THE CULTURE CORNER

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“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.”

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887 – 1940)

Every year in October we celebrate BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Black history is with us every second, minute, hour, week, month and year. PANTHER NEWSLETTER’S CULTURE CORNER will attempt to enlighten you with what they never told you in your history class. Our story will be told right here – So enjoy the journey of clarification.

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Blacks in Britain (Part Two)

Not widely known – But true…

Between 1562 – 1563, Sir John Hawkins, an “unscrupulous adventurer,” purchased 300 Africans from the coast of Guinea, and sold them at Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic), thus beginning England’s foray into the slave trade.

In the 1570’s, Afican slaves came to England in the capacities of servants for households, prostitutes to the wealthy, and as entertainers at court.

In 1596, Queen Elizabeth I, who found blacks at court entertaining yet was disturbed by their presence throughout the realm, issued what would be the first of two commandments, (the second was issued in 1601) that ordered English slaveholders to “have those kinde of people sent out the lande.”  Historians speculate that England’s limited food supply and the Queen’s own religious intolerance led her to demand the expulsion of blacks.

In 1641, Frances, a “Blackymore maide” servant who joined a church, became the first recorded person of African heritage in Bristol.  In 1677 Ann Atkins, another Bristol black, would join the church and die 18 years later; and in 1687, Dinah Black would be involved in a court case, where her mistress tried to force her into plantation slavery. Dinah was prevented from being shipped abroard and, when her mistress refused to take her back, the court decided she was free to make her own living. At the time of Dinah’s case, English law was unclear on whether slaves could be compelled into plantation slavery against their will.

Between 1650 to 1800, sugar, needed to sweeten the newly-created and insatiable English appetite for tea, chocolate and coffee dramatically increased the number of African slaves in Britain.  Absentee plantation “sugar barons” brought slaves as household servants. Officers from slave ships were allowed “a few ‘privilege Negroes’ from each cargo as perks,” and later sold the Africans for profit to wealthy English in the West Indies or were brought and sold in England, or were passed on to descendants. Government officials, naval and army captains, and merchant ship officers also purchased African and Asian slaves and brought them back to England. In much smaller numbers, Africans came to Britain as free sailors, recruited to replace white English sailors who had died while at sea. Slavery brought the bulk of blacks to Britain, however, and the slave trade became, for the next 150 years, the driving force behind Britain’s Triangular Trade economy, and may have also fueled its Industrial Revolution.

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TRIBUTE TO OUR S/HEROES

Rosetta Tharpe (March 20 1915 – October 9 1973) was a pioneering gospel singer, songwriter and recording artist who attained great popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock and roll accompaniment. She became the first great recording star of gospel music in the late 1930s and also became known as the “original soul sister” of recorded music. Willing to cross the line between sacred and secular by performing her inspirational music of ‘light’ in the ‘darkness’ of the nightclubs and concert halls with big bands behind her, her witty, idiosyncratic style also left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists, such as Ira Tucker, Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. While she offended some conservative churchgoers with her forays into the world of pop music, she never left gospel music.

Dame Shirley Bassey,theoriginal Diva who sung 3 different James Bond film soundtracks.  Born in January 1937 in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Wales, Dame Shirley Bassey was the youngest of seven children.  Her parents, a Nigerian sailor and an English woman, divorced before she was three years old, but they kept the family together for the most part, and Shirley was able to sing duets with her brother at family get-togethers. After finishing school, she found a job at a local factory, and earned extra money singing at men’s clubs after-hours. After pairing with arranger Nelson Riddle, it increased her prestige in America during the early ‘60s. When Goldfinger hit number eight in the American charts, it instantly became her signature song across the Atlantic. After the crowning achievement of her career, a 1977 Britannia Award for Best Female Solo Singer in the Last 50 Years, Shirley Bassey gained her own highly rated BBC-TV show in the late ‘70s, but gradually slowed down her busy schedule during the next decade.

Baroness Valerie Amos; first black woman cabinet minister and joint first black woman peer and recently appointed Leader of the House of Lords, the third woman in history to lead the upper house of Parliament.  Baroness Amos is one of three black peers that sit in the House of Lords.  She was created a life peer in 1997. Prior to her appointment as Secretary of State for International Development, Baroness Amos was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs in June 2001 with responsibility for Africa, the Commonwealth, the Caribbean, Overseas Territories, Consular Issues and FCO Personnel. Born in March 1954 in Guyana, Valerie Ann Amos began her career in local government, working in various London boroughs from 1981 to 1989. She was educated at Townley Grammar School for Girls before completing a degree in sociology at Warwick University in 1976, a master’s degree in cultural studies from Birmingham University in 1977 and doctoral research at University of East Anglia.

Ottobah Cugoano, Political activist and abolitionistwas born was born around 1757 in the village that today is Ajumako, Ghana.  At the age of about 13, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. At one point he saw the exact price he fetched: ‘a gun, a piece of cloth, and some lead.’  From Cape Coast Castle, he was taken by ship to the West Indies. After several years of enslavement there, his master brought him to England. The late 1780s found him working as a house servant in London.  Just as abolition organising got under way in 1787, he published a book, ‘Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species’. It is believed that Olaudah Equiano collaborated with him on this work, which attacked the colonial conquest of the Americas as well as slavery. It went through at least three printings in 1787 and was translated into French. In 1791, Cugoano travelled to ‘upwards of fifty places’ in Britain promoting a revised and condensed edition, contributing his voice and first-hand personal testimony to the campaign against the slave trade.

Robert Wedderburn was born on a plantation in Jamaica in 1762.  In the 18th century, he along with many people of African descent played an important role in developing the political and cultural life of Britain, especially in the area of politics. His mother was a slave; his father was his mother’s slave master. As a child, Wedderburn witnessed both his mother and his grandmother being whipped. His father was James Wedderburn, a ‘respected’ member of Edinburgh society. Robert Wedderburn was very politically active and was one of many radical thinkers of the time and attended meetings to discuss political ideas. These meetings were also attended by a Government spy and Wedderburn was arrested for his views and spent time in prison. In 1824 he published a book called The Horrors of Slavery. He described the connections between the evils of slavery and the life of the working classes in Britain and campaigned for people’s rights and freedom of speech.

Dennis Emmanuel Brown (February 1 1957 – July 1 1999) was a Jamaican reggae singer.  When Dennis died from respiratory disease in 1999, the reggae world knew what it had lost.  Although he spawned many imitators, there was only one Dennis Brown.   During his prolific career, which began in the late 1960s at the age of eleven, he made his first hit, “No Man Is An Island”, followed by “If I Follow My Heart”, both giving birth to albums of the same title.  Although his voice then was childlike, his phrasing revealed a marked maturity.  He recorded more than 75 albums and was one of the major stars of lovers rock, a sub-genre of reggae.  Bob Marley cited Brown as his favorite singer, dubbing him “The Crown Prince of Reggae”, and Brown would prove hugely influential on future generations of reggae singers. 

Here ends your history lesson for this month.

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Log on for more CULTURE CORNER next month and remember…  

“Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them.”

Mahailia Jackson 

(October 26 1911 – January 27 1972)

 

“Til next month – Everyting Bless.”

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