The Living Church

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The Living ChurchAugust 19, 2001Virginians Invited to Study Race Relations in Liverpool 223(8) p. 8

Liverpool, England, and Richmond, Va., both grew rich in the slave trade during the first 200 years after European trade expanded to include North America. Recently the ties between the two cities were renewed for a more humanitarian purpose when a team of seven -- three priests and four lay leaders of the Diocese of Virginia -- traveled to the Diocese of Liverpool to study the climate of race relations.

The team, made up of members of Virginia's diocesan committee on race relations, was invited by the Rt. Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, to listen and learn about the state of race relations within his see. Future visits and ongoing dialogue are planned with the long-term goal of developing a race relations curriculum for Liverpool adapted from the Virginia diocesan curriculum titled "Racism: It's Everybody's Problem."

Oddly enough, most English people deny the existence of slavery as a part of their nation's history. Accounts of the slave trade's fundamental impact on the phenomenal growth of Liverpool and industrialized England are absent from history schoolbooks.

In the present, race relations in Liverpool are "quietly intense," says the Rev. Lynne Washington of the Diocese of Virginia. The African English of Liverpool, who have inhabited distinct neighborhoods of the city for generations, are geographically and economically segregated from the white population. The segregation, say members of the Virginia team, is perpetuated not only by the whites but by the African English themselves who generally prefer to keep to their own neighborhoods, using only black-owned and operated businesses.

The Diocese of Liverpool recognizes a need for reconciliation with the past and a need for minimizing segregation among all its ethnic communities. In 2002, the Virginia team will return to Liverpool to assist in implementing Liverpool's new race relations curriculum and to facilitate a series of community-wide workshops on race relations. In preparation, a team from the Diocese of Liverpool will soon be visiting Richmond to study Richmond's history in the slave trade and in race relations to the present.

The majority of all slave ships used in what came to be known as the "Slave Triangle" were built in Liverpool. The ships dispatched from Liverpool brought rum to West Africa in exchange for slaves who were then sent on to Caribbean and American ports including Richmond. The valuable raw materials of the New World, especially molasses -- an ingredient of rum -- were brought back to Liverpool.

Another long-term goal of the project is to renew the "slave triangle" between the Diocese of Akure in Nigeria, the Diocese of Liverpool, and the Diocese of Virginia. This time the purpose will be one of reconciliation and healing. Akure was one of the major areas from which Africans were captured and sold as slaves. Bishop Jones has already established friendships with the Bishop of Akure and the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of Virginia, when he learned of their shared and tragic past. The three bishops have each said they are looking forward to this partnership in reconciliation.

Nancy Jenkins