Wednesday, 4 October 2017

British Black History: We didn’t all arrive on the #Windrush

British Black History: We didn’t all arrive on the #Windrush My Kru (tribal name) African grandfather from Sierra Leone/Liberia arrived in Liverpool in 1911.

The Kru nation was what both Sierra Leone  and Liberia, were called before the UK in 1787 and the US in 1882 invaded. The Kru fought against the invading armies of the US and the UK who were manned by freed African slaves. The Kru fought both. Imagine Kru having to fight freed African slaves, recruited into the imperial armies of the UK and the US and being sent to clear the Kru of their land, so the west could create homelands settlements for freed Africans?

The Kru people were said to be incapable of being made slaves. It’s said they’d either kill themselves or kill the white slavers at any given opportunity. They were considered as being impossible to break into slavery.  So the Kru fought against both the invading Imperial armies of the West and had to kill freed Africans recruited into the UK and US armies to resettle on Kru homelands.
Tom Jasper 

My Granddad arrived in Liverpool as a stowaway away aged 15 and was sent back on the next ship. He hid on another ship in Freetown and came right back. He was the original deportee.

#Kru people settled in Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff, Britain’s oldest black communities established first African welfare Assoc. He became Chairman of the Kru Club in Manchester a association dedicated to welfare support of Kru. Also curiously Grandad had a blue spot tattooed on the middle of his forehead. 

The name Jasper was the name given to him by the British merchant navy, we've never been able to trace his real name.

They lived in the North Manchester area, of Cheetham Hill, Waterloo Road. It's an area where I have most of my first childhood memories.

Grandad's British Merchant Seaman travel logs are fascinating insight into the breadth and scale of British imperial trade of the day.
What I’ve found fascinating is Grandad role as chair of the Manchester #KruClub.

The minutes show they tracked down errant husbands. White working class wives would complain of husbands and fathers going missing or not paying for children. The Association would find them, force them back to the family home and ensure they lived up to their responsibilities. It was considered not the Kru way to abandon their families. It was considered a disgrace on the whole community.

Abandoned or widowed wives would be entitled to weekly payments from the #KruClub. The Club also arbitrated tribal and legal disputes.  They organised seaside trips, christenings, weddings and funerals. They organised community self defence, often in Manchester with poor Jewish communities, to protect themselves from racist attacks and petitioned Government of the day for equal rights and justice way before the 1950’s and the Windush arrived. Granddad died when I was five and I lived with him and my Grandmother. 

These Africans are Britain’s oldest black communities. The real pioneers of Black Britain.

Dorothy Jasper 
Now my English Grandmother was born in Manchester workhouse in 1901. She was from a reasonably well off Victorian family who abandoned her.  The conditions in 1901 Manchester Workhouse were appalling. From workhouse to the convent Grandmother had an extraordinary hard life.

We are told she married in her early 20's to an Irish Republican.
I’m told that her first husband died, after being battered by police and flung into the Manchester Ship Canal. They had one child a son.

My Grandmother then met my African grandfather and he married and adopted Grandmas only child too. She worked at Manchester Co-Op HQ as a cleaner for many years.

They married in the 1920's and I can only imagine the racism they faced at that time in Edwardian Britain. It must have been horrendous.

She hated five things, the royal family, Tories, Churchill, social injustice and Mick MacManus, a wrestling star of the 1960's. She was a Northern matriarch of 4'6 with a fierce determination to protect her children and confront any racism they faced head on.

She was the radical Granddad was much more laid back, while she would slay dragons for the family and that is the history of the Jaspers.

So my roots are solidly African and working class. Tracing these histories is a joy and reflects the story of the British Empire.

Notice Granddads perfectly ‘concked’ hair all the rage in 1920s Britain. As for Grandma she was a beauty. 

British ‪#BlackHistory goes way back and it’s time the African pioneers were given as much attention as the Windrush generation. ‪#BHM17