Reparations for Africa’s Diaspora: The Politics of Memory & Justice


This is a recording from the event organised by the Royal African Society discussing ‘Reparations for Africa’s Diaspora: The Politics of Memory & Justice’ on 17 June 2014.

In March 2014 leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) agreed to seek reparations from former slave owning and trading states in Europe. The heads of state from 15 Caribbean nations agreed upon a 10 point plan that will set the agenda for discussion with European nations. The issue of reparations has been discussed over a century by African Diaspora, and CARICOM’s challenge presents a forum and opportunity for progressive discussion around, international justice, the nature of reparations and the politics of memory.

The panel of key figures from the African Diaspora, reparations campaigners and representatives of CARICOM states discussed the impact of reparations for Africa and the Diaspora.

Speakers: Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias C̶o̶l̶e̶m̶a̶n̶, UCL; Esther Roniyah Stanford-Xosei, Reparationist, Jurisconsult; Dr Kwadwo Osei-Nyame Jr, SOAS; Onyekachi Wambu, Director, Engagement & Policy, AFFORD; Richard Stein, Partner, Leigh Day. Chair: Dr Ama Biney, Editor, Pambazuka News
See here for a link to the audi recording of the event:

African Caribbean Reparations: Why When and How?


Ths is an article from Caribbean news about the panel discussion panel which took place on 24th June 2014 with  Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor; Harry Goulbourne, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Race & Ethnicity Research Centre, South Bank University, as well as myself when we came together  to discuss the topic ‘British Reparations for Caribbean Slavery: Why When and How’.

For more info and an edited recording from the panel discussion see here:

On Defining a Reparations Activist



In formulating criteria for inclusion of those activists I include in the definition and selection of reparations activists interviewed, I draw on the definition of oppositional consciousness developed by professors of political science and sociology respectively, Jane Mansbridge and Aldon Morris. (1) They define oppositional consciousness as “an empowering mental state that prepares members of an oppressed group to undermine, reform, or overthrow a dominant system”; asserting that: “it is usually fuelled by righteous anger over injustices done to the group and prompted by personal indignities and harms suffered through one’s group membership”. (2)They go on to state that at a minimum, oppositional consciousness includes the following four elements of :“identifying with members of a subordinated group, identifying injustices done to the group, opposing those injustices, and seeing the group as having a shared interest in ending or diminishing those injustices”. (3)

The term ‘activist’ itself is contentious, as to who is an activist and what actions can be defined as activism are often contested. Nevertheless, by taking into consideration the views and perspectives of those 35 reparations activists and advocates that have been interviewed in my attempt to develop a definition and criteria for inclusion of activists I have come up with the following definition.

A reparations activist is someone who meets the following criteria:

1. They display a high level of historical as well as oppositional consciousness;
2. Their oppositional consciousness is directed at taking action, with other members of their affinity group, to repair wrongs or injustices and/or redress the harmful legacies of enslavement and colonisation;
3. Such action results in bringing about social, cultural, or political change; and
4. This change occurs through:
a) Taking oppositional stances to establishment policies that are deemed negative;
b) Challenging structures and systems of power and domination considered to be responsible for the perpetration of the enduring injustices caused by enslavement, colonisation and their legacies; and/or
c) Creating alternatives to the dominant values, system, structures or institutions.

The important point to note about the above criteria for inclusion is that not all those who are considered to be reparations activists by others, or indeed define themselves as reparations activists are necessarily included in the criteria that has been subsequently established for the purposes of this research. If it is accepted that that reparations are most meaningful in their holistic sense, then any action that someone does which contributes to the fundamental undermining and eventual uprooting of systems of disrepair arising from enslavement and colonisation can be considered a reparations action.

The key aspects being advocated in the above criteria is that a reparations activist is someone who takes action that advances the cause of holistic reparations, even if they are fully conscious of it or not. In her own assessment for inclusion, I opine that it is more useful to look at the actions that have been or are being undertaken rather than how individuals define themselves.

(1) See Jane Manbridge and Adrian Morris, ‘Oppositional Consciousness: The Subjective Roots of Social Protest’ (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

(2) Ibid, p173.

(3) Op. Cit.

Feel free to comment on this definition be emailing E.stanford-xosei@chi,

Why the need for this research?

