Archives Against Racism Part 2: The Archive Component, 23 Sep 2021

Tony Reeves from First Cut Media with members of Megatone Sound Foundation

Tony Reeves from First Cut Media with members of Megatone Sound Foundation

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre teamed up with Burning Work to produce The Archive Component, a day of speakers exploring the link between archives and anti-racist activism. Burning Work is an intergenerational project set up by Channels Research Group that creates space(s) through Windrush Defenders to support the lives of people experiencing racial injustices.

Following our blend of online and restricted numbers events for South Asia Heritage Month, this was another step towards opening up to a wider audience since Covid lockdown restrictions were eased in July.

This was a day when many of us were able to share space after a long time. While vital anti-racist work has continued throughout the pandemic, it has missed out on so much from not being able to meet physically, to listen and talk, mourn and rejoice and this is what happened throughout The Archive Component.

The day kicked off with the formidable Gus John delivering the keynote speech. He has strong connections both with Manchester and with our archive. He lived in the city between 1971 and 2007 and was one of the commissioners for the Macdonald Enquiry into the murder of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah and co-authored the resulting report.  

Gus John delivers the keynote .

The iconic Megatone Sound Foundation set the stage for the day with a sonic atmosphere which was one of defiance but also of much-needed joy. Decolonising the Archives livestreamed the day and provided commentary for audiences who could not join us in person.

This was an intergenerational space. We looked to our past through archives and the work we had done. Reverend Malaika offered a libation to honour those who were deceased. But we also looked to the future. To the younger generation of anti-racist archivist/activists and cultural producers committed to preserving Black histories ethically and sharing that work so that it is known to those who need it and to those who don’t realise they need it.

Session 1, Archiving as Anti-Racist Practice: L to R: Carol Baxter, Gus John, Laila Benhaida, Tony Reeves, Tavian Hunter, Washington Alcot

Feedback from one of the attendees:

“This was an outstanding event. One of the most interesting, informative and joyful things I’ve ever been to in Manchester. Felt like I learned loads on a lot of different levels: about what decolonising looks like in practice; about Manchester history; about great work being done by different local activists and community figures; about soundsystem culture. I have recently been bereaved and was very moved by the libation, and appreciated how inclusive it was. And having an iconic Manchester soundsystem blasting out great tunes in a Central Library meeting room was just amazing.”

Session 3, Transmission: Trishauna Stewart,Connie Bell,  and Veronique Belinga

Megatone closed the day with some tunes and had us getting up from our seats, stretching our legs and doing some much-needed dancing.

Truth be told, there was too much packed into one day, and really it could have been spread it out over several. The Archive Component was a day we can build on to continue to raise the profile of anti-racist work in the city, to support it and preserve these stories so we remember who we are and the power we have.

Megatone Sound Foundation keeping things going throughout the day