How I feel

September 14, 2009

It’s Sunday morning and after a big nite out I’ve finally rolled out of bed to embrace what’s left of the morning.  I switch on my TV and the BBC’s THE BIG QUESTION is on and it’s in Bristol.  Wicked I think with some pride.  This weeks Big Questions centred on Islamic extremism and the role of politics and faith.  OK, a little heavy before a cup of coffee, but I’ll give it a shot….

As I’m watching this program I begin to write my Blog with the intention of writing about the two new brothers recently recruited to join the Myths & Facts family.  So let me take the chance to welcome Omari Cato and Vincent Baidoo.  Both of these two young brothers have an energy that I admire and they will bring invaluable and interesting new points of views and contributions to this project. 

More importantly I intended to tell you about my personal experience on taking part in a fact finding mission on a slavery trail led by the esteemed local historian Edson Burton along with Marla and Salema, two of our original young writers. 

Now as I rocked up to Queens Square last Thursday with the sun beating down on me, I thought I’d turned up with an open mind.  However this urban expedition resulted in some movement in how I feel about slavery.  This is important because I gone there to learn and lean I did, just not all what i’d expected.  In truth I initially struggled with accepting some of the facts shared with me, because it changed a deeply ingrained belife that I’ve grown up with about Slaves in the caves in Bristol’s Welsh Back.  

Now believe it or not, it turns out that  caves in Bristols caves this ‘may’ be a myth.  Yes I still have some issues on this as you may be able to tell…  However, this presumption of fact led to a very interesting debate with the Edson Burton and Rob Mitchell our intrepid team leader who both helped enlighten me to a new point of view.  Now I won’t dwell on the details but to say that both the trail and the discussion has highlighted that feelings are just as important as the facts and the myths.  Of course this is only my personal opinion as I believe that it’s a combination of these 3 things that come to make up our own personal realities.  So having had my own road to Damascus moment, my eyes have been opened to a new way of thinking and seeing. 

 Now that’s the top line on what I was gonna write about but as I mentioned I’ve changed my mind because of the program I am now watching and that’s the BBC’s THE BIG QUESTION 

OK, what the hell that’s got to do with this issue of slavery I hear you ask.  Well, in my opinion theres a couple of connections to this issues and just bear with me whilst I ramble my through how I see it…

 So I’m sat on the edge of my bed and as a black Bristolian I’m doing that thing where I’m looking at the screen to see if anyone in the audience is related to me.  As I squint my eyes I see a couple of black faces, but I don’t recognise anyone.  Then the cameraman pans wider and settles on a beautiful sister who is none other than our very own Narrissa Gordon who’s sitting proud and beautiful in the audience.  Nicky Campbell, the host of the show, points to Narrissa to comment on the topic of that time.   Now, whilst the topic being discussed is not that of slavery for me her presence is of great relevancy and I’ll tell you what she says shortly.

 Ok so here comes the real point I want to make which is based on the debate being discussed which was “is Islam an extremist religion?” Now as a non Muslim I felt myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with what I was hearing, seeing and feeling.  One Muslim scholar vs the world, very few other Muslim believers and a whole bunch of righteous Christians hyping the virtues of Christianity and the evils of the Islamic faith – in my eyes Muslim baiting!  T he audience which appeared mainly white and clearly anti Muslim were very eloquently positioning the Muslim faith as one of extremism and violence, etc, etc, etc you get the picture. 

OK,  I get it, its a debate show so of course we should expect people to air their views, good, bad and indifferent!  But what I disliked was the fact that these well to do, well educated, middle class whites’ kept citing example after example of how religious text within the Qur’an was being used to justify extreme actions by Muslim believers.  At the same time they asserted that the Christian faith was pure, white and blameless as there we’re no examples of such attrocities. 

Well…  what a dirty, stinky, rotten, no good for nothing, big fat lie…

I won’t stay on this soap box for to long, by ranting about George Bush, Stalin, the Queen of England, the Pope, the current Israeli Prime Minister or even Hitler, etc, etc, etc

 However whilst I’m not an historian its true to say that there are plenty of well documented examples where the Christian faith of our leaders in the ‘free western world’ has gone onto inform political decesions which have and continues to result in the massive loss of lives around the world.  However this is not my axe to grind.

Now as I said as I sit here I can feel my blood pressure raising and I eventually scream at the TV…  “And what about SLAVERY”. 

Yeah I said it, the dirty S word that dare speaketh its name in Bristol…


 Wow that’s a big leap Julian I hear some of you say.  How do you connect these completely separate issues? 

Well, remember earlier when I talked about feelings.  Well right now I’m feeling enraged as Bristol was a leading player in the Atlantic slave trade which believe it or not was carried out by the god fearing slave traders who wanted to civilise and bring their brand of extremist religion, better known at the time as Christianity to the black man.  So less we forget that black slaves we’re not even seen as humans in the eyes of their brand of Christianity in spite of their bible stating every man is equal. 

