Ealing Town Hall Lit Up Red for Sankofa Day

International day commemorates abolition of transatlantic slave trade

Sankofa Day marked at Ealing Town Hall. Image: West London Stand Up To Racism
Sankofa Day marked at Ealing Town Hall. Picture: West London Stand Up To Racism

Ealing is believed to be the first West London borough to have its town hall lit up red in solidarity with an international day recognising the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

The move to commemorate Sankofa Day on August 23 came as West London Black Lives Matter, supported by West London Stand Up To Racism, held an event in Perivale Park to remember the annual date.

On Sunday dozens of people attended the day with a showcase of black artists, poets, musicians, as well as entrepreneurs hosting stalls with their products.

Sankofa Day marked in Perivale Park. Picture: West London Stand Up To Racism

Sankofa Day was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1998, to recognise the rebellion of men and women who were taken from Africa and sold into slavery in Santo Domingue – now known as Haiti and Dominican Republic.

On the night of 22 to 23 August 1791, the enslaved people rose up and won their freedom, making Haiti the only nation state in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt.

The revolution was a key moment in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and hugely impacted the establishment of universal human rights.

The word ‘Sankofa’ comes from the Twi language of Ghana and translates roughly to say “one must return to the past in order to move forward”.

West London Stand Up To Racism co-convener and event organiser Debbi Allen, said: “Sunday we made history. London borough of Ealing, the leading borough for culture, acknowledged Sankofa day. Peaceful gathering in Perivale park, culminating with the town hall lit up in red! I want to thank Julian Bell, leader of the Ealing Borough Council as well as all the other politicians, speakers, poets, musicians and the faith leaders who supported our event.

“I also want to thank the artists and entrepreneurs for showcasing their talents, imparting knowledge from hair, food, products, evidencing black history and black talent.

“The diversity is all around us and should be included in all decision making processes , above all black history should be taught widely in schools and the Black History Month celebrated.”

Ealing North MP James Murray sent a message of support for the day adding that government action against racism “must go beyond words, or reports that are never implemented”.

“We need real change from our government, from ending injustice in the criminal justice system, to making sure Black British history is part of our national curriculum,” he said.

An annual memorial of Sankofa Day is held each year in Trafalgar Square to remember the millions of victims of human trafficking during the transatlantic slavery period. This year with the Mayor of London a virtual event was held.

In Ealing Council’s decision to support the day by lighting up the town hall, council leader Julian Bell said: “The effects of slavery are arguable the single-largest incident in reshaping and defining the world today, and can no longer be overlooked. Ealing’s diversity is its strength, something I am absolutely certain of.

“We need to ensure that diversity is reflected in our public realm through the naming of our streets and buildings, and not a reflection of a frozen past where colonialism, racism and the slave trade were present and celebrated.”

A public consultation is currently open in the borough for residents to have their say on renaming Havelock Road in Southall to Guru Nanak Road as a way to symbolise the Sikh community’s contributions to the borough.

It comes as the borough is reviewing its public spaces to better reflect the diversity of the area in the wake of the Black Lives Matter worldwide protests.

To have your say on the plans click here.

Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter

August 26, 2020