A petition calling on Bristol City Council to stop the sale of the Rastafari Culture Centre in St Paul’s has been signed by more than 2,000 people.
The council are planning to sell the cultural hub located at 134a-136 Grosvenor Road.
In response, the Afrikan Caribbean Assembly Youth Chapter Bristol started the petition against the selling of the property two weeks ago, calling the building “an invaluable service”.
The building was gifted by the council to help run the Justice for Marlon Thomas campaign, who beaten so badly in a racist attack in 1994 that he was described to be in “a living death” by the judge on his case, and still requires round the clock care.
The building now operates as the Rastafari Culture Centre and offers a space for “mentoring, spiritual guidance, counsel and trade” for Bristol’s black community.
The Afrikan Caribbean Assembly Youth Chapter Bristol say that the council is planning to evict elder Ras Bandele Selassie, who has lived in the building for more than 20 years, and sell the property.
In August 2019, following a successful St Paul’s Carnival popup shop being held in the building, the carnival committee applied for the centre to become an Asset of Community Value.
However, this protection ran out on March 1, 2020, with the council noting it intended to sell the building when the moratorium was given.
The council says that it is exploring options for the building with a potential new owner, including “community use”.
Solomon Ogunmefun-Brooker has been working with the elders and the community to tell the story of the centre. He says: “On top of the 30 plus years that Ras Bandele has invested into the community from that space, it begs belief that the council deem it okay to attempt the sale of the building, with no real discourse with Ras Bandele or the community it serves.”
“What message does it send to the community that the council no longer sees the need for an institution rooted in anti-racism work in our community?” the musician and poet asks. “In today’s climate!”
The organisers of the petition add: “We are deeply upset and offended that our important cultural centre should be taken from us and sold outside of our community.
“The building should be gifted back to us so that the Rastafarian Culture Centre may continue to serve the community alongside other important reparatory justice services.”
Bristol24/7 has asked Bristol City Council for a comment about the building’s sale and the petition.
Main photo: Khali Ackford