult and community advocate specialising in the critical legal praxis of ‘law as resistance’. A renowned reparationist, she engages in movement-building through the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe and the Global Afrikan People’s Parliament. She is also the Principal Executive Director of the Maangamizi Educational Trust and the Director of Soul Law.
Klarke Stricklen is a Truman Scholar and Rhodes Scholar undertaking her MSc in Economic and Social History, at the University of Oxford. She is an outspoken reparations activist and previous research assistant for The Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, as well as the former President of the local NAACP chapter in Sewanee, US19. She is currently working for AFFORD, where she works on the development of the organisation’s African Apology & Reparations Directory.
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Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare