Posts Tagged ‘slavery’
The Toronto Star‘s Alicja Siekierska reports on how two African-American migrants, escaped slaves, are now being honoured for their role in Toronto’s history.
Nearly 200 years ago, shortly after fleeing slavery in the United States using the Underground Railroad, Lucie and Thornton Blackburn became leaders in their newly adopted community in Toronto.
They helped construct the historic Little Trinity Anglican Church on King St., and Thornton established Toronto’s first cab company — a red-and-yellow horse-drawn carriage that seated four.
On Wednesday, George Brown College will honour the story of the Blackburns, naming a conference centre at their student residence, The George, after the courageous couple and unveiling a mural designed and painted by George Brown students.
“This goes beyond the incredible story of a couple fleeing slavery to seek freedom in Canada, building incredible community partnerships and opening up the doors to blacks in Toronto,” said Nikki Clarke, the president of the Ontario Black History Society.
“Their story runs parallel to many people’s stories: taking refuge, seeking safety, and trying to start over in a new country. It resonates with many.”
[URBAN NOTE] “From slave market to Olympic venue: variations of capitalist accumulation in the port of Rio de Janeiro”
Guilherme Leite Gonçalves and Sérgio Costa’s Open Democracy essay looks at the changing functions of the port of Rio de Janeiro. In some of its broad outlines, the story that it tells is familiar.
The port district of Rio de Janeiro is one of the areas most affected by urban interventions connected to the August 2016 Olympics. Until very recently, business groups, politicians, investors and the mainstream media saw the port district as a devalued and degraded space, isolated from the rest of the city. In fact, the entire region had low market value and was of little interest for real estate investments, commercial transactions and services. Even the port itself was of little significance when compared to other Brazilian ports. Therefore, the region was located “outside” the process of capitalist accumulation.
This situation changed completely in November 2009. About a month after Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the Olympics, the Porto Maravilha project became public. This project catalyzed actions and economic, political and cultural expectations, restructuring the entire port district in order to create value.
Contrary to appearances, this phenomenon is not new. It is a new venue for a history that repeats itself. In its various stages, the port of Rio de Janeiro was marked by different landmarks of capitalist dynamic that both repelled and attracted spaces, processes and market relations, according to the needs of accumulation. This is a history marked by actors, forces and social pressures alternating in a continuous movement of commodification, decommodification and re-commodification – of people, goods and activities.
Since Rosa Luxemburg, in fact, Marxist political economists have realized that the accumulation of capital is not limited to a purely economic process between capitalists and workers in the production of surplus value. Seeing as only a relative portion of the surplus value can be appropriated in this internal transit, the system must make use of a non-capitalist “outside” to completely appropriate it.
Accordingly, the system makes use of explicit non-economic violence, including colonial or imperial policies, dispossessions, bloody legislation etc. There is, in other words, a repeated primitive accumulation throughout the history of capitalism. This repetition is required by capitalist expansion itself, which must commodify not yet commodified spaces in order to develop.
The various historical stages of this phenomenon are evident in the port district of Rio de Janeiro, as this space is incorporated in and uncoupled from a process that transforms socially constructed spaces into merchandise.
From its creation until the nineteenth century, the port took part in the classical patterns of primitive accumulation by integrating Brazil into world capitalism through the outflow of sugar, then gold and coffee, in addition to the inflow of manufactured goods and a contingent of about two million Africans that were kidnapped, enslaved and traded. This port received the highest number of enslaved Africans in the entire American continent. The right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.
However, since its beginnings, the physical space of the port was itself integrated into various forms of accumulation. The first major traffic increase took place in the early seventeenth century and was connected to the outflow of sugar. In 1618, this traffic led Governor Rui Vaz Pinto to publish a legal decree establishing the use of black slaves to load and unload ships. It was clearly a mechanism meant to take over the space to create value, as only slaveholders were able to load goods in the port. This decree also represented the beginning of regular stevedoring services and established their legal system, namely the privilege or monopoly, since the right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.