African Mission

UP Correspondence

 

The mission was situated in the south end of Liverpool, England, what we indigenous people called Liverpool 8. The official address was 122/124 Hill Street, Liverpool 8, and was right in the heart of the coloured community of the town. It was a fitting situation to raise "Brown Babies" who were the offspring of white English women and black American GIs. Pastor G. Daniel Ekarte was the director of the mission, who had settled in Britain from the Commonwealth country of Nigeria. He was a very articulate man, and from what I could remember knew every black person in the city. Elizabeth Roberts was his housekeeper, and she along with some of her own family fed, clothed, washed and generally cared for we children. It was always Daddy Daniel's perception that the officials at the Liverpool City Council had adopted an institutional racist policy towards him and his work, and it needs to be carefully researched as to the truthfulness of the allegation that if the orphanage had cared for white children, and had a white director, then Liverpool City Council would have lavished on the mission all the funds it needed, instead of staving the Mission of money because it was a black work , for black people with a black director. Whatever the truth of the matter it needs to be underlined that Rev; Ekarte and his staff did an excellent job with very limited resources, and we brown babies owe him so much as he spent all the little he had on us children. The Pastor was a man who was devoid of any material consideration for himself. He never owned a car or a bicycle, and although he was dressed acceptably you would need a vivid and weird imagination to call him "Flash". If there was ever a man who was innocent of the crime and sin of "filthy lucre" it was Pastor G. Daniel Ekarte.  I was very happy at the Mission, and one child that I know of returned to live at the Mission after his 8 year stay at Fazakerley, an indication that he was more than satisfied with the care given to him. On one occasion the great Joe Louis took me and the other children out for the day when he was visiting England just after the War. The "Brown Bomber" gave us "Brown Babies" a wonderful time, although it was a great disappointment to Pastor Ekarte and Mrs. Roberts when the money that the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion promised the home never did materialize. 

 About 1948 when the National Health Service appeared in England the home was ordered to be closed by the City Council, and we children were forcibly removed to other orphanages in the town. When the men and women in big black cars came at 7.30 in the morning to remove us, it took them some considerable time to catch us all, and I have no doubt that the city officials needed tetanus injection after we children had finished with them. Certainly we gave them the run around as they chased us here, there and everywhere, but without success. We knew the buildings back to front, and we were more than a match for them. It was the sheerer weight of numbers that beat us, and even then we went "Screaming and Kicking" to Olive Mount Children's' Hospital. This was a hospital that checked us out for diseases and made sure that we were clean enough to be housed with other children. Most of us landed up at Fazakerley Cottage Homes, in the Liverpool 10 area of the city. This most horrid episode will always live with me, the trauma of which I shall never forget. The Liverpool City Council along with it's Social Services Department owe us coloured children a huge apology for putting us through this appalling experience with a callus disregard for us children and all at the Mission who we had come to love and respect.

 On many occasions we returned to see Pastor Daniels and Elizabeth Roberts, those unsung heroes of coloured orphanage babies, and by our very presence reassured them that we were very grateful for the kindness they showed us and the lessons we learnt from them. Rev; Ekarte conducted worship at the Mission for the very large Negro population in the area, and I for one would always go along to hear him preach. We sang Christian hymns and used Christian prayer books, but it has to be said that the sermons were political rather then Christian, outlining the perceived injustices that he received from the Liverpool City Council, rather than edifying his congregation on the person and work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I would never condone Pastor Ekarte's practice, but I can understand it, as the pulpit was the only tool he had to get over his message, which was  that there were serious strained relations between him and the Council, built only upon racism.

 When the great man died the black community in Liverpool paid their respects by attending his funeral in their hundreds. I was out of the country when he died but on my return to England I read of his passing in the Liverpool Echo, and I went to see his Housekeeper Elizabeth Roberts. Although he was an elderly man he was not an old one, so I asked Elizabeth Roberts from what he died from. Her reply was very revealing. She told me that he had died from a broken heart due to the way he had been treated by the Liverpool City Council.  The Pastor died on the 12th July 1964 just two weeks after he was moved to a Liverpool council house from the Mission,  and a very warm tribute to Pastor Ekarte appeared in the Liverpool Echo on the 23rd July 1964 and which is an appreciation that all who really knew him could endorse. Matron Nella Armah wrote from Hoylake on the Wirral;

"I first went to his African Churches Mission the day it opened, when I was a schoolgirl. Even then I realized here was a man prepared to devote his whole life to the welfare of others...He has been described as 'the African Saint' and I can truly say that to a great many coloured people in Liverpool he was just that. Words can never describe the loss the coloured people have suffered by his death. He will never be forgotten among us"

Those children dragged from their beds and evicted from the Mission and who landed up at Fazakerley Cottage Homes were;

Roger Rice

  Peter Lawson

 Gladys Cooper

 Adrian Gouth

James Howard

Sylvia Brown

Brian Lawrenson

 Gladys was the only white child at the home, but she had this in common with the rest of us that she was the child of an American GI whose mother was white, and we all saw ourselves as cousins.  Peter, Gladys and Brian feature in the pictures at the top of this page. The photographs first appeared in the "Ebony Magazine" of America in November 1946, a magazine which still serves the black community of America. I was so kindly sent them in July 2000, by the Central State University of Ohio, and a friend in the States who had contacted me seeking my help in her search for her siblings here in England, informed me that the University had in their achieves these pictures which are the earliest photographs that I have of myself.