News From Around The World … London’s Black History


News From Around The World

Here are some recent stories from Ghana, Uganda, Botswana, China, Japan, Spain and Holland:

Ghana Church Leaders Intensify Pressure on Parliament to Pass Anti-Gay Bill

BBC (Pidgin English version) – Dis move dey follow from recent calls by some academics and lawyers who start dey criticize de anti-LGBTQ Bill. Pentecost, Anglican Church state dema position. House of Bishops of de Anglican Church inside statement dem release say “aside Christianity, de Ghanaian tradition and culture no dey allow such act.” Apart from de Anglican Church, Christian groups like de Pentecost Church of Ghana also register dema displeasure over de recent calls for rejection of anti-gay bill. 

Uganda Recognises Its First Transgender Citizen, Cleopatra Kambugu

Cleopatra Kambugu

Star Observer – Cleopatra Kambugu, a Ugandan activist who advocates for sexual and gender minorities, has made history as the first transgender person in Uganda to have their new gender recognised by the government. Kambugu has received her new passport and government-issued photo ID card, which identifies her as female. The process of getting official ID recognising her as female was a “difficult” and “intrusive” process, and is a milestone for the African nation, where the LGBT+ community is heavily maligned and marginalised. “Everything my country does is surprising.”

Botswana Appeals Ruling Allowing Gay Sex, Court Delays Judgement

Reuters – Botswanan judges postponed ruling on a case in which the government is seeking to overturn a 2019 ruling that decriminalised gay sex, saying the matter needed more research and debate. The case was initially brought by a university student, Letsweletse Motshidiemang, whose representatives argued then that the government should do away with the law in light of a changed society where homosexuality was more widely accepted. Gay sex has been punishable by up to seven years in prison. Representing the state, Sydney Pilane told the Court of Appeal there was no evidence that people’s attitudes had changed.

China’s LGBT Community Caught Up In Xi Jinping’s Widening Crackdowns on Big Tech, Education and Celebrities 

South China Morning Post – On 13 August, the organisers of Shanghai’s long-running LGBT pride festival abruptly announced the event was being cancelled indefinitely without explanation. The news came as a shock to many as the event had run successfully, albeit quietly, for eleven years. In a brief statement on its website titled “the end of the rainbow” the organisation said: “ShanghaiPRIDE regrets to announce that we are cancelling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events. We love our community, and we are grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together.” 

Trans Man Fights Japan’s Sterilisation Requirement

Human Rights Watch – A Japanese transgender man, Gen Suzuki, 46, has filed a court request to have his legal gender recognised as male without undergoing sterilisation surgery as prescribed by national law. His case highlights the urgent need for Japan to revise its outdated and harmful transgender legislation. In Japan, transgender people who want to legally change their gender must appeal to a family court. Under the “Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act,” applicants must undergo a psychiatric evaluation and be surgically sterilised. They also must be single and without children younger than 20. 

Outrage After Gay Woman Diagnosed at Spanish Hospital With ‘Homosexuality’ 

Yucatan Times – A family and an LGBT+ collective in south-east Spain are demanding answers and an apology after a 19-year-old lesbian woman who visited a gynaecologist over a menstrual condition was diagnosed with “homosexuality”. On Monday the woman went to an appointment at the Reina Sofía hospital in the city of Murcia. After being examined she was given a piece of paper that included the line: “Current illness: homosexual.”

Dutch Crown Princess Could Marry Woman and Be Queen 

Dutch Princess

BBC – Caretaker Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has made clear any king or queen could also marry a person of the same sex. The heir to the Dutch throne, Princess Amalia, turns 18 in December. Mr Rutte said it was all about “theoretical situations” but the next queen could marry a woman. “Therefore the cabinet does not see that an heir to the throne or the king should abdicate if he or she would like to marry a partner of the same sex,” he explained in a response to a written question in parliament from his own party.

London’s Black History and Black History Month event online

The book “Black London: History, Art & Culture in over 120 places” highlights the plaques and art that celebrate a neglected side of the capital’s culture.

