Liberal Democrats highlight that Newcastle has been part of anti-racism for over 250 years - call for all-party debate at City Council

August 24, 2020 2:14 PM

Ali Avaei - Black LIves Matter - with Martin Luther KIngNewcastle is a city of hope and sanctuary. We have always welcomed people fleeing violence and persecution.
Regardless of our party politics we stand together to challenge all forms of racism, Cllr Ali Avaei said on behalf of Newcastle Liberal Democrats (Pictured at the Martin Luther King statue in the city.)
As Liberals, we support the movement to bring justice and equality for black communities.
Anyone who believes in social justice must stand in solidarity with black communities in the US and around the world.
We welcome steps that many organisations in the region, such as Northumbria Police, have taken to root out systematic racism from our institutions. But we are deeply disappointed that the Labour Party blocked discussion of our motion on the subject at the online Council meeting on 24th June. We appeal to them to think again and back an all-party motion at the next meeting in September.

We stress that black lives matter in Newcastle now as they have always have.
This city's track record is extraordinary.
Only one year after the American Declaration of Independence, escaped slave Olaudah Equiano spoke in Newcastle. At the same time, Bill Richmond arrived here, was taught to read and write courtesy of the Duke of Northumberland, and then went on to become a professional boxer of national reputation - arguably our first sporting hero.
The 2nd Earl Grey was Prime Minister when slavery in the British Empire was abolished, only 3 days before the veteran campaigner William Wilberforce died - and 20 years before the American fought their bloodiest war ever and abolished it at last.
Escaped slave Frederick Douglass visited Newcastle to speak in 1846, and two Quaker ladies raised the then large sum of £150 to buy his freedom "I landed on your shores a slave, and came back a free man" as he later wrote. He was one of the frequent speakers invited by the Gateshead and Newcastle Anti-Slavery Society, and saw education as one of the keenest weapons in the armoury of improvement.
In 1853, William Wells Brown, who had been a slave in the US, visited Newcastle and remarked on the kindness of the Geordies he met here, saying, "In no place in the United Kingdom has the American Slave warmer friends than in Newcastle."
Dr Martin Luther King received only one honorary degree in the UK - from the University of Newcastle. And we have a statue in his honour in our city.
History is all very well, but what of today? Newcastle is a City of Sanctuary, reaching out to those fleeing oppression. But this council has also passed a motion pointing out that slavery in a modern garb still exists, and a gang was jailed in 2018 for trafficking.
But most troubling are the racially motivated attacks that are still happening - like the stones and insults thrown recently at a resident and his 6 month old child. This is loathsome and completely unacceptable - as many people posted on social media at the time.
There is much work still to be done. This requires not just protests, certainly not confrontations at the monument to the Great Reform Act, but dedication to the proposition, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, that all people are created equal, and to make that assertion not just rhetoric but a reality in the everyday life of our community, common citizenship and commitment to the collective interest.