Leaders in government, activists, and local organizations are coming together for the first time to make a strong and definitive appeal for restorative justice at the upcoming reparations conference.
The APPG-AR, a coalition of MPs from different parties, is holding its inaugural conference in Euston, London to reach a consensus with stakeholders and grassroots activists. This statement can then be utilized by MPs to advocate for a policy of restorative justice in the House of Commons.
MP for Streatham and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Africa Reparations, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, stated: “We are uniting individuals from all over the nation, including international speakers, to strongly advocate for reparative justice.”
According to her, not only are grassroots activists and community groups involved in the conference, but politicians and representatives from the Scottish National Party, Green Party, and Labour Party are also participating.
“This is a gathering of individuals who have been discussing these matters for an extended period.”
She stated that reparative justice is not only about monetary compensation. She expressed that they are seeking commitments that go beyond financial restitution. While there may be some payments made for financial compensation, reparative justice must also focus on achieving equity and repairing all the harm caused by the trafficking and enslavement of Africans.
The conference will address the return of precious African artifacts and ancestral remains that have been unlawfully held in the UK by museums and other organizations.
Many of these terrible museums, which I personally refer to as awful due to my recent experience of being asked to leave one, are using the excuse that returning their artifacts would leave their establishments empty and prevent those in Africa from caring for them. However, the recent incident at the British Museum has brought to light that some museums are not even aware of the items in their possession. In fact, there were suspicions of employees stealing and selling items on eBay for over a year. Ribeiro-Addy expressed this sentiment.
She hopes that other museums will follow the example set by the Horniman Museum in London and repatriate any looted or stolen artifacts in their possession back to their countries of origin. “And even if they are not able to be returned, proper acknowledgement of ownership should be given, as it is a matter of respect,” she stated.
The APPG-AR report suggests that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should allocate funds for provenance research, negotiating claims, and covering expenses associated with returning stolen items. They also recommend creating improved guidelines for handling and returning ancestral human remains in heritage and museum institutions in England.
She expressed her desire for us to find common ground and utilize it to advocate for legislation that promotes reparative justice.
“We are striving towards that goal and it would be unethical to proceed without seeking input from the community. Therefore, that is our focus for today.”
Meetings are being conducted both online and in-person.