In the Spirit of Malcolm X we launch a page where we outline where OBU stands on the key issues of the day.
We will be holding a commuity meeting about the organisation and the centre on Saturday 25th August, 1pm at Bluk, 66 Villa Road, Birmingham B19 1BL
Donate to the Centre at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/marcusgarveycentre
The Marcus Garvey Nursery was one of the oldest and longest running Black led nurseries in Britain when it closed its doors in 2008. From 1974 it had served the community in Birmingham, providing thousands of children with a Black early year’s education. Despite raising funds to extend the nursery the Harambee Organisation that started the business, fell into mountains of debt that left the building project less than half finished. When the money ran out the building was nothing but a shell, and after thieves stole the wiring it was left with no electrics, plumbing or plaster and; huge holes in the ceiling.
It was at this point that my dad, Maurice Andrews, got back involved with the organisation that he had been one of the founder members. With a group of others they managed to solve the legal and debt problems. The company had even been struck off the register, but was reinstated by the High Court. Solving the debt problem was partly done by unfortunately having to sell the Harriet Tubman Bookshop on Grove Lane, and leasing out a hostel the organisation owned on Hamstead Road. Harambee were also working closely with the council on a new funding bid to complete the nursery that extended to getting plans drawn up, but the council decided against funding the project. I got involved with Harambee around this time to offer support, but left to start the Organisation of Black Unity because at this stage there was no capacity to build an organisation, it was all about resolving the debt issues.
The rise and fall of the Marcus Garvey Nursery CIC
After Harambee had resolved most of the debt issue by selling the bookshop they approached OBU to help get the Marcus Garvey Nursery re-opened. We were keen to take it on but also to build OBU as planned. In January 2014 we started a new community interest company called Marcus Garvey Nursery that was jointly owned by Harambee and OBU, with board members from each organisation and also from interested parties in the public. We made the company limited by shares and planned to sell a percentage of the company to raise some of the money for the renovation of the building. The plan was to keep a watch over the development of nursery but also allow us to maintain a focus on the work of OBU. This turned out to be a spectacular failure on our part.
By giving too much autonomy to Marcus Garvey Nursery we lost control of the project. We had established the goal to open just the ground floor at first from the beginning, but the board decided they wanted to try to fund the whole building project, so did not do the necessary work to get the building open. There were numerous changes of leadership in the company, and we in OBU did not provide the proper oversight. I personally thought I had rectified this at a board meeting in the summer of 2015: a new board was in place with clear goals and deadlines. However, I subsequently found out that contrary to what I had been told the paperwork for Marcus Garvey Nursery was not up to date and Companies House dissolved the company for this reason in September 2015. This was extremely embarrassing for the organisation, not least because we had raised over £1500 from selling shares and had to write letters to all shareholders with cheques for their reimbursement.
After the failure of the Marcus Garvey Nursery, OBU continued with our Year X to celebrate 90 years since Malcolm’s birth and 50 since his death. Harambee continued to clear their debts and became solvent through leasing the hostel. This combined with the sale of the bookshop meant that there were some funds available to spend on the nursery building, which were put aside. It was by no means enough to renovate the building, but a good contribution to getting the ground floor open. In mid-2016 Harambee approached OBU about again working together on the project. They now had assets, but only a few remaining board members, and they specifically wanted to engage younger people in the organisation.
After several meetings and discussions between the boards the decision was taken to merge the two organisations into Harambee OBU, which formally took place in December 2017. Harambee board members were on the new board, but I was elected chair and the constitution of OBU was adopted. It was agreed that all assets of Harambee would be held by the new organisation, including the money set aside for the old nursery building. The only three Harambee board members left at this point were my dad, Marcel and Billy (we will leave out surnames). All decisions were agreed by vote in formal meetings.
One bad apple spoils the batch
All should have been well at this point, but in a lesson for everyone reading one bad apple can spoil the whole batch. Billy had been doing most of the work on the maintaining the hostel and the nursery building but the majority of the board had been getting frustrated by his extremely slow pace at getting tasks done and lack of accountability. In the most damaging example, which ended up costing us thousands, he left the building full of rubbish we had cleared, after insisting he was getting a skip, and also left the building unsecure whilst he went on holiday. The first we knew of the problems was when a neighbour reported that the building was now being used routinely by drug addicts and having to deal with multiple calls from the police. After we eventually managed to secure the building it was in a disgusting state, with human waste and needles cast everywhere. Due to the dire state of the building we had to pay for a professional clean, and we for a security company to secure the building. Billy has been of no help in doing any of this and all of his work in the past on the building, for me, is nullified by this dreadful legacy.
Worse still, as one of the signatories on the account with the funds for the building Billy refused to transfer all the money over. Billy is now claiming that the merge was illegal (even though he was part of it) and that he is the last one true Harambee member, refusing to release the funds for their intended purpose. He has been harassing the tenants of the hostel and spreading complete lies about Harambee OBU and its board members. We have tried extremely hard to reason with him, but he has ignored calls, repeatedly ducked meetings and this week again refused to have any conversation. I have heard how inflated egos derailed organisations in the past, but have never witnessed just how destructive a deluded sense of self can be to the work that needs to be done. Needless to say, by any means necessary this problem will be dealt with and one person will not be allowed to throw us off course.
Marcus Garvey Centre for Education
Harambee OBU was transferred £25,000 towards the end of 2017 and collects the rent from leasing the hostel. So far these funds have been used to pay for maintenance work at the hostel; cleaning and securing the old nursery building; removing asbestos in that building and; installing electrics. We are making progress and the only thing stopping us from opening the ground floor of the centre is the funds. We have contractors in place for the plumbing, central heating and plastering. This is why we need to raise £15,000 so that we can finally open the ground floor. Pictures of the progress are below.
When we do open, though we are committed to the nursery project in the long term, in the short term the building will be the home of Education department of Harambee OBU. The plan is to use the space to open a Black supplementary school and hopefully a summer school, as well as being the base of operations for the organisation. We will also restart the Malcolm Study circle, on a monthly basis hosting community education workshops. The way the Education department works is to bring together people interested in education and strategize the needs for the community. So we will be reaching out to bring people together to move forward and plan collectively. Some of our long term goals are the full renovation of the centre; re-establishing the nursery and; opening a pupil referral unit.
You have read many reasons here to put you off supporting us, to kiss your teeth and again lack faith in another Black organisation. But despite everything that has gone on and years of frustration we remain committed to building the Marcus Garvey Centre for Education and Harambee OBU. Mistakes have been made, we have learnt from them and are stronger for it. You can always find an excuse not to get involved but until we support each other we will continue to be stuck where we are. Our motto is an Akan phrase Boa Me Na Me Mmoa Wo, which means ‘Help me and let me help you’, we can only go as far as the community will come with us. Freedom isn’t free, so support Harambee OBU by either donating to the crowdfunder or joining the organisation.
We will also be holding a community meeting at 1pm at Bluk, 66 Villa Rd, Birmingham B19 1BL on Saturday 25th August to outline the future plans for the organisation and ask any and all questions.