Tony Cheeseman’s passing in 2009 motivated 5 of his friends to create an organisation that would not only celebrate his life and contribution to the African and Caribbean community but celebrate the wider heritage of the Caribbean community in the East End of London and neighbouring Boroughs.
As the Caribbean community structure has significantly changed over the last 50 years and the passing of many of the community’s activists who helped promote the resilience of the community; The Foundation has made a commitment to the preservation of the heritage of the community.
The community conferences organised by the Tony Cheeseman Foundation have been a great source of inspiration for those that have attended. It has provided elders with an opportunity to reminiscence and share stories of traditions that were a source of support during very difficult times. For the younger generation they provided new insight and knowledge about their heritage and community. Discovering and reminding the community of traditions that helped it overcome difficult times is very important particularly when the community is so often portrayed negatively both within and outside of the community.
Tony Cheeseman recognised the relevance of African and Caribbean traditions and culture as an important context for the development of African and Caribbean communities and an antidote against the devastating impact of racism that the community continues to face.
Most of the centres and institutions that were set up by the community in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980s in Britain, have now disappeared and lost. The Performing Arts Centre founded by Tony Cheeseman is now a McDonald’s fast food outlet. There is no reminder or plaque to mark its significance to the heritage of African and Caribbean communities.
‘Many studies that explore the African and Caribbean community life in the UK are often littered with negative stories and one where the community is viewed as a community of ‘need’ rather than one of ‘strengths and assets’. These studies have done little to understand how minority ethnic communities utilise their connections, networks and resources for collective and personal benefit.’ (Reynolds.2004)
The Tony Cheeseman Foundation is committed to celebrating the communities ability to come together to overcome challenges and tap into its collective strengths. Share stories that aim to inspire community resilience, foster greater intergenerational dialogue and a sense of hope for the future. I salute the Foundation in its mission to promote community resilience through presenting and promoting the rich heritage of the African and Caribbean communities’ experiences. Celebrating our rich heritage is an important foundation for a more resilient future.
1. Organisational Development – Continue to ensure that the Foundation has a range of policies and procedures to guide its work. (To work on capturing the expected outcomes of the Foundation’s work and how this can be measured. Hold future facilitated sessions to agree outcomes and their measurement.)
2. To build connections with young people and identify potential partners and agree the nature of working links with schools, e.g. year group, relevance to curriculum and engagement strategy.
3. Beneficiaries – To expand and build on our membership base including developing mechanisms for members to become more involved in the work of the Foundation.
4. Resources – Secure resources by making applications to Funding bodies.
5. To celebrate Tony Cheeseman musical legacy.
6. To create a website to promote the work of Tony Cheeseman and the Foundation, also to encourage community participation and involvement
7. Continue working with Newham Heritage Services, the National Archives, and other Heritage organisations.
8. Continue promoting the Banner exhibition ‘From Discovery to Independence – Highlighting the journey of Sugar from the Caribbean to the London Borough of Newham.’
Acknowledgement and special thanks to
Sandra Griffiths – Red Earth Consultancy, Marie Gabriel Consultancy, The Windrush Foundation Sam King MBE and Arthur Torrington CBE
National Archives – ‘Caribbean through a lens’ Sara Griffiths, Sandra Shakespeare and Michael Mahoney.
If you want to read the full report click here Tony Cheeseman Foundation Review 2012 – 2015