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Statement of the Research Problem

Although there is significant literature on the issue of reparations for slavery and to a lesser degree colonisation and their legacies, much of the scholarly literature is concerned with arguments in support or opposition to reparations or the historical factors which give rise to contemporary calls for reparations. Whilst such scholarship is quite voluminous, little attention is paid to the history of reparations activism. In fact, where such research exists it concentrates on reparations historiography of US based movements and advocacy in support of reparations with no recognition or regard to the fact that reparations has been an ever present demand and goal in African Diaspora politics in Britain, not just in recent times, but also historically. Knowing the history of what has been previously done or attempted to effect or secure reparations is essential to evaluating whether or not reparations goals are achieved or not, and other ways of evaluating and measuring success. At the same time, not taking account of the history of activism towards securing reparations denies the academic community and the rest of society the opportunity to be truly informed about some of the social contexts, dynamics, politics, and richness of knowledge production in reparations movements.

This study contends that some of the most radical critiques and understandings about dominant ideologies and power structures, such as slavery, colonisation, capitalism and racism as well as progressive visions of social change, have emerged from those active in reparations movements which seek redress for or dismantling of such power structures.
The link between such knowledge(s) and praxis/action on reparations is woefully absent in scholarship on reparations in general and social movements in particular.

This study therefore seeks to problemetise whose knowledge and voice(s) are heard on reparations as the voices of those who are actively organising in pursuit of reparations are more often than not marginalised. As a corrective, this study examines the issue of reparations activism from the perspective of those in the UK, more generally, and London more specifically who have done various actions to effect and and/or effect reparations. It therefore follows in the path of scholarship in North America which has also began to examine the US based [African] Reparations Movement through the prism of those activists that have been active in such a movement. For example, reparations activists in the leading reparations coalition in the US, N’COBRA, have led in this approach to scholarship ‘through the eyes of the movement.’ (1)

In their study of historic and modern social movements for reparations in the USA, law professors and members of N’COBRA, Adjoa Aiyetoro and Adrienne Davis conducted ground breaking research; the first study to research the movement from within the movement, otherwise known as ‘insider research’. Emic and etic, in the discipline of anthropology and the social and behavioural sciences, refer to two kinds of field research done and viewpoints obtained; from within the social group (from the perspective of the subject) and from outside (from the perspective of the observer). Insider or emic research describes projects where the researcher has a direct involvement or connection with the research setting and investigates how local people think, how they perceive and categorise the world, their rules for behaviour, what has meaning for them, and how they imagine and explain things. Such research changes the gauge by which one can measure reparations movement’s effectiveness and outcomes.

Aiyetoro and Davis maintain that examining reparations ‘through the eyes of the movement’ changes the gauge by which one can measure the movement’s effectiveness and outcomes thus far. It also shifts attention away from the legal, policy and doctrinal questions that have dominated the literature on the ‘case for’ or feasibility of reparations. So, rather than focusing solely on whether a specific legal result has been obtained, i.e. financial compensation through litigation or legislative action, a social movements approach also questions how ordinary people develop a common oppositional consciousness and mobilise to confront what they perceive to be historical or contemporary injustice .

As African American historian Robin Kelley explains, such an approach is “more interested in the historical vision and imagination that has animated the movement since the days of slavery.” (2) Contemplating reparations in this way, as a social movement, poses a compelling set of other questions than simply whether or not reparations will be achieved and is concerned rather with the reparations movement’s complex, and at times competing, set of actors, institutions, and ideologies that, have been underexplored in the sociological, historical and legal literature. It concludes that conceiving of reparations as note merely a legal or political claim but as an international social movement sheds light on the context and factors leading up to the contemporary resurgence of reparations activism. In addition, such an approach provides an alternative lens through which to assess the efficacy, success and goals of the international Social Movement for African Reparations (ISMAR) as shaped by activists within the UK.

Part of the challenge of assessing the duration and purpose of reparations activism is that there is a lack of visibility and almost no recognition of a pre-existing movement which comprises actual organisations, networks and leading individuals and spokespersons. This means that wider society outside of the various networks of reparations activists and other movement actors is deprived of gaining accurate insights into the genesis, evolution and purpose of the ISMAR, and the central role that activists based or influential to organising processes in London have and continue to play in advancing the cause and movement for reparations.

