This Friends event was a presentation by Janet Brown, a business consultant living locally. Janet took the opportunity provided by the bicentenary commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade (25 March 2007) to commission a book in which the Black Caribbean community could record their stories, emotions and experiences. Both Britain and the European Union made a heavy financial investment in commemoration events during 2007 and Janet was keen to make her initiative as positive an experience as possible, whilst being very aware of the painful emotions which it generated. Janet was particularly motivated to document the contribution of the Black Caribbean community in a way which would record their experiences and provide positive role models for the next generation. Having commissioned a very handsome volume, finished in 22.5 carat gold, Janet had the ‘blank canvas’ she needed. At the launch event, Janet spoke in the company of the High Commissioner of Jamaica and the Bishop of Jamaica. Over the course of the bicentenary year, Janet attended a number of events at which she invited people to record their
stories in the book, and was particularly moved by her visit to Wilberforce House in Hull, the birthplace of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Janet continues to invite contributions to the book, which has been on a wide-ranging tour, staying at locations anywhere from six months to one year. The book will ultimately be placed in the custody of Nottinghamshire Archives for future generations to consult.
Janet ended her presentation with the ‘Black Family Pledge’ by Dr Maya Angelou:
Because we have forgotten our ancestors our children no longer give us honour.
Because we have lost the path our ancestors cleared, kneeling in perilous undergrowth, our children cannot find their way.
Because we have banished the God of our ancestors, our children cannot pray.
Because the long wails of our ancestors have faded beyond our hearing, our children cannot hear us crying.
Because we have abandoned our wisdom of mothering and fathering, our befuddled children give birth to children they neither want nor understand.
Because we have forgotten how to love, the adversary is within our gates, and holds us up to the mirror of the world, shouting, regard the loveless.
Therefore, we pledge to bind ourselves again to one another;
To embrace our lowliest,
To keep company with our loneliest,
To educate our illiterate,
To feed our starving,
To clothe our ragged,
To do all good things, knowing that we are more than keepers of our brothers and sisters. We are our brothers and sisters.
In honour of those who toiled and implored God with golden tongues, and in gratitude to the same God who brought us out of hopeless desolation, we make this pledge.