Ever heard of Walter Rodney? Neither had I!
His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In the process he learned Portuguese and Spanish which along with the French he had learned at Queens College made him somewhat of a linguist.
In 1970, his Ph.D dissertation was published by Oxford University Press under the title, A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. This work was to set a trend for Rodney in both challenging the assumptions of western historians about African history and setting new standards for looking at the history of oppressed peoples. According to Horace Campbell “This work was path-breaking in the way in which it analyzed the impact of slavery on the communities and the interrelationship between societies of the region and on the ecology of the region.”http://www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com/wpa/rodney_bio.html
This week I attended a documentary screening about his life and activism, held at London Metropolitan University. It was inspiring and thought provoking. Walter Rodney had dedicated his life to progressing the cause of Liberation of oppressed peoples.
He was an academic and scholar, and although he counted Presidents and Scholars among his peers, he reminded me of Bob Marley in that he never forgot that his struggle was a grassroots struggle. He didn’t just write about his ideals from a lofty vantage point, but he enagaged with people at a ground level, whether in his native Guyana, Britain, Jamaica or Africa. Read the Wikipedia write up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Rodney
What made this evening more interesting was that in the audience were people who actually knew him and that had worked with him. People who were caught up in the struggles in Guyana at that time.
Even more poignant was the assertion from these people, that since Rodney’s assaination…things in that country have deteriorated, not improved.
Whilst there I also met bumped into a lady called Margaret Busby.
I met Margaret for the first time about 2 months ago, at a screening for a film called The Spook Who Sat By The Door at BFI held by Black History Walks so I was surprised to see her. Margaret was Britain’s first black publisher (or black female, not entirely sure.) She is also a writer. She was instrumental in bringing the attention to the film and manuscript when it was first shown in the Seventies. The story behind that film as well as the film itself is also a fascinating one. The struggle to get it made, and the subsequent blacklisting of the Director Ivan Dixon. It effectively destroyed his career. See the Wikipedia on Ivan Dixon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Dixon
After the screening of the film, there was a Q&A with Margaret. See the MindMap I took to capture the event .