Journey to Justice Exhibition at the International Slavery Museum

On the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool is the International Slavery Museum. Opened in 2007, the museum aims to increase understanding of the transatlantic slave trade and its continuing impact, but also draws attention to contemporary slavery. From the 5th of October 2018 until the 7th of April 2019, the Museum is playing host to the travelling Journey to Justice exhibition, designed by an organisation of the same name that uses the arts and education about human rights movements to try and inspire people to take action for social justice.

The Journey to Justice exhibition focuses on some of the lesser-known stories of the American civil rights movement, highlighting what motivates people to get involved and stay active in social justice campaigns. Unlike a lot of museums, the temporary exhibition space at the International Slavery Museum is not clearly separated from the permanent exhibitions, so Journey to Justice almost merges with the museum’s section on the contemporary impacts of the transatlantic slave trade. This is quite effective, highlighting the links between the legacies of the slave trade and the civil rights movement.

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The Journey to Justice exhibition, which is currently at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The exhibition features a number of ‘bus stops,’ each one telling the story of an individual or small group of people who took a stand against injustice during the civil rights movement. It starts with a map, detailing the dates and locations of 21 important moments in the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 60s. As a Geographer I may be biased, but I always find maps a really helpful way of contextualising examples and getting my head around the bigger picture.

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The ‘bus stop’ about Elmore and Peggy Nickleberry. Elmore was a sanitation worker in Memphis who took part in a strike of more than 1000 sanitation workers for better pay and conditions (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Each ‘bus stop’ features text, images, quotations, and recorded interviews or a poem written by local schoolchildren in response to the exhibition. The final example represents the Greensboro Sit-ins, when four black students sat at the lunch counter in an all-white restaurant and refused to leave. It also encourages visitors to interact with the exhibition, filling out labels about how they can take action for social justice. There is also a map of the UK labelled with important social justice campaigns which visitors are asked to contribute to. These interactive elements highlight the importance of properly maintaining exhibitions; the labels for people to write on had run out, which meant that no one else could contribute. It is a minor issue, but demonstrates that a museum’s work isn’t finished once the exhibition opens.

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The lunch counter section of the Journey to Justice exhibition encourages visitors to sit and reflect , and interact with the exhibition by writing down and displaying their responses (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

There is also a section for radical zines, self-published magazines that are frequently produced by activists. The Represent! exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester (open until the 3rd of February 2019) also has a section for zines; perhaps this is an emerging trend amongst museums. It is also quite common now for exhibitions to feature sounds, speech, and/or music played out loud, so the visitor has no choice but to listen. The Journey to Justice Jukebox plays songs associated with the civil rights movement. I find speech played out loud in museums distracting, as I struggle to listen to one set of words and read another at the same time, but music I can deal with. In this case it adds an extra dimension to the exhibition, illustrating the relationship between the civil rights movement and popular culture, and highlighting the role music can play in motivating and inspiring activists.

Journey to Justice is a small exhibition with ambitious goals. It aims to use the history of the civil rights movements to encourage people to take their own stand for social justice. Whilst I am not convinced that a museum exhibition is an effective method of creating activists, I do think it is a thoughtful and interesting exhibition that is well worth a visit. The exhibition will continue to tour the country when it’s stint in Liverpool finishes, visiting London, Edinburgh, Leeds, and Leicester over the next few years, so don’t worry if Merseyside is a little too far for you to travel!

 

Protest Stickers: Liverpool

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The Beatles are Liverpool’s most famous export (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Since I have become an honourary Northerner, I have had the chance to explore some of the North’s cities. Liverpool is a great city, a fascinating mix of industrial decay, glossy redevelopment, and creativity. It has grown on me very quickly, not least because of all the stickers I have found there.

One thing that stands out about Liverpool’s stickers is the large number advertising various escort services– I have never seen so many in any other city I’ve been to! I wouldn’t like to suggest why that might be, but it’s certainly an interesting trend. Another reason Liverpool’s stickers stand out is that they made the national news recently when a feminist group called Liverpool ReSisters put anti-trans penis-shaped stickers (featured below) on Anthony Gormley’s sculptures on Crosby beach.

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96 Liverpool fans were killed during the Hillsborough Disaster on 15th April 1989. The Sun newspaper is still unpopular for the way it blamed the fans for what happened (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 03/09/18).

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Anti-fascist groups are some of the most common producers of protest stickers. This one is produced by the Merseyside Anti-fascist Network, and uses the animation style of the popular cartoon Rick and Morty (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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This sticker was also produced by the Merseyside Anti-fascist Network. The logo of two overlapping flags is a common anti-fascist symbol, but this group have given it a local spin by adding a Liver Bird, one of Liverpool’s most famous symbols (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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Anti-fascist groups don’t just put up stickers in their local areas, they also put them up when they travel. This sticker was made by the North London Anti-fascists (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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Antifaschistische Aktion is a German anti-fascist network, suggesting this sticker has come from even further afield (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/03/18).

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Migration is one of the most controversial topics in British politics at the moment. This sticker was produced by the International Workers of the World, an international union that has been around since 1905 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 03/09/18).

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This sticker has a similar message, but was produced by a different group. Global Justice Now works to create a more equal world, launched in 1967 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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This sticker is part of a series where members of Marvel’s superhero team the Avengers confront prominent politicians. The stickers are quite old, going back to at least 2015, so some of the politicians they feature are in different positions now. George Osborne, for example, is no longer Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is the context in which this sticker was produced. The sticker is advertising Another Angry Voice, a political opinion blog. (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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Feminist issues are a common topic of protest stickers. This sticker refers to the debate about whether women are ever even partially responsible when they are sexual assaulted, because of their clothes or behaviour.  This sticker was produced by Active Distribution, a radical publishing group that sells protest stickers, amongst many other things (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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This sticker relates to a controversial issue within modern feminism about whether or not transgender people should be able to self-identify as women. Some women view transgender women as just another example of sexist oppression. This is the sticker that made national news recently when it was put on the Anthony Gormley sculptures on Crosby beach (Photo: Hannah Awcock: 03/09/18).

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This sticker commemorates British people who have died fighting for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Syrian Civil War. The YPG is the armed wing of the Kurdish left-wing Democratic Union Party. The Kurdish text translates as “Martyrs don’t die.” The sticker is obviously quite recent; Anna Campbell, the only woman on the sticker, was killed in Afrin in Northern Syria on 15th March 2018. It is an unusual sticker, I have never seen on related to this issue before (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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Animal rights, vegetarianism, and veganism is another common topic of protest stickers. It is not clear who produced this sticker, although the logo does (probably unintentionally) remind me of the X-factor. (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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It is also not clear who produced this sticker. It is informing people of their rights if the police use Stop and Search powers–you have no legal obligation to provide your name or address. It is an interesting design, but I don’t no how effective it is as a protest sticker. It took me a few seconds to figure out that the main text reads “No Comment,” and I doubt most people would put as much effort into reading it as I did (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).

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I saved this sticker for last because it is my favourite sticker for quite some time, I like the clever design. Stand Up to Racism is a campaign group formed in response to the increasing racism and xenophobic politics around the world (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/18).