The Igbo Community Association formally known as Igbo Union is the oldest community organisation in Liverpool and among the oldest in United Kingdom. It was formed in 1935 by Igbo merchant seamen who worked on British ships that traded in West African countries. It was formed primarily to improve various aspects of the lives of these Igbo merchant seamen who came ashore in the city and found themselves isolated from the host community. Initially the support was in the form of information, advice and Guidance on the British way of life. Such support was vital in empowering them to acquire the skills they needed to live in a society which in some respects was friendly and welcoming and in some others alien and hostile. These skills also helped them build political power through the formation of social groupings working for a common agenda of community development. This was necessary to improve the social welfare aspects of their lives as well as providing a platform to challenge all forms of racial practices which prevailed openly, and was a barrier that prevented people from participating in the issues that affects them until the introduction of Race Discrimination laws. (It should be noted here that laws against racial discrimination in this country came into force in 1975)
The Igbo community continued to grow and the membership included students who came to study at various colleges and the only University at the time (Liverpool University).
By 1944, barely 9 years after its formation, it had acquired a set of traditional values, beliefs and practices which helped to knit the community together enabling it to begin the process of developing active and sustainable community based on social justice, mutual respect and deepening democracy. By promoting accountability, fairness, equality and mutual respect in its activities the organisation was now in a position to inspire participation and commitment among its members.
Thus in 1944 it raised the necessary funds from members to acquired its first Community Centre in Liverpool. It became the first African and Diaspora community in the city and probably in the country to acquire its own community centre without public funds. The centre provided much needed accommodation for its members which included students. In return it charged affordable rent which was used, among other benefits, to provide social and welfare facilities for its growing membership. The second centre at 54 Princes road was acquired in 1969 following compulsory acquisition of the fist building at no 8 Mulgrave Street by the city council for the area regeneration programme. It provided much needed social amenity not only for the members of the Igbo community but also the wider community contributing to the area’s vibrancy in the 70/80s.
Our current centre at no 2 Park Way (the former deaf and dumb school) was acquired in 1988 following the compulsory acquisition of 54 Princes Road by the city council for housing development programme. The Igbo community was proud to own this building. It is a Grade 2 listed historic Building. The fist Centre for the deaf opened in 1887 by Princess Alice, Queen Victoria’s cousin. Sadly the property is currently in a dilapidated condition and there are obligations under the listed building requirements to repair the property. When the building was in use it was a popular centre for the entire communities in Toxteth and surrounding neighbourhoods. It helped build community cohesion by promoting an understanding of and respect for other cultures and by encouraging interaction between them.
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