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Monday, 15 September 2014


Protestors outside Guildhall

    Last week two significant protests took place in London, in opposition to the racist, offensive and horrific Human Zoo exhibition to be hosted by The Barbican. Probably for the first time ever, the City of London Corporation, owners of The Barbican, was lobbied by black community campaigners. Organisations and individuals, including BARAC UK demonstrated outside Guildhall as members of the Corporation entered to attend their regular Council meeting.  

Image by Zita Holbourne

As a result of the open letter that BARAC UK sent to the Chief Executive of the Corporation, a meeting was facilitated between campaigners and members of The Barbican Board and Management. At this meeting we informed The Barbican that we would be handing in the petition of over 20,000 signatures that Saturday and requested that a senior officer received it. This was acknowledged. 

Lobbying the City of London Corporation (with representatives of Unite the Union, BARAC UK & BEMA)

On Saturday 12th of September protesters marched to The Barbican for a rally outside before the planned petition hand in.  The organisations represented not only on the day but who have signed up to the campaign represent over a million in addition to the 20,000 plus who have signed the petition. Speeches and performers were accompanied by drummers. Children and adults carried banners with the words ' I am somebody' and 'I am not an object on them'. 

March to The Barbican

 Tafadwa ShakaRa Mbandaka  performed the opening libations, the proceedings were compered by Paul Lawrence. There were poetry performances by Akala, Zita Holbourne (Co-Chair BARAC UK) & Anthony Anaxagorou and speeches by  Sara Myers (Petition author),  Zita Holbourne, PCS & TUC Race Relations Committee, Donna Guthrie (Unite), Lee Jasper, Co-Chair BARAC UK, Kehinde Andrews, OBU, Austin Harney, CRAIC, Paul Richards, UpRise and Hilary Mohammed, Nation of Islam. People were drawn out of the Barbican and surrounding businesses by the presence and sound of the protest.

A video of the rally can be viewed here.

Lee Jasper, co-chair of BARAC speaks

 Disgracefully when it came to the point of handing in the petition, The Barbican failed to provide a senior representative to receive it, despite the discussions with them on Thursday about this and despite the fact that a senior Board member had been visible during the protest, viewing proceedings from a balcony.  Instead they sent as their representative, the Head of Security who acted with hostility. As a result, it was agreed that the petition would not be handed in that day and a subsequent event would be organised for the hand in.

Zita Holbourne, Co-Chair of BARAC performs poetry
Donna Guthrie, Unite member & BARAC Women's Officer

Brett Bailey's Human Zoo is neither art nor empowering. Yet this is what The Barbican have tried to tell us, that if we were to attend it, we would be empowered and educated.  Quite clearly those of us that have a lived experience of racism do not need educating about racism and we are certainly not going to feel empowered by a re-enactment of historic or current racism. Last week I wrote for The Voice Newspaper on this; Read here. 

image by Zita Holbourne

In fact, when we met with the  predominantly  white (just one black member) Barbican Board and Management and asked them how many of them had seen the exhibition, only one had, so it's laughable that they should try to 'educate' anti racist and black community organisations about racism through this horrendous exhibition.

The campaign continues and we will continue to call for the only positive solution to this horrific display of racism, masquerading as a creative artistic expression, a boycott on not just Exhibit B, which will be shown at The Vaults but on The Barbican itself.  Critics of our opposition have claimed that we are calling for censorship of art.  A boycott is not censorship.  The successful Boycott Campaign against apartheid in South Africa included artists, musicians and sports people amongst others.


Sign the petition here

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