Britain’s leading Black newspaper is calling for the royal family to apologise and pay reparations for slavery amid backlash about Prince Charles guest editing the paper.
The Prince of Wales took over The Voice newspaper’s September edition which unleashed a torrent of criticism from readers. A well-placed source told The Independent that some backlash was anticipated during the planning process but overlooked.
The prince quoted Jamaican reggae legend, Bob Marley, in his editor’s letter, in which he said he was “so touched” to be asked to edit the newspaper, adding how he has always found Britain’s Black communities to be “a great source of inspiration”.
However, condemnation was swift, with many readers noting the omission of themes in Charles’ contribution, such as Harry and Meghan’s allegations of racism within the royal family, royal exemption from equality legislation, slavery and reparations.
“The Voice Newspaper is a disgrace for inviting Prince Charles to guest edit them,” one online user wrote. “Is this some kind of joke?,” another retorted.
“Hearing the reason why The Voice chose Prince Charles to be guest editor still leaves me with disappointment. Until the Royal Family acknowledge the part they played in the slave trade, take accountability and pay reparations, we don’t need to hear from them in a Black newspaper,” a reader tweeted.
When approached by The Independent, a spokesperson for The Voice said: “We recognise the strong feelings some of our readers have over this edition and the divergence of views in the community.”
“We agreed to collaborate with The Prince of Wales after looking at the work he had done on race equality over 40 years and the parallels with our campaigning over the same period. The edition we published deals with important issues like reparations and black empowerment, told through the eyes of prominent and respected figures in the community.”
On its call for an apology on slavery, the spokesperson said: “An apology and reparations for enslavement of Africans remains a key demand from all institutions that were involved or gained from it.”
The British royal family was involved in the transportation and selling of African people for profit for centuries, with Elizabeth I becoming involved in the lucrative dealings of John Hawkins, one of Britain’s first slave traders in the 16th century, and the link continuing through to its abolition in 1834.
The monthly newspaper’s editor Lester Holloway expanded on the newspaper’s “key demand” on a slavery apology during a BBC London interview on Sunday.
“All of the institutions, including the royal family, that have been involved in the historical horrors of colonialism have not apologised for slavery and what we’ve got is statements of personal regret which is absolutely not good enough,” he said. “I think it’s appalling that nobody has apologised for slavery.”
Reparationist Esther Stanford-Xosei has called for The Voice to apologise for inviting Prince Charles to edit the paper.
“Having bought and read a copy of the paper, it’s really just a nauseating advert for the Prince’s Trust and what it’s doing,” she said.
“The royal family, as an institution, is doing nothing to actually remedy the harm [caused by slavery] and Prince Charles’ editorship sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world and shows the schizophrenic identity that is part of the internalisation of colonisation.”
While Charles’ edit of The Voice boasts of the difference Prince’s Trust grants have made to Black recipients such as Idris Elba, former employees of the charity have implied that tackling racial inequalities was never a core objective of the organisation, The Independent has been told. The Prince’s Trust has been approached for comment.
One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Independent that Charles’ edit was“perplexing and maddening”.
“I think this approach by him is to try and mitigate the issues with racism and the royal family. No matter what he states he will not convince me,” they said. “At the ripe old age of 56, I have witnessed the massive differences in how the royals treat people of colour... past and present!
“It is way too late for me to see a member of the royal family show interest in a newspaper specifically for my culture and have a say in what is published, thinking I should respect and accept it. I feel betrayed and most likely will not read The Voice again.”
Clarence House said Charles’s edit celebrates some of the achievements of the Black community over the past four decades and records his “long-standing collaboration with Black leaders”, including writing letters of support for Notting Hill Carnival in previous years.
It has been noted that none of the high-profile public figures involved in the edition, such as Idris Elba, Doreen Lawrence and Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley, have amplified it on their social media profiles despite the palace tagging them and attempting to ramp up interest.
Almost all of the people involved in the special edition have received honours from the palace, fuelling concerns that the move is inherently biased and little more than a public relations exercise for the future king.
Michael Morgan, a former writer for The Voice, told The Independent: “I feel this decision makes a mockery of the strapline ‘Britain’s Leading Black Newspaper’.
“Seeing Prince Charles’s fingers on a newspaper that gave me my start and allowed me to grow as a writer, it’s left me feeling really disappointed.
“When I wrote for The Voice it stood against personifications of oppression and suppression. I guess a lot has changed since then. It would seem when you hold a CBE or similar ‘honour’ bestowed upon you, you are a literal slave to the establishment for life. This PR washing is something that we all see through and I, for one, am not impressed.”
The Voice, founded in 1982, is the only national Black British newspaper in the UK. It is currently financially supported by Jamaica National Bank
Paulette Simpson CBE is the paper’s executive director and serves on a government committee.
The palace has been approached for comment.