So here we have a bunch o white exremists, one band o which ar called merchant venturers.  They we’re baptised in the St Mary Redclife, one od= bristols oldest and most decrotative churches.  Now if these men of god  didn’t reinterpret their scriptures then by word and deed slavery would never of taken place.  However MONEy “the route to all evils” over rode their christian sensibilities.  So theres was not one of ideology or survial but to  profit from the enslavement and genocide of Africans.  To treat Africans as little more than chattel, to be sold as such.  Again it was this Christian doctrine that very much freed the great and the good of in Bristol to get involved with and greatly benefit from this deloprabable trade. 

So even though this was abolished 2002 years ago, we’ve ‘apparently’ come a long way since those very dark days.  Well not based on that program I’m watching.  Now is that a myth , a fact or a feeling?

 True we have our own homes, cars, businesses, we even go to church on a Sunday, but as a Black Bristolian I found my blood vessels in my head begging to pop at the blatant hypocrisy and lack of acknowledgement of slavery and its justification via the bible.  And more importantly, why the hell was nobody saying anything about this. 

But as I mentioned sometime ago my facts are informed by my feelings and feelings can change, so I wanna play fair as there is a double edge sword truth about religion.  1) The Muslim faith also had its role to play in the enslavement of African blacks.  Also the Christian faith had a role to play in the freeing o slaves especially in Bristol with the Wesleyan and Quaker movement. And then as if my god, my creator, a higher being was listening to my feelings, my prayers we’re answered by a young and beautiful contributor, who said something along the lines of…

 Well both Islam and the Christian church have a lot to be ashamed.  Less we forget that all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to say and do nothing and that’s what happened with slavery.

Thank you Narrissa Gordon you shall go to heaven!

 So before I skiddle outta here I’m left needing to answer my own personal BIG QUESTION.  And that is what my story will be about…

 Well after today, I’m clearer than ever and that I will look at being black and Bristolian and how I and my fellow black Bristolians really feel about slavery and what we believe we can do to rightly celebrate our ancestors in 2009.  Note to wise… The truth is not what you want it to be but what it is, but you can change how you feel about the truth once you know it!

 As they say, watch this space

Peace, love, honour and respect



















Peace, love, honour and respect




Its a whole new world

September 1, 2009

Hi new and old friends,

My name is Julian and I’m an Afro Brit, born in Bristol by way of Jamaica and Guyana. A few weeks ago I was asked to become a project coordinator for the myths and facts project a working title for a bookumentary on Bristol’s slave trade past. Unlike many books on this topic our book will be co-created hand in hand with people from Bristol’s diverse communities and aimed squarely at Bristol’s young people.

Now over the coming weeks and months I’m gonna take you on my own personal journey, one which will hopefully unveil some wondrous facts, unmask the urban myths and reveal unspoken truths. So let me start my journey by telling you about a recent and conversation I had, which went a little something like this….

“Gosh, its 2009 and we’re still banging on about this slavery thing… Wasn’t that like 400 years ago or something? Why can’t we all just forgive, forget and get along”

This is the reaction I got from a very good friend of mine who had asked me an innocent question,  “what I was up to?” I remain fiercely proud and delighted to be working on this project but in truth I was a little surprised as I’d known this friend for some years and know that we share some common opinions. As my mind raced searching for an answer that would satisfy her audacious questions I quickly realised that her response is a common one, one that a lot of Bristolians, black, white, young and old may well share. Whilst her point of view made me wince, it was none the less valid and one that made me ask myself “dose Bristol’s role in slavery really matter today and if so why”?

Now I’m not about to pretend that there’s a golden answer to this question (although there might well be) but its one that I think is worth revisiting when I approach the end of my journey to see what and how my feelings on this issue change.

For now I will simply respond as I did to my friend. The question isn’t whether you think it matters but whether there’s a lasting legacy that informs the way we are as a community today. If the answer ‘might’ be yes, then the least we owe is to try and tell the story in an honest way so that all of our children can at least join in the conversation. I then went on to say “If you know not where you come from, you will not know where you are going!”

Now I’m sure that some of you will be thinking, nah, I’m not convinced just get over it. Where as others may say, preach Brother Julian. Then of course we always have those that are just getting on with dealing with the pressures of right now, so are to swamped to care. Whatever your point of view I hope that you will at least listen to my ramblings in the coming weeks and on some level join with me in my journey of discovery. Perhaps together we will learn and grow as one of the ultimate goals of this book is to bring communities closer together. We can but only try!

Oh by the way, for those of you who might of wondered my friend is black and a well known community activist!

On that note I’m almost out, accept to say that my next instalment will be me introducing our young contributors and telling you a little about what to expect from them as they develop the content for the book. Otherwise I will be letting you know what subject matter I intend to cover as part of my contribution to the book.

Until then stay blessed and happy forever afters

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September 1, 2009

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