Kunga Dred Talks to Esther Stanford-Xosei Founder Member of PARCOE (Pan-African Reparation Coalition in Europe)

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The British Blacklist is a year young and is rightly proud of its achievements. A unique platform where the Black art form is celebrated, critiqued and promoted against a media landscape which has often chosen to ridicule, ignore or misrepresent us.
We are here because they were there and whilst our journeys did not begin with the enslavement of African people we should never forget that this seminal part of our shared history has been fundamental in how we navigate the world as we live it today.

On the 11th hour on the11th day of the 11 month Briton annually honours its war dead with the world looking on in reverence to the former empire. Soldiers from the Commonwealth who also fought and died had for decades been omitted from the history books but after years of campaigning, the large stone pillars (Memorial Gates) at Constitution Hill were hurriedly erected and unveiled in 2002 to belatedly commemorate those soldiers from Africa the Caribbean and Asia who died in world wars I and II. The wearing of the poppy and the observance of a two minute silence causes some debate and some disdain as many of us feel a disconnect with the media images of a royal family to whom we bare no resemblance. But the imperialists do not forget their own and neither should we.

Africans who fought so valiantly to protect their liberty and families. Africans who died at the bottom of ships and the bottom of seas.
Africans who died in hostile lands at the hands of a hostile people. These Ancestors have provided the foundation and cornerstone of our very existence but receive no bell chime or any universal head bowed acknowledgement.

So as we graciously applaud the achievements of those of us who continue to fulfil their creative dreams we must also pay respects to those who continue to fight on behalf of the voiceless both past and present in the pursuit of truth, rights and justice.

Esther Stanford-Xosei

Esther Stanford-Xosei

Esther Stanford-Xosei is a woman who is the embodiment of Yaa Asantewaa, Nanny of the Maroons, Harriet Tubman and all those brave and committed people who have worked for the emancipation of their community before self-interest.

A woman who has dedicated much of her adult life to ensure that those countries that have benefited from the enslavement of Africans are held accountable for the largest act of genocide in human history.

Stanford-Xosei is a trained lawyer and is a founder member of PARCOE (Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe). She is a Jurisconsult, which is a specialist in applied jurisprudence; the science, philosophy and study of law. She has travelled all over the world in her attempt to get justice for the past and present day atrocities caused as a direct result of the enslavement of millions of African people by the West.

The acclaimed Reparationist sees the continued destabilization of the continent of Africa and dismantling of the sovereignty of the peoples of Africa and their victimization and continued dehumanization globally as a bi-product of African enslavement and colonisation and she has made it her life’s work to right these wrongs as she continues to fight for Reparations.

How did you get involved in the Reparations movement?
I wanted to be a history maker and that’s why I studied law. Two ways in which we can change the world is through law and education.
I knew from a young age I wanted to study law in order to make things better for my community. I studied at the Bar and trained within the offices of the Society of Black Lawyers. I became interested in reparations after going to the USA in 2001 for a historic reparations conference and noticed there were no African’s from the U.K on the panel. I highlighted this to the organisers and was later invited to speak despite my limited experience; my passion came across and my journey began.

Who were your mentors within the reparations movement?
A leading legal mentor for me is my fellow Jurisconsult veteran reparations activist Kofi Mawuli Klu and Queen Mother Dorothy Benton-Lewis co founder of N’COBRA, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, now passed. She took up the mantle from the great Reparationist and freedom fighter Queen Mother Audley Moore. Dorothy was a great supporter of me as a younger woman activist and someone who wanted to get more involved with the global African reparations movement. Also Leo Muhammed of the Nation of Islam who taught me about the importance of health both spiritually and mentally on this path of liberation.

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What is the meaning and intention behind ‘Reparation’?
Reparations means to repair the harm, restore, transform a people or a group who have been disposed and lost status and standing in the world community as a result of historical and contemporary injustice. To put a figure on it is banal. Some have put the cost at trillions but we are still accounting for the damage done and losses suffered but how do you account for the loss of land, destruction of our environment loss of citizenship, heritage, wealth and self worth? We need to do a comprehensive assessment as to what happened. If we go straight to quantifying money we will lose the potential of reparations to truly transform our reality and the world. Our institutions are not strong enough yet so whatever money we get we will give it straight back to them due to our current patterns of over consumption of goods and dependency on non-African products and services. What is a bag of money when others control your currency? We were powerful before the invention of money. The fundamental part is what we have to do for self. If we do for self they will come running to give us financial reparations. But we have to say enough is enough! We have to start trading amongst ourselves we have to start working and building together and loving each other and ourselves. Like John Henrik Clarke says
“Powerful people will not educate the powerless to take the power from them”

How has your role been received by your family and peers?
Needless to say it has been difficult. Not coming from a family of activists. Whilst my mother was supportive, many family members wondered why as a highly educated professional I did not have the plush office, big house, family and corresponding career recognition instead speaking for a community that appeared disinterested. I must say it’s much better now as reparations are becoming more topical and mainstream.

So who is harder to convince. White Governments or Black people?
I came up against hostility from certain members within the community, which I now see as part of the struggle. A female who was pushed into the limelight of the global reparations movement ruffled some feathers of the older members and those who felt they were being overlooked and these times were some of my most difficult.
In terms of Governments. We have to realise people have disappeared and many people have died for championing reparations. Reparations are no joke.

Were you involved in the 14 Caribbean countries asking for reparations?
We were not approached. But we maintain scrutiny and ‘critically’ support the initiative from a pro-reparation stance and will assist them in their efforts, as this is a complex, multi-layered strategy and struggle. We in PARCOE sent an open letter the Caribbean Heads of Government highlighting areas we feel the CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market)should consider in ensuring that real reparations occur.

