Monday, 24 November 2014

23rd Nov - One year of the William Wilberforce Monument Fund


Today marks the first anniversary of the creation of the William Wilberforce Monument Fund. When we started, slavery was still in the shadows; the past was barely mentioned and the volume on the issues surrounding modern day slavery had not even reached a murmur in the public’s consciousness. Since then, critically acclaimed films covering the subject such as 12 Years a Slave and Belle have been released, the UK government has shown an increasing interest in modern day slavery and numerous newspaper headlines have documented incidents of slavery here and across the world. What a difference a year makes.

Recent talk about racism in sports (particularly the appointment of Malky Mackay as Wigan Athletic manager despite his implication in a series of discriminatory text messages and the focus on the lack of black managers in football) has shown that flippant attitudes and excuses for racism still exist and has also served to highlight the need for campaigns such as ours that help to generate a conversation about equality and freedom.

It is an inescapable fact that some of our attitudes about race today are rooted in the past. Turning melanin into an excuse for irrational prejudice is an idea that can trace its ugly origins back to the advent of the transatlantic slave trade. This construct that has allowed the oppression of black and minority people through time is deemed to be acceptable to some still, because it is easier to mimic what has gone before than to put the effort into thinking beyond this. Campaigns such as ours aim to get people to think beyond the obvious, open up the conversation and shake the tree.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank all those supporters and friends in their endorsement of the first year of the William Wilberforce Monument Fund. Our thanks also go to Bricknell Primary School for their support this week – in particular their donation of posters and a brochure into our resource bank. Also, thank you to the City of Culture for the invitation to the anniversary breakfast meeting that was hugely inspiring.


We now know with the publication last week of the Global Slavery Index that a revision needs to be made to the number of people enslaved in the world from 29.8 million in 2013 to 35.8 million this year. The lead Brazil took to raise the profile of this issue has now been followed by many other countries, which have used further development in research and measures of the prevalence of all forms of slavery around the world in order to tackle it.

In the UK, the Modern Slavery Bill has now passed to the second reading at the House of Lords. The amendments continue in a bid to craft an effective piece of legislation. Although aspects of the bill were criticised in some quarters initially, adjustments in its progression through the stages have meant there is likely to be greater protection for victims, more onus for industry to be accountable and the appointment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

There will be further debate and tweaking before it gains Royal Assent but the latest amendment is to ensure that there will be a review after 5 years in order to gauge the impact of this bill both at home and abroad. The bill’s next landmark is the Committee stage on 1st December with a number of sittings provisionally booked for the early part of December.

Image credit: David Murden of And Albert Foundation.