Posted by: Clare Solomon | June 1, 2011

Save The Africa Centre: Emergency Protest

Save The Africa Centre: Emergency Protest, Thursday 11:30am

(Sign the petition: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/44717.html )

What is the Africa Centre?

It’s a building in Covent Garden called the Africa Centre (see http://africadatabase.org/index.htm), which is run by a charity of the same name. It has a 40 year history of being a vibrant site for maintaining and projecting the culture of Africa, Africans and the Diaspora, through arts events, exhibitions and concerts. Visitors and performers have included Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jacob Zuma, Alice Walker, Chinua Achibe, Maya Angelou, Lynton Kwesi Johnson, Ben Okri, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Desmond Tutu.

What’s Wrong?
In March 2011, news leaked that the trustees had secretly decided to sell off the centre to property developers, without consultation and without any firm plans (or money) for a replacement centre. There is huge opposition to this from some trustees, members of the Africa Centre, supporters and Africans around the country. The building is not theirs to sell. The Africa Centre was given, in perpetuity, by the Catholic Church in the 1960s to the people of Africa and its diaspora. It will mean the loss of an important cultural and political asset for London. It also marks a blow to efforts to celebrate diversity and our international heritage, at a time when barriers and prejudices need to be challenged.

What Was The Response?
A campaign to prevent this has since kicked off (http://savetheafricacentre.wordpress.com) with high profile backing from Archbishop Demond Tutu (see this video), Mayor Boris Johnson (see this letter to the Times), Mo Ibrahim, Youssou N’Dour and a petition signed by about 1500 people. At the very least, the campaign is looking for the trustees to postpone the sale until after an emergency general meeting (EGM) with members of the centre, scheduled for 20th June.

Why the Emergency Protest?
The campaign has just discovered that the Chair of the trustees plans to secretly sign a legally binding option to sell the centre to Capital and Counties property developer (Capco) this Friday 3rd June. Once this is done, the building will have to be sold to them, however the developers will have some time to review the price and haggle for a cheaper deal. This will deny Africans and supporters of the centre the opportunity to oppose the sale and turns a democractic EGM into a stage-managed rubber stamping of the deal.

What Do We Do Now?
Emergency Protest
Meet: 11:30am
Venue: The Africa Centre, 38 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JT
Wear: Red and Black or African dress
The protest will take place to the sounds of Fela Kuti’s “No Agreement”.
For more information please contact Dele Fatunla (delefatunla)

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