After a year of campaigning, we are writing to inform you that the Save the Africa Centre campaign is formally concluding.
It has come to our understanding that the ‘option to sell’ 38 King Street has been signed.
This has been via the buyer, Capital and Counties.
To date, we have had no communication of the fact by the Africa Centre’s Board of Trustees, but tenants have been asked to vacate the building by December 2012, when the sale will be complete.
Following the 26 January 2012 community meeting, the campaign requested that a consultative process be facilitated on the charity’s Vision, Governance and Programming before the sale was confirmed. We have received no response from the Board of Trustees.
Subsequently, in February 2012, the campaign team shared with the Trustees our Draft Vision Document, ‘Bring What You Love’. We have received no response to the document, which we hoped would be a starting point to a shared vision.
The Africa Centre is the home of many shared memories and potential for our diverse communities, both of social events and laughter, and of social change and leadership. In defence of our cultural heritage, good governance and history, a small group of people backed by your voice have attempted to ensure that consultation was undergone regarding the decision to sell: it is our understanding that 38 King Street was bequeathed to the Africa Centre in its widest sense and belongs to all of us. However, the 1961 Governing Document allows a quorum of three trustees to agree to the sale of any asset of the charity, including the building that is its foundation stone.
The letter of the law approves of the sale and nothing can be done to stop it.
We acknowledge the loss of 38 King Street as the most important cultural heritage site for the African Diaspora in Britain.
We acknowledge and are proud of the many achievements of the Save the Africa Centre campaign:
- The restraint and prevention of a secret sale for an entire year, without the campaign, 38 King Street would have been sold without any notification of the community in June 2011.
- The engagement of over 3,000 supporters, through the on-line petition and Facebook page, and the many offerings of memories and support as documented in Collective Voices. Thank you to all who have worked for, with and supported the campaign through encouraging words, shared commitment and action!
- The generation of an impressive amount of media attention about the charity, its importance and its history, including public support from respected figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Yinka Shonibare, Bonnie Greer, and Sokari Douglas Camp, with coverage in the Times, the Evening Standard, the Guardian, the BBC News and the Financial Times, as well as a numerous articles generated by grassroots community voices on the internet. And this after many had forgotten that the Africa Centre still existed. Thank you to all contributors who have made London aware again that Africans have a historic place in the centre of this great multicultural city.
- The reminder to the Trustees that the Africa Centre is a membership organization. Membership had withered over the past decade through lack of communication leaving the Board of Trustees as the sole decision-makers.
(i) Although the letter writing efforts of a number of former members, trustees and directors demanding an Extraordinary General Meeting of the members did not allow participation to any of the former members, it did ensure that an EGM was eventually held.
(ii) Although nomination to become new members did not follow an open process, the efforts of STAC ensured that 14 new members were instated at the EGM on 2 June 2011.
(iii) The AU Group of African Ambassadors have re-engaged with the charity, in accordance with the Governing Document. Prior to the campaign, the current African diplomatic corps had not been made aware that they were key stakeholders.
- The opening of space for alternative proposals, and for talented community members to contribute to redeveloping the original site. We thank David Adjaye for his inspiring vision and feasibility study transforming 38 King Street in to a world-class cultural centre. We acknowledge the bravery of Hadeel Ibrahim’s fundraising initiative that raised £3.6 million to a 6 week deadline, and thank her for her patience in waiting five months before withdrawing her proposal due to lack of response from the Trustees.
- The publishing of a coherent on-line survey with over 400 participants, which encouraged the Trustees to produce their own survey in response. We acknowledge that the Board of Trustees commissioned a consultation in late 2011, following the delay of the sale, and that the results of this will be incorporated in to their future Business Plan. Without the campaign, the sale would have taken place without these preparations.
- The offer of a thoughtful and considered Programming Vision supported by successful cultural contributors, from Afri-kokoa and Open the Gate to Chatham House and the Royal Africa Society and many others. Thank you to all those who contributed to this vision exercise. We hope that it has planted a seed that will take fruit elsewhere.
- Most importantly, the re-engagement of the African Diaspora community with the Africa Centre.
We hope that the trustees will learn and benefit from all of the above activities and strongly encourage them to transform their Governance Document so that it is truly representative of the community the charity is meant to benefit, and ‘fit for purpose’ for the next 50 years. Although they have not acknowledged our recommendations, we hope that they will take them on board for the future. The Africa Centre belongs to all of us.
We recognize that there are alternate actions, including injunction and protest, and acknowledge that many in the community supported these actions at our 26 January meeting; we unfortunately do not have the capacity or funding to pursue these scenarios.
We encourage those of you still interested in taking this forward – or build on the programming and creative ideas that have emerged from the campaign to write to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible (until end May 2012) and we will connect you with other like-minded community members.
We are so sorry that we were unable to ultimately protect 38 King Street but wish to thank everyone involved in the campaign, both in Britain and abroad, for your solidarity and friendship in this effort.
We wish the trustees luck in their future endeavours. If you would like to keep abreast of the Africa Centre’s development please sign up to join their database.
We aim to reconvene in 2014, at the 50th Anniversary of the Africa Centre’s opening, to establish how the Africa Centre and its trustees have progressed in preserving the legacy of the charity; judiciously utilizing the funds realized from the sale of 38 King Street and maintained the legacy and relevance of the Africa Centre.
The Save The Africa Centre Campaign Team
Ugo Arinzeh, Chipo Chung, Elizabeth Dudley, Richard Dowden, (in a personal capacity), Susana Edjang, Dele Fatunla, Boko Inyundo, A.J. Kwame, Debbie Simmons, Onyekachi Wambu