Do you feel the CARICOM countries are prepared for the fight?
They have sought the advice from the law firm Leigh Day & Co. instead of drawing upon the expertise of African law firms, which contradicts the basis of self-determination.
This strategy may well have been due to Leigh Days role in securing the recent Mau Mau negotiated settlement. However, the payouts received have divided the communities. The £2,600 paid to the 5228 Kenyan victims of torture set against the £6,000,000 charged by Leigh Day in legal costs means that the European law firm is the biggest single beneficiary of the ruling. Many of these Africans were raped some were castrated! Many still do not have land or true freedom so how can this small payout be considered a victory?

How is the reparations movement viewed in Africa?
The Reparations movement started from the time the first African left Africa. The movement has never stopped. Nigeria took an initiative at the Abuja conference in 1993. Reparations were on the agenda, pushed largely by the Nigerian billionaire Chief Moshood Abiola but he was killed in 1998. However, the elites invariably discuss Reparations from a top down approach. In actuality, the demand for Reparations has always come from the grassroots, from those people who have often been trod on by the elites. However the elites are the ones that often are the ones that get seen as the leaders. To cite Dr Walter Rodney (political activist, writer assassinated June 1980), few leaders really wish to ‘ground’ with their people. Few would really want to truly live amongst their people and the AU (African Union) continues to receive 60% of its income from the EU (European Union). We have to learn from Africa’s struggle for independence. The fact that the institutions of colonialism have been kept in place has hindered Africa’s restoration and recovery. We should not make the same mistake, as the next generation will not thank us.

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What is your answer to those who say that Africans were complicit in the selling of other Africans and therefore the Reparations argument is a flawed one?
Every oppressed group has had collaborators but you do not indict a whole people because of the role of a few collaborators. These distortions of history deny that many Africans were compelled to engage in what Europeans considered to be an enterprise and that was initiated, sanctioned and controlled by the European ruling classes including members of the Royal families of Europe, the social and political elites, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England as well as European corporations. As the saying by Afrikan abolitionist Ottobah Cugoano goes, “if there were no buyers there would be no sellers”. In addition, we have to also question European historiographical interpretations of what went on and stop relying on European interpretations and distortions of our history.

What must the movement do to capture the hearts and minds of the wider African community?
We have a long way to go. I’m being’ real here! We need to bring back a Black Power including a Black is Beautiful campaign like in the 50’s and 60’s where we saw our people fighting for self-determination. We need to engage with the conscious media to show our people there is another way. We are making links with conscious and artistic community. We want to make the reparations movement desirable and attractive. Reclaiming the fist, the natural self by reclaiming our own style aesthetic, engage more with our own conscious and artistic communities. Because there is a different type of slavery today and the black image is under attack so we need to develop new strategies. We have to battle against this forced assimilation and its resultant cultural genocide.

What do you say to those who say get over it, get a proper job?
How can I get over it? Look around. Look at many Black families, the struggle to keep our Black families together. Many of us are feeling the squeeze, cuts in benefits, what’s going on with our children, youth unemployment, over-representation in prisons and psychiatric institutions.
I would say look at the statistics of what is happening to us as a group of people. If this were happening within the White community they would declare a state of emergency! I would show the link between the impoverishment and underdevelopment of Africa and the Caribbean. I would point out that we are a people who come from a continent of plenty that continues to feed the world so why are we still living such a low existence? I would tell them that the British Prime Minister’s own family benefited from slavery and educate them that wealth is intergenerational as poverty is intergenerational. I would show them how everything that is around us today is connected to the enslavement of African people. I would tell them that I cannot stay silent while the robbers, both historical and contemporary continue to loot us and deprive us of our rightful inheritance!! As for getting a proper job what better can one do than to dedicate one’s life to a cause greater than oneself?

You are also finding time to write a book…
My book is called ‘Taking Back Our World’. I didn’t lose a paycheque. I didn’t even lose a few thousand or a million pounds. Our people and I lost a whole world! We lost our place and sense of ‘being’ in the world. The book will be a personal and political documentation of my Reparations journey offering prescriptions for how we can transcend multigenerational trauma and victimisation by reclaiming our agency and place in the world; thereby providing a vision and roadmap to bringing into existence the post reparations world order.

What will your Legacy be?
(Reflective pause) I want to be remembered as somebody who made her contribution to this great movement for Reparations I want my family members to know why I dedicated my life to this path. I want my legacy to be largely one of education. And that I wanted to be a part of the healing of our people. And I want to say to my ancestors. I did what I came to do. You were maligned in history but I remembered you and helped to tell your story honour your legacy and I hope I made you proud!

This extract from a 2 hour discussion and interview regarding the Reparations movement with Esther Stanford-Oxseih 11/10/2013.

 

interview for the british blacklist by Orville Kunga aka @kungadred arts ã2013

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    I found my way here having seen Esther on “The Big Question”, on BBC1.

    You interviewee describes the slave trade as one which “initiated, sanctioned and controlled by the European ruling classes including members of the Royal families of Europe, the social and political elites, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England as well as European corporations.”

    I’m puzzled that no reference is made to the trade in African slaves that was organised for the benefit of the Islamic nations, and which predated the trans-Atlantic trade by many centuries, and so surely cannot have been initiated by the European ruling classes. The Islamic slave trade lasted approximately 4 times as long as the trans-Atlantic trade, and the victims of this trade numbered many more than victims of the trans-Atlantic trade. Why is there no reference to this? Is there a movement demanding reparations from Muslim nations?

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