How many of you know that 23 August is a national day of commemoration for enslaved Africans? No, me neither.
The date was chosen because it was during the preceding night and into that day in 1791, that Toussaint Louverture, the head of the San Domingo (now Haiti and Dominican Republic) army led the uprising that shook the slave-trading system and eventually led to its abolition across the world.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is “responsible for the day” and a spokesman said 23 August is recognised across government. The day was instituted in December 2007. But since then nothing has been done.
The DCLG says any funding for 23 August activities will have to come from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and it would be up to individual local authorities and charities to do something to mark the day.
The DCMS says there is no specific funding for 23 August but instead points to the national museums (“particularly the maritime ones”) who have marked the day in the past.
National Museums Liverpool (NML) has been commemorating the day for the past 11 years. Started by NML outreach worker Garry Morris, it has become a high-profile event, with many people travelling across the country to join in the commemoration.
I am grateful for the steady campaigning of Arthur Torrington, the secretary of the Equiano Society and the Windrush Foundation. He has been in correspondence with the DCLG and it has told him that it intends to organise workshops across the country to advise people how to apply for funding to commemorate the day. I wonder when they are planning to do this.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust commemorates the Nazi persecution of Jews, as well as later genocides, on 27 January. It has received annual government funding since 2001. This year the DCLG has granted £750,000 for the day.
I have every confidence that 23 August will eventually get the recognition it deserves but it will be the persistent battlers within the community who will get us there.