Our History: Black History Month 2020 in Malvern
Firstly I would like to give my utmost thanks and admiration to Faith Renger of the Malvern Museum for dedicating so much of her expertise, time, incredible knowledge and passion. Thank you so very much for sourcing archives, facilitating the project and being the epitome of a truly supportive ally and friend.
British history is part of a global story, one shaped by migration, race, and the legacies of imperialism. Now as we celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth we are taking this opportunity for a concentrated focus on Black historical input and achievement, in our very own town of Malvern.
This week on the official @malvernmuseumoflocalhistory Instagram we will share a post each day in solidarity with the movement towards racial equality and we encourage you to join us and come together and learn lessons for now and the future, as well as celebrate and champion our own local heroes and histories. We can honour our commitment to learning and standing united against racism.
We hope that our platform can be used to uplift the voices of our Black members of the community, and of allies old and new.
As an artist whose work embodies inclusiveness, Postcolonial research and the importance of working together I would like to introduce you to this project titled ‘Our History; Black History Month in Malvern,’.
My interest in archives and forms of documentation has led me to this research project which has allowed me to ask important questions around how we sit with difference in Britain, how our stories are told and who can access it.
My work is dynamic and conversational, often collaborating with the community around me. My aim is to share knowledge and lesser known facts in an accessible way in order to shine a light in unexplored territory and hopefully offer an opportunity to think, come together and ignite a catalyst through which change can unfold.
Black history should not be, and is not, confined to one month, and I will continue to advocate for the systemic reform of our focus on only the palatable aspects of history. Without venturing into difficult topics such as race, means that we are all poorer – poorer in thought and knowledge.
I understand that it is not ideal that I as a British/Asian person am speaking for BHM. I did search for a local Black historian or artist who may be interested in taking this on but I couldn’t find someone, also I’d be asking of a lot of unpaid, emotionally laborious, time consuming work.
I am coming from a place of wanting to learn more and inform my community and with a bit of luck reach a new demographic who may not have typically celebrated #Blackhistorymonth before as this is the first year Worcestershire has really taken to the movement.
Born in 1885 in Barbados to a family of 13 children. Died in Malvern in 1937, at 52 Years old with a wife and 7 children.
James ran away from home at the age of 16 and joined the merchant navy as a cabin boy. In 1908 his ship docked at Liverpool and he travelled around England with John Sanger’s Circus coming to Malvern Link where one evening James met a local girl, Eliza Dance.
In 1910 he proposed to her and they decided to get married. He and Eliza settled on Lower Chase Road, Barnard’s Green and James left the merchant navy and began work as a labourer. He worked on the second tunnel through the Malvern Hills to Ledbury which opened in 1926 and the reconstruction of the Malvern Winter Gardens in 1927 including the creation of a ballroom.
As a British citizen Carty immediately volunteered for service and joined the Worcestershire Regiment and saw action throughout the Great War mostly in France.
Carty was described as a real family man, his whole life was dedicated to his wife and children. He always worked hard and for all hours so his family could live and eat, he even grew an allotment on Madresfield Road.
“Jimmy Carty was a wonderful man. He was as strong as an ox. He was in the Malvern Male Voice Choir. His eldest sons. Alec and Gerald became policemen in Coventry. And all the boys played football for Barnards Green. –We used to like to listen to Jimmy Carty speaking. ‘cos he had a West Indian accent. He was thoroughly liked in Malvern. Wherever he went, he was a perfect gentleman.”
“He was always humming a tune. There was a looseness in the way he moved. He was domesticated, and washed up at home. He was a very clean man and dressed smartly for Sundays. He would polish our shoes or whiten our canvas shoes. And he was always polite to people, saying ‘Sir’ or Ma’am’.”His daughter, Alma Longstaff
As expected of the time, the buzz went around Malvern when James and Eliza got married. Their wedding took place in the Lansdowne Methodist church.
It was booked for a Saturday at 11am but the Minister asked them to change the time to 9am “cos there would be too many people there to see such an unusual marriage.” So At 11am the roads around the church were blocked by crowds. But of course, the bride and groom had already married at 9am! The crowds felt cheated. And wherever he went curious eyes always followed him.
“He brought spice to the working-day life of Barnards Green, romance to an English girl, and he established a dynasty of Cartys in Malvern.”
A large crowd attended his funeral in 1937 to pay homage to a man who had become familiar, popular and well respected in Malvern. His final resting place is Malvern Cemetery.
Born in 1914 in Belgium to a mother from Herefordshire and a Belgian Congolese father and died in 2010.
Irene and her parents came from Namur and when the Germans invaded the country, Irene’s father left to fight in the Belgian army. Sadly he was killed. Irene and her mother Charlotte became just two of 250,000 Belgian refugees who fled their homes to seek refuge in Britain at the outbreak of the Great War.
In Malvern there was an immediate response to supporting the Belgians. Some people offered to share their homes and others formed committees to obtain premises and furnish them as hostels, so several families could live together. A group of Belgian nuns were the first to arrive in mid September and they in turn became the ‘wardens’ of the new hostels. The first was in the Colston Building in Malvern Link, and then other large houses became available in Great Malvern.
Altogether, Malvern offered homes to about 500 Belgians, and many of the males found local work. A Belgian school of 150 pupils and staff arrived in Malvern Wells and accommodation was found in a number of large unoccupied houses along the Wells Road.
As a single mother, Charlotte left to find work. Irene was placed in the care of the Upton Board of Guardians and they placed her with a local family, the Bishops. Irene thrived in their household and quickly adapted to her new life, attending Malvern Link School.
It is unlikely she met her mother again, and no trace of Charlotte’s whereabouts after she left Malvern has been found…yet.
Irene passed away in 2010 having lived a full and happy life aged 96.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in Malvern
Haile Selassie became Emperor of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1930 and set about modernising his country. The exiled Emperor became a frequent visitor to Malvern from 1938.
Princesses Hirut (Ruth) and Seble (Sybil) were placed at Clarendon School, Malvern. Emperor Haile Selassie would visit the school and hand out awards on Prize Giving Days. On his visits to Malvern, the emperor could often be found at Holy Trinity church at Link Top.
Since the 1930s, Haile Selassie has been worshipped as the messiah who would lead the African peoples from all over the world to freedom. Before becoming emperor he was known as Ras Tafari.
RASTAFARI INNA Malvern was established in 2010. The aim of the festival is to promote Roots music, Rastafarian Cultural arts, unite people for positive social change and highlight Emperor Haile Selassie’s time in Malvern.
You don’t need to have read intellectual texts or books or have gone to university to reflect and decide to be an ally.
Becoming an ally can the simplest of acts, like deciding not be removed from a Bus in 1950’s USA. It’s in the way you show up, or sometimes step down and let someone else speak. Or simply smiling at that person in the street.
We must remain relevant throughout the year within educational attainment, employment, and entrepreneurship. There must now be a national coalition of solidarity.