Vital Discussions: RSL Remembers C. L. R James with A Lloyd Banwo, Margaret Busby & Selma James

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Ahead of a special event on James’s life and times at Trinidad and Tobago’s premier literature festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, join us to celebrate the work and legacy of pioneering Trinidadian writer, historian and socialist, C. L. R. James.

In the company of Trinidadian writer Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, James’ publisher Margaret Busby, James’ wife and colleague Selma James, and the British Library’s Curator of Caribbean Collections Nicole-Rachelle Moore, journey through James’ writing life using three of his most celebrated works as signposts along the way: Minty AlleyMariners, Renegades and Castaways and The Black Jacobins.

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she is now a Creative and Critical Writing PhD candidate. Her work has been published in Moko Magazine, Small Axe and PREE among others, and shortlisted for Small Axe Literary Competition and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. When We Were Birds is her first novel; she is now working on her second which will be published by Hamish Hamilton in 2025. Ayanna lives with her husband in London.

Margaret Busby (Nana Akua Ackon) is a major cultural figure in Britain and around the world. Born in Ghana and educated in the UK, she graduated from Bedford College, London University, before becoming Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison & Busby in the late 1960s. At Allison & Busby, she published notable authors including Buchi Emecheta, Nuruddin Farah, Rosa Guy, C. L. R. James, Michael Moorcock, Jill Murphy Sam Greenlee, Roy Heath, George Lamming, Andrew Salkey, Ishmael Reed and John Edgar Wideman. A long-time campaigner for diversity in publishing, she is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and recipient of several honorary doctorates and awards, including the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award, the Royal Society of Literature’s Benson Medal, and the Royal African Society’s inaugural Africa Writes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Selma James is an anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist campaigner. In 1972 she put forward Wages for Housework (WFH) as a political perspective that redefined the working class to include all who work without wages, starting with women, the primary carers everywhere. The International WFH Campaign she founded (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year) co-ordinates the Global Women’s Strike. With her husband and colleague C. L. R. James, she worked in the English-speaking Caribbean for independence and federation from 1958 to 1962. Her first anthology, Sex, Race, and Class – The Perspective of Winning was published in 2012. Her second, Our Time Is Now: Sex, Race, Class, and Caring for People and Planet was published in 2021, both by PM Press. They focus on what can be learnt from decades of building an international network. On International Women’s Day, City of Women London renamed Kentish Town Station after Selma James, the nearest tube station to the Crossroads Women’s Centre where she is based.

Nicole-Rachelle Moore is the British Library’s Curator of its Caribbean Collections. She has led courses on Andrea Levy and Toni Morrison, and worked closely with New Beacon Books and the George Padmore Institute. She co-edited Dream to Change the World on the life of John La Rose and contributed to the recently published In Search of Mami Wata: Narratives and Images of African Water Spirits.

In partnership with NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Curtis Brown Heritage and the British Library.