Just a couple of weeks ago The Sparrows’ Nest library and archive here in Nottingham was contacted by a volunteer working for archive.org (a long-standing ‘all of the web’ archive which is also known as the Wayback Machine) to create a mirror of our material.
Nottingham Black Lives Matter are doing an excellent job of countering institutional and structural racism with the Forest demo and march through Radford towards the city centre on Sunday afternoon. It should be remembered though that in 2016 the Highways Act was shamefully used to convict 4 BLM activists in Nottingham after a lock-on to tram lines outside the Theatre Royal (they were ordered to pay £155 each in court costs). Back then, the August 2016 day of action across the UK coincided with the fifth anniversary of the police shooting of Mark Duggan, which had led to the summer 2011 riots – which, by the way, were dealt with by an all-night court initiative of the then Director of Public Prosecutions but now Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer!
So it’s not very long ago that local and national authorities prosecuted people taking necessary direct action against racist killings. Hopefully they will find it a lot harder to do so in the future as the movement grows larger and stronger. This said, Nottingham Post reported on Tuesday that cops were looking at video footage to try and identify someone responsible for the minor graffiti (spraying of Black Lives Matter) on the Council House at the end of the demo, even though other BLM activists chose to clean it off later while local policitians, council and police alike had been falling over themselves to support the demonstration or commend the protesters. As this was on council property presumably the same figures could decide to drop this attempt to criminalise protest. We’ll need to see what happens and take support action if anyone is arrested.
During a time where self-education about Black history is as important as ever, it’s long overdue to revisit the legacy of plantation slavery in the Midlands, something that was all but hidden when we posed some questions in 2007 during the slave-trade abolition bicentenary. The short piece Nottingham and Slavery – A Hidden History (The Nottingham Sparrow | 16.03.2007), which is archived by Nottingham Indymedia, highlighted slave ownership and Caribbean plantation inheritance linked to the well-known family name Mellish in our region.
Since then, some academic and community effort has resulted in workshops that put a spotlight on slave owners in the region and a series of blogs and videos were published from the Slave Trade Legacies project which ran in Nottingham during 2014 and 2015. The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies Group (NSTL) explored the extent to which heritage attractions acknowledged their links to the transatlantic slave trade or not. As recounted in a 2015 workshop, when members of the Slave Trade Legacies group visited Nottingham City Council run Newstead Abbey they saw no mention of previous 19th century Jamaican plantation-owner Thomas Wildman having spent £100,000 of the plantation’s profits restoring the house after buying it from Lord Byron. After enquiring about this omission they received a response from the site saying that because Wildman never visited Jamaica these links links with slavery and the slave trade were not important. The group subsequently co-created the video Blood Sugar based on a poem by Michelle Mother Hubbard in association with the Abbey, made by Shawn Sobers.
It seems a lot more could still be done to highlight the history of slavery in the East Midlands in the local media rather than banging on about whether people will get back to shopping in the city centre next week.
Due to the pandemic the Anarchist Federation decided not to print an issue of Organise! but we are publishing one online instead. The current special issue contains articles by AF, member federations of our International, and others.