As a well known reparationist, I am well placed to embark on such a study. I have been integrally involved with the ISMAR for the past thirteen years and have a key role in the founding, development of and particpation in the organising processes of several reparations social movement organisations and coalitions. These include the African United Action Front (AUAF), The Global Afrikan Congress (GAC), PARCOE, (Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe), Black United Front (BUF), the interim Nationl Afrikan Peoples Parliament (iNAPP) and now the Global Afrikan Peoples Parliament (GAPP). (3) Social movement researchers, Kevin Gillian and Jane Pickerill argue that it is a growing trend for researchers and academics, both emerging and established, to openly take on an activist-scholar identity.

(1) The study by Aiyetoro and Davis, ‘Historic and Modern Social Movements for Reparations: The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) and its Antecedents’ is one of the few to do so.

(2) R.D.G. Kelley, ‘A Day of Reckoning: Dreams of Reparations’ in Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States: On Reparations for Slavery, Jim Crow and their Legacies (Michael T. Martin and Marilyn Yaquinto eds.); (Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2007) at p. 203.

(3) A Reparations activist, the term was used by the late Professor Ali Mazrui, academic professor, and political writer on African and Islamic studies and North-South relations) in his speech ‘Global Africa: From Abolitionists To Reparationists’, Inaugural Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola Distinguished Annual Lecture (6 December, 1993), at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association of the United States held in Boston, Massachusetts, December 4-7, 1993. The speech can be found in African Studies Review, vol. 37:3 (December 1993) pp. 1-18.

Self-Reflexive Questions for Researchers Working on and For Reparations

who what (2)

1. What are your own motives for doing research on reparations?
2. Do you have a political affinity with the cause of reparations?
3. What is your own track record of working on or for reparations?
4. How do you as an academic, activist-researcher or a scholar-activist go about your research on reparations, what are the research methods you are utilising?
5. How do you determine the priorities/aims/goals for your work/research on reparations?
6. How are African heritage community perspectives included in your research? Do you have a participatory research design process?
7. What is the relevance of your work/research on reparations to African heritage communities?
8. What is the relevance of your research on reparations to the International Social Movement for African Reparations (ISMAR)?
9. What is your own knowledge about the history, purpose and goals of the ISMAR?
10. How do you know what you know about the ISMAR, whose knowledge/s and voices have informed your own?
11. How does your research encompass ISMAR goals, needs and priorities?
12. How does your research address the concerns of reparations movement activists?
13. What networks are you building with community organisations championing reparations causes or issues?
14. How is the knowledge that you are developing being constructed, disseminated and mobilised as a tool for effective reparations social action/community organising?
15. How is your work/research being used to support and inform reparations goals and outcomes/social change through popular organising?
16. Who owns your research on reparations and how?
17. Who/which organisational networks in the ISMAR are involved in vetting, monitoring and evaluating your research?
18. How are developments in your research being communicated? Is this being done in a way that is relevant or useful to the networks within the ISMAR?
19. How is your work/research being utilised or how can it be utilised by proponents of the ISMAR?
20. How do you know your research is making/will make a difference?
21. Are there researchers/ research projects at your place of work or operation that looks at the learning which takes place in ‘social movements’?
22. In your research methodology, do you assess the learning that is a result of participating in “social movement”?
23. In the research design is there a section that evaluates the learning of the participants in the social movement?

Prepared by Esther Stanford-Xosei for the ARTCoP (Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice. ARTCoP enhances grassroots community academic spaces for reparations scholar-activism.

A Community of Practice is commonly understood to be a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.




Limitations of the Study


The study does not give a comprehensive history of reparations activism throughout London or indeed the British Isles and so is a partial study of the UK contingent of the ISMAR. This is due to the patchy data that exists justifying any assertion that the spread of reparations activism has taken place nationwide. Undoubtedly, the majority of primary and secondary sources pertaining to reparations organising processes in London. This study is therefore restricted to individuals, organisations and networks that have made a significant contribution to internationalising local and national reparations action/s emanating from or feeding into social action in London. Further research is required in other regions of the UK to provide a fuller complete picture of individuals and processes that also have formed part of reparations social movement building, it is my intention to do more extensive research on the reparatiosn activism outside London.

Another limitation is one of cognitive recognition of what constitutes reparations activism. The study is restricted to those who self identify their activism as being reparations activism utilising the English term ‘reparations’. It does not include a historical overview of the broader range of social action that can be classified as works towards repairing the full legacies of enslavement and colonisation, neither does it take into full consideration African cultural contexts in how African heritage communities living or organising in London understand or perceive the driven goals of reparations activism and interventions, or indeed what actions have been taken to bring them about.

