Monday, 23 January 2012

TAOBQ Press Release: Attendees Affirm We Are African


Immediate Release

From being called Africans, Negroes, Moors, Blackamoores, Coloureds, Blacks, attendees at the first TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) event declare: “We Are African”

At the first TAOBQ (The African Or Black Question) event held last Friday (Jan. 20), a motion moved by Southwark Cllr Martin Seaton asking the attendees to affirm they were African was carried unopposed.

This comes at a time when the issue of racism, racial identity and terms like “black community” have been in the media spotlight due to the recent court case regarding the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and Diane Abbott’s tweet controversy, which started with someone questioning the blanket expression “black community”.

The TAOBQ is a year-long campaign which focuses on three key points: People of African heritage to be referred to as African, or British African rather than black; African history to be made accessible and mainstreamed; and Africans without African names to consider adopting African names for easy recognition of their race/ethnicity.

The TAOBQ event, which consisted of the screening of ‘The African Or Black Question’, a guerrilla film examining the African racial identity by TAOBQ campaign co-ordinator Kwaku, and a discussion entitled ‘You Are African’, took place at Westminster City Hall.

The documentary film, which features randomly chosen subjects, including some well known figures such as former Brent South MP and junior minister Dawn Butler, defence lawyer Courtney Griffiths QC, political activist Lee Jasper, community activist Toyin Agbetu, and historians Dr Kimani Nehusi and Dr Lez Henry, examines not just racial identity. Each contributor also opines about the United Nation’s declaration of 2011 as the International Year For People Of African Descent, which passed by many unnoticed.

The well attended event facilitated by Kwaku, included Butler, Agbetu, Southwark Cllr Michael Situ, veteran community activists Eric and Jessica Huntley, NUS Black Students’ Officer Kanja Sesay, pan-Africanist journalist Mandingo, verteran photographer James Barnor, and Windrush Society founder Arthur Torrington CBE.

In a small way, this event links back to another meeting in which Africans convened in London to take charge of their identity and destiny – the 1900 Pan-African Conference, which took place at the nearby Westminster Town Hall (now Caxton Hall).

“Last year, I had to present a programme at Westminster City Hall marking August 23, which British institutions call Slavery Memorial Day, but which conscious Africans call the International Day Of African Resistance Against Enslavement on account of the UN having chosen that date because it was the start of the Haitian Revolution,” says Kwaku.

“A day or two before that event, I thought I’d film a documentary focused on asking Africans in London their thoughts on the UN initiative, and their views on whether they preferred to be called African or black?

“We’d planned on having a number of events discussing the African or black identity issue. But since Cllr Seaton, without prompting from us, brought forward the issue, which was carried unopposed, we’ve decided to move to the next stage. This includes workshops to examine what it means to be a global African. We expect to have some concrete outcomes from these workshops, to help move forward the African communities in Britain.”



High resolution photos available upon request

TAOBQ background resources”

1.           TAOBQ campaign issues must be raised both within the African and host communities, particularly within the media, statutory, community and educational organisations.

2.           TAOBQ is meant to be a year-long campaign, ending December 2012, by which time it is hoped that the recommendations would have started a consciousness and debate in and outside the African communities in Britain.

3.           During the campaign period, TAOBQ will continue to engage using on and offline opportunities to highlight the core issues. Updates will be posted on, and social networks such as FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube – follow us by searching on TAOBQ.

4.           Whilst we reject “black” as a race/ethnicity descriptor, we are not against “black” as a singular, unifying political descriptor

5.           The first offline event was January 20 2012 – we expect to do more events in 2012, and potential partners and media outlets are welcome to get in touch.

6.            We also want to use the medium of theatre to discuss the issues – so if you are a drama or theatre company, we are looking for a partner to produce a play based on a completed script.

7.           If we are unable to go the whole hog, like actor/playwright Kwame Kwei Armah (formerly Ian Roberts), having just one African name can make the same point. Despite the opportunities offered by DNA in tracing one’s genealogy, one does not necessarily need to go through the expense of tracing lineage to a particular area in Africa in order to find a name. If one accepts that one is African, then with the help of books or online searches, one can choose an African name one likes. An easy start may be to investigate the day names given based on day of birth in Ghana.

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