Lambeth Council passed a motion earlier this week (15 July) calling on the government to establish a commission to examine the impact of the UK’s involvement in the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans.
The motion also calls for the UK Government to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth and Reparatory Justice to commit the UK Government to atone and make reparations to the descendants of enslaved African people, in accordance with international human rights law. Lambeth Council will also commit to supporting a more inclusive historical curriculum in schools.
Initiated by Green Party councillor Scott Ainslie, the motion is the first of its kind to be passed by a local authority. Green councillors in Bristol and Islington have also highlighted the issue in what is expected to become a national campaign.
Ainslie, who worked with the social movement Stop the Maangamizi campaign and the ruling Labour group on Lambeth Council to ensure the motion would pass, said it was vital the government took seriously the impact slavery has had on current racial inequalities in the UK.
He said: “This is an historic motion, and long overdue. The repercussions of hundreds of years of slavery are still all too visible in the inequalities and prejudice which exist in our society today.
“I was delighted that we were able to work together and cross party on this important motion calling on the national government to act. I hope other councils throughout England and the devolved administrations will follow this lead, so we can begin to rid this country from the shameful legacy of its colonial past.”
The motion draws direct links between the legacy of slavery and current issues of racial discrimination, stating: “The legacy of slavery is responsible for ingraining racial inequality within Western society, that manifests itself both in overt acts of violent racism, such as the death of George Floyd at the hands of American police, Black deaths in police, prison, psychiatric custody and immigration detention in the UK, or in institutional failings to provide sufficient support and care for Black communities, such as the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black people in the UK.”
Commenting on the motion, Greens of Colour chairperson Azzees Minott said: “Black people have had to work hard to contribute, be great leaders, curators and innovators in spite of the unequal conditions we have had to deal with for centuries. I'm glad that the Green Party has worked with campaigners to lead the way and address the social injustices that Black people have had to live with for far too long. This motion is the start of something new and it is really exciting.”
Earlier this month, Cleo Lake submitted a similar motion to Bristol City Council, demanding the council to respond to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police in the US, and take action to provide holistic reparatory justice. Backed by Bristol-based lobby groups, such as the Afrikan Connexions Consortium and the Stop the Maangamizi campaign, Lake called on the council to lobby the government for “an acknowledgement by the British state that what happened was wrong” and “a formal apology”.