Finally, the study does not outline the history of country specific reparations campaigns unless they converge with broader reparations campaigns for other African peoples beyond existing national country borders in Africa. By way of example, this study does not specifically highlight the histories of campaigns for the return of the Magdala Treasures, redress for victims of colonial era torture in Kenya, or for colonial redress as a result of the operation of colonial borders in Nigeria and the operation of Shell and other multinationals in Nigeria, which in themselves have generated distinct reparations campaigns and movements.

Significance of the Study

significanceIn this study, parallels are drawn with the approach of Professors Adjoa Aiyetoro and Adrienne Davis (2010) in their historic study of N’Cobra activists in the USA.* Like the US study of N’COBRA activists, the research being conducting is also ground-breaking in that it is also the first to research the movement from within and ‘from below’. Since this research consists of undertaking a historical study of the ISMAR rather than sociological or legal research on the case for reparations, it is important to note that reparations historiography in itself is an emerging field of academic research. Notably, this is the first historical study on the presence of an ISMAR in the UK, or indeed its local, national or international dimensions, albeit, focusing on London as a site of knowledge production and other forms of activism on reparations. Neither has there been any research conducted about living reparations activists by way of documenting their activism in pursuit of advancing the cause of reparations.

A central claim of this research is that the ISMAR is a social movement with international dimensions and one whose trajectory goes beyond the confines of the UK. It is argued that the contributions of key London based activists have global rather than just national significance. This study therefore makes an important contribution to increasing the visibility of the ISMAR in the UK and producing new and academic knowledge on the movement’s emergence, scope, goals and preliminary outcomes.

Equally of note is the fact that this study makes a scholarly contribution to developing movement relevant theory, i.e. theorising by reparations movement activists and organisers. Towards this end, the research is being conducted within the action research paradigm. Action research is essentially research through action which uses research tools and methods which not only relevant to, but also promotes the empowerment of, the African reparations community of interest. It is usually a collaborative activity – involving input from people who are likely to be affected by or who have an interest or stake in the research findings or outcomes and seeks to change the power relations inherent in the research process and society at large. Action research therefore seeks to change or improve a condition, system or practice and learn about this through changing or improving it. For the purposes of this research ‘changing practice’ includes utilising the knowledge being co-produced for advancing reparations goals by improving and strengthening existing reparations campaigning and social movement-building initiatives and processes.

One of the actions that research participants advocated for is the development of the Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice (ARTCoP), the only community of practice focusing on the co-production of knowledge on African reparations in the world. A community of practice is commonly understood to be a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Rather than seeking to privilege what academics and those located within formal institutions of education ‘know’ and can ‘teach’ activists about how to wage a successful reparations campaign, the ARTCoP seeks to learn from the lived experiences and community struggles of reparations activists, campaigners, the ISMAR and African and African Diaspora communities at large. In addition, telling the story of the ISMAR through the lens of key activists who have shaped it in the past twenty five years, this study will contribute to informing local and global academic, legal and policy dialogues and debates on reparations as a form of reparatory justice in the UK. Reparatory justice focuses on strategies, actions and programmes which seek to repair, in some way, the wrongs and damage caused as a result of historical and contemporary forms of injustice and also resulting in social change.

N.B. see Aiyetoro, A. & Davis, A. ‘Historic and Modern Social Movements for Reparations: The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) and its Antecedents’, 16 Tex. Wesleyan Law Review 687 (2010)

ARTCoP- UCL Co-Production for The International Day for Reparations Related to Colonisation

This is a link to the web page for the co-produced event by UCL in collaboration with ARTCoP (the Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice) which took place on 12th October 2014, the EU Day for Reparations Related to Colonisation

Enriching Public Discourse – Empowering African People

This Link provides a project summary of the ARTCoP (Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice) collaboration with the UCL (University College London) ‘Enriching Public Discourse – Empowering African People Project’

The ARTCoP: An Innovative Development in Community Engaged Research and Scholarship on Reparations

ARTCoP logo text

An Introduction to the Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice

The Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice (ARTCoP) was officially launched in February 2014. A Community of Practice is commonly understood to be a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

The ARTCoP is inspired by the groundbreaking PhD study undertaken by Esther Stanford-Xosei on ‘The Role of Afrikan Contributions from the UK in Charting the Historical Trajectory of the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR)’ as part of research in history at the University of Chichester. This research seeks to recover the marginalised histories and herstories of Afrikan and Afrikan Diaspora reparations thought, advocacy and activism in the UK. It is being conducted within the action research paradigm i.e. essentially research through action which uses research tools and methods which not only relevant to, but also promotes the empowerment of, the African reparations community of interest. Action research therefore seeks to change or improve a condition, system or practice and learn about this through changing or improving it. For the purposes of the research, ‘changing practice’ includes utilising the knowledge being co-produced for advancing reparations goals by improving and strengthening existing reparations campaigning and social movement-building initiatives and processes.

