Following the 1981 disturbances in Leicester, which highlighted a number of deficiencies in the African Caribbean community a series of meetings were held with the Leicester City Council. This led to the formation of a community base committee to represent the young black community. The committee consisted of members from established black organisations, sound systems collectives, concerned individuals, and the business community. One of the conclusions from the committee was the community’s need for a building to call its own, a building from which a range of services could be provided to meet the deficiencies of the community. It was also felt the building could become a central point that the African Caribbean Community could identify with and it would intern become a focal point from which the community would have a local, national and international expression.
The empty Railway Workingmen’s Club was identified as a suitable building. This met with resistance from a number of quarters including the City Council. However, after a period of occupation by representatives from the young people in the community the building was eventually purchased on behalf of the black community through funding from the inner area programme via the council.
As a consequence of these false dawns, the Imani Ujima Centre was transferred to the City Council in June 1996 and renamed the African Caribbean Centre.
A partnership formed between the African Caribbean Citizens Forum (ACCF) and Officers from the Arts and Leisure Department, to develop the services to be delivered from the centre through a programme of activities.
From 1996 to 2002, the centre had operated under this structure with limited success.
Following this, the centre went into the Education and Life Long Learning Department, which resulted in the services and the ethos provided by the centre being changed. The outcome of this was an expression of dissatisfaction by the African Caribbean Community. This was further exacerbated by the cuts to the voluntary sector and the premises review carried out by the City Council. This resulted in a public meeting of the African Caribbean communities in May 2004 at the African Caribbean Centre.
The main outcomes from the meeting saw the ACCF being charged with the mandate to seek community governance and ownership of the building. The approach to this was to set up to process the mandate and produce a business plan for the future of the African Caribbean Centre. To achieve this, a subgroup of the ACCF was established consisting of volunteers from the public meeting. The subgroup, known as the African Caribbean Centre Development Group (ACCDG) in turn formed six task groups and they were given the role of concentrating on the following areas:
- Political Lobbying
- Community Coordination
- Identifying Expertise
African Caribbean Citizens Forum, Rapport Magazine, Summer Edition, 2005, p. 5.
Donated by Carol Varley: African Caribbean Citizens Forum