A mural entitled ‘Hip-hop raised me’ in Dalston, east London. Photograph: Andy Hall / The Observer

She’s 10ft tall, barefoot, with a simple wrap dress stretching across her breasts and belly. She holds aloft an infant, gazing into its eyes. This is Bronze Woman, a statue on a busy traffic junction in Stockwell, south London. Unveiled in 2008, it was then the first public statue of a black mother and child on permanent display in England.

“I used to pass by but never knew what it was for many years. One day I found myself in front of it and I was truly blown away,” said Avril Nanton, who runs walking tours of London’s black history.

“I can see this woman being a member of my family. She represents Caribbean women’s contribution to British society. The baby will grow up as British, and it too will make its contribution to UK society. This is the link that has continued for black mothers for many generations.”

Bronze Woman is one of more than 120 monuments, plaques, murals, statues and artworks in a new pocket-size guidebook, Black London, compiled by Nanton and her co-author Jody Burton.

The oldest entry is Cleopatra’s Needle, an obelisk carved in Egypt more than 3,500 years ago and shipped to London in 1878 to be placed on the Embankment. Among the newest is the giant Black Lives Matter mural in Woolwich, south-east London, created last year in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Some relate to famous people and well-known events: a mural of Michelle Obama in Brixton; a plaque to footballer Rio Ferdinand in Peckham; a Windrush memorial in Tottenham; the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square.

But many highlight less well-known figures and events in black history. Khadambi Asalache was a civil servant and poet who came from Kenya to London in 1960. Over almost two decades, he transformed the interior of a modest terraced house in Wandsworth into a work of art, with intricate hand-carved fretwork, wall paintings and a collection of unusual objects. It is now a National Trust property.

Bronze Woman in Stockwell, London, depicting a woman of African descent, was erected in 2008. Photograph: Andy Hall / The Observer

In Hornsey, north London, there is a plaque to Emma Clarke, a female footballer described in a 19th-century newspaper as “the fleet footed dark girl on the right wing”. In 1897, Clarke played in a team called “The New Woman and Ten of Her Lady Friends” against a male team known as “The Eleven Gentlemen”. The women won 3-1.

A plaque at Euston station commemorates Asquith Xavier, who arrived in the UK as part of the postwar Windrush generation to work as a station porter. In 1966, he applied to be a train guard at Euston but was told in a rejection letter that the station did not employ “coloured” men. He successfully challenged the policy, taking his case to Barbara Castle, then Labour’s transport minister. More than half a century later, Network Rail paid tribute to the “first black worker employed as a train guard” in the UK.

A 16th-century artwork, the Westminster Tournament Roll, depicts John Blanke, a “blacke trumpeter” at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. The roll was commissioned by Henry VIII to commemorate a two-day tournament to celebrate the birth of his short-lived son with Catherine of Aragon. The work – the earliest identifiable representation of a black person in British history – is held at the College of Arms and is too fragile to be viewed, but a plaque to Blanke at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich was unveiled in 2017.

Many of the sites in the book featured in walking tours conducted by Nanton, who came to London from Dominica in 1965. She also teaches black history courses with the historian and author Robin Walker. Since Floyd’s murder, she has been inundated with non-black people wanting to attend her online walks, talks and courses, “eager to learn”.

The interest sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement was an opportunity to educate the public about the long history of black people in the UK, and help them discover and celebrate individuals and stories missing from mainstream guides and history books.

Co-author Burton, who worked in adult education before switching to a career in libraries, said the aim of the guide was to stir interest, start conversations and make black history easily accessible. She hoped it would appeal to parents looking for activities they could do with children.

The book contains maps, photographs and a timeline of black history, which went through a painful edit to bring it down from about 75 pages to 11. It also includes a potted history of the HMT Empire Windrush, from its early incarnation as a German cruise ship to its sinking while sailing from Hong Kong to Britain in 1954.

One of Burton’s favourite sites – “although it’s like trying to choose a favourite child” – is the battle of Lewisham mural in south London, which commemorates a community anti-racist protest against a National Front march in the area in August 1977 that resulted in clashes. “My mother attended the counter-demonstration at Ladywell Fields – and unknown to her, two of my older sisters also joined the protesters,” she said. “It was the first time the NF was prevented from reaching their destination. I took part in one of the community art workshops that helped create the mural. It’s really personal to me.”

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