The aim of the ARTCoP is to provide a much-needed reparations movement supported space for critical reflection as a basis for taking more effective strategic action; by supporting members of the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR) and their allies to strengthen and improve their movement-building activities enabling them to learn from, compliment and collaborate with each other to achieve common reparations-related objectives. Rather than seeking to privilege what academics and those located within formal institutions of education ‘know’ and can ‘teach’ activists about how to wage successful reparations campaigns, the ARTCoP seeks to learn from and build upon the thought, lived experiences and activism of reparations workers, advocates, activists, campaigners, the ISMAR and Afrikan & Afrikan Diaspora communities at large, as co-producers of practical and theoretical knowledge relevant to effecting and securing reparatory justice.

Building on the intellectual tradition of scholar-activist and historian the late Walter Rodney, the ARTCoP advocates for an intellectual and political leadership of the ISMAR that is dedicated to the aspirations and empowerment of the masses; ‘grounds’ with the people on reparations; and that such ‘groundings’ will, as Rodney asserted, embrace the first and major struggle – the struggle over ‘ideas’ on reparations. One way in which ARTCoP seeks to achieve this is to harness and utilise the knowledge, expertise and researches of reparations focused grassroots intellectuals, academics and activist to challenge Eurocentric ideas, theories and visions of ‘repair’ in the process of advancing the goals of the ISMAR.

In addition, the ARTCoP seeks to bridge the divide between knowledge produced by establishment academics and policy-makers, which is more often than not, disconnected from realising the self-determined goals of the ISMAR, and the rich intellectual work and wisdom generated by those who have been involved in reparations social movement-building and organising processes at all levels. Despite the marginalisation of this knowledge and resultant prescriptions for action in educational institutions, such work has indeed laid an excellent political and intellectual foundation for the next phase of the movement for reparations.

This list of objectives and priorities are taken from the ARTCoP terms of reference:

Objectives of the ARTCoP are to:

• Enable participants in the ARTCoP to develop a shared understanding of the history of the ISMAR;
• Facilitate the learning and the sharing of ideas, collectivised knowledge, information, experiences, expertise, research, strategies and resources among participants in the ARTCoP pertaining to the history and heritage of reparations thought, advocacy and activism;
• Gain recognition in mainstream academia and amongst policy-makers of the knowledge and pedagogical practices being produced outside of formal educational institutions on reparations and to bridge the gap between these various knowledges;
• Stimulate dialogue among and between members about the ISMAR’s past, present and future;
• Support participants in the ARTCoP to develop various resources such as tools, documents, vocabulary and symbols that in some way carry the accumulated knowledge of the ISMAR.

The priority concerns of the ARTCoP are to:

1. Counter fragmentation amongst constituencies within the community of Afrikan reparations interest and reparations groups, networks and organisations by promoting understanding of the common grounds and shared goals between many reparations groups, organisations, campaigns and other social justice movements;
2. Promote open and honest discussions on the obstacles to integrating a reparations framework in the work of other social justice causes and movements;
3. Promote open and honest discussion of the obstacles to building a more inclusive ISMAR and existing reparations advocates, activists and allies working together more constructively.

ARTCoP has already built good links within other sites of knowledge production in academia by contributing to the University College London (UCL) ‘Preparation for Reparations’ Project led by Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman

Since the ARTCoP also operates a virtual network, participation is open to those who are outside of the UK. For further information about participating in and contributing to the development of the ARTCoP please email: or

For further info:


Black people are here in these institutions as a part of the development of Black struggle, but only as a concession designed to incorporate us within the structure. I use the term ‘guerrilla intellectual’ to come to grips with the initial imbalance of power in the context of academic learning. Going beyond the symbolism of the building, I’m thinking also of the books, the references, the theoretical assumptions, and the entire ideological underpinnings of what we have to learn in every single discipline. Once you understand the power that all this represents, then you have to recognise that your struggle must be based on an honest awareness of the initial disparity. And that’s how the guerrilla operates.”

Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual, 1990. pp. 111-112