Save the Africa Centre

(May 04, 2011)

The following is a note from the Africa Centre

Dear Friends

I hope that you will follow up on my request to help Save the Africa Centre. Here is some background on the organization and the circumstances:

The Africa Centre was founded in 1962. Its home, at 38 King Street, Covent Garden, was gifted to the African people in perpetuity by the Catholic Church. Over four decades the building has been a refuge, a meeting place and cultural beacon for the likes of Desmond Tutu, Kenneth Kaunda, Wole Soyinka and Walter Rodney, and an iconic landmark for Africans in Britain. In March 2011, news leaked that the Africa Centre’s Board of Trustees were engaged in a secret deal to sell a 125 year lease of 38 King Street to Capco, a property developer. A campaign to save it quickly emerged, demanding a public consultation with the community on the sale of the centre and garnering the active support of Desmond Tutu, Mo Ibrahim and Youssou N’Dour amongst others, together with over 1,000 petitioners. Thus far, the Board refuse to meet with the community and the sale of the iconic landmark is imminent. I attach a brochure with more information.

There are two ways to support. As an individual or as a representative of a diaspora organization. Our call for consultation is not to demand that they do not sell the building, but that they at least inform the community of their plans and listen to our position.

To show your support you can sign up, as an individual as well as a community group, to this newly set up petition:

If you would like to join a coalition of community organizations that is forming to send their own letter and request to the Trustees, please let me know and we will start a dialogue.

We have over 1,000 signatures on the petition. If you can send the attached brochure and petition details to your networks and get more people to sign up, there is a stronger chance that a consultation will take place. More information can be found on the Save the Africa Centre campaign blog, which we keep updated to ensure the wider community and those that have expressed their support, are kept updated:

We also have a campaign Facebook page which you could 'Like' – this has already attracted in the region of 1,000 active users:
It would be appreciated if you could confirm your own support of the 'Save the Africa Centre' campaign simply by adding your name to our petition at the top of this email to confirm that you would consider wider consultation an appropriate call to make to the current Board of trustees of the Africa Centre.

Find below two tasters of the viewpoints that the Save the Africa Centre Campaign is trying to get heard:

"This campaign is about the next Dizzie Rascal currently in a bedroom in Dalston mixing some tunes together hoping for the big time and, potentially, getting the opportunity to show his talent at 38 King Street. It's about a Somali women's group that may, during the Olympics, want central London space to retail some ethically traded goods to the massive international audience walking through Covent Garden during that month next year. It's about those English school kids from Putney studying art GCSEs getting a chance to see some contemporary African art during a school trip into town and then being inspired to devote their gap year post A-Levels to teaching in a school in Malawi. It's about the Sudanese community meeting by happenstance at a panel session on democracy at 38 King Street and learning more, at civil society level, how important institutions are at building a more collaborative society (whilst their political elites gather at Chatham House to talk about the same at the political level). It's about Libyan families finding a place in town where they can share stories informally with Zimbabweans and families from Cote d'Ivoire about coping with the stress of maintaining contact with their loved ones in separate countries albeit in similarly challenging circumstances. These fathers/brothers/sisters simply won't be walking past Northumberland Avenue on any given Sunday. They'll have popped into Leicester Square to see a film and then thought to grab a bite in Covent Garden and heard on the grapevine about this African place down the road."
"But without an inclusive or democratic process the Council of the Africa Centre is selling its only asset. Neither an innovative programme of educational or cultural events, nor the social capital of vibrant membership or engaged beneficiaries act as balancing assets. When the 38 King Street building goes, the ethos and philosophy of the Africa Centre will go with it. And on the torn roots of our history in Britain, an up-market high-street store will be built. This is the state of democracy in our little Africa, in the heart of Covent Garden." - The Save the Africa Centre Blog
Read more on the blog.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope you will join the campaign to Save the Africa Centre.

Very Best Wishes,



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