Heirs of Enslavement is a new podcast from Persephonica exploring the history and social repercussions of the Transatlantic slave trade. At it’s core, it is telling the story of two individuals – Clive Lewis MP and Laura Trevelyan – who are both heirs of enslavement. Clive is a descendent of the enslaved, and Laura, of the enslaver. In fact, Clive’s ancestors were most likely enslaved by Laura’s. In the podcast, they come together to right the wrongs of the past.
In the spirit of bringing together different perspectives, we thought it would be good to try and get two reviews: One from a writer that can relate to Clive, and one from a writer that can relate to Laura.
Read on to find out what Laviea Thomas and Mimi Jones thought of the Heirs of Enslavement podcast…
“A sentimental and riveting listen with honest story-telling.”
Heirs of Enslavement tells the story of the bloodline of the oppressed via Labour MP Clive Lewis, and the bloodline of the oppressors, via British-American journalist Laura Trevelyan.
It’s a burningly honest and surreal conversation that gives an insight into the story of Grenadian slaves from all angles, with facts and statistics provided by Grenadian historian and author, Nicole Phillip Dowe.
For Black people tuning in, especially those of West Indian descent, Clive’s perspective is an open book that allows you to feel like your voices have been heard. When discussing the importance of this conversation, Nicole emphasises that: “It’s history that has to be talked about, history that has to be spoken about, history that has to be discussed.” This is a really remarkable and important statement to hold onto, as it acknowledges the fact these stories are retold not to imprison ourselves in the trauma of our ancestral history, but to stay knowing.
Clive’s return to his home town to reconnect with his roots and his father, Tony Lewis, “a famed trade unionist,” is a powerful moment. You can feel the overwhelming sensation of emotions from the audio. Having spent a long period away from his ancestral home, Clive’s return is a cathartic moment that a lot of Black people and people of colour can relate to.
It’s important to see a British member of parliament be involved in something like this. Especially following King Charles’ recent half-empty ‘apology,’ to Kenya after they asked for an ‘unequivocal apology‘ from the British monarchy in relation to years of colonialism and enslavement. As a representative member of British politics, Clive’s involvement in this podcast is something that could, arguably, cost him his job. Nevertheless, this level of honesty across British media is not only refreshing to see, but is an essential for those who can relate to Clive.
In just the first episode this podcast offers Black listeners a space to feel emotions they might have pushed aside. It’s often for us to subside our emotions, in fear of the reactions of our white peers. More often than not, we aren’t allowed to feel emotions of deep sadness, or anger about our historical timeline. Heirs of Enslavement allows you to tap into those without second-guessing how it may affect others.
A brilliant and insightful first episode, to say the least.
Laviea Thomas is an experienced freelance music and culture journalist and creative copywriter based in north London. With a knack for writing, Laviea’s journalism can be seen across print and digital publications with current bylines spread across Metal Hammer, NME, Skiddle, WhyNow, Rock Sound, The Forty-Five, The Quietus and Overblown.
“Heirs of Enslavement is not an easy listen, but I am certain it will help”
Slavery remains an awkward subject for many British people. Even without knowing our full family histories, if we are white it’s likely at least one ancestor participated in trades connected to slavery.
That truth is uncomfortable. I get it.
Yet the open dialogue in Heirs of Enslavement demonstrates why we must reckon with slavery’s enduring impact.
Like many Northern Irish Christians, my great-grandparents devoted themselves to spreading the gospel. Most of their missionary work occurred in Africa’s British occupied colonies.
Only after both great-grandparents died did I grasp the missionaries’ reality. Sorting through their belongings, my grandfather casually mentioned the “help” in his childhood home- the cleaning woman, the cooks and so on. When pressed on whether the workers were paid, he muttered about his mother helping with their schooling – and that was all we ever discussed on the matter.
My grandfather seemed oblivious to our shock over this revelation. Perhaps it’s not surprising given the way we’ve whitewashed our history. It’s unfortunate but a single Heirs of Enslavement episode taught me more about slavery’s legacy than any textbook or family conversation ever has.
This invitation to address the trauma that the slave trade has left, and the shame many British people have, let’s us hear Laura and Clive discuss incredibly important aspects of our past, and answer questions we may not have known we had.
Within only the first episode, this show gives us such a diverse range of experiences within Grenada’s history. With Clive Lewis MP whose family were enslaved on the island; Laura Trevelyan whose family owned around six plantations; Clive’s dad, Tony Lewis, and teacher/historian Niccole Phillip-Dowe who helped Laura with her family’s public apology, they bring personal stories of the real impact slavery had.
Amongst discussing the Trevelyan’s reparations, they suggest the possibility of the British Government finally apologising and paying our own reparations. It was particularly interesting to hear the joy from Niccole and Tony if such a thing could happen. What seems like an obvious gesture to many would mean funding for hospitals, schools, books, and finally making a change for the better after our centuries of horrific treatment to people across the globe.
Our families and country are more complicit in slavery’s history than we like to believe. Confronting that truth may be the only way to mend its persisting wounds. Heirs of Enslavement is not an easy listen, but I am certain it will help us start addressing the atrocities our ancestors committed.
Mimi Jones is a poet and playwright, exploring autism, queerness and disability through their work. They run QueerOutLoud, the South Wests Queer Creatives Network, and have spent 2023 as Young City Laureate, helping nurture the diverse voices in Plymouth’s poetry scene. Follow them on socials @MimiJMedia and @QueerOutLoud.