Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers appoints first black member

bristols society of merchant venturers appoints first black member - Bristol's Society of Merchant Venturers appoints first black memberImage copyright MCPHERSON PHOTOGRAPHY
Image caption Marti Burgess said it “took some time” for her to decide whether she wanted to join the SMV

An organisation linked to Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade has appointed its first black member.

Lawyer Marti Burgess has joined the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) to help them “more effectively” support BAME communities.

Ms Burgess said the move was a “step in the right direction for them”.

The SMV is a charitable organisation, founded in the 13th Century, and set up Bristol’s part in the transatlantic slave trade in the 17th Century.

Today the society describes itself as “sharing a collective sense of responsibility to work with and support local people and communities”.

Ms Burgess said it “took some time” for her to decide whether she wanted to join the organisation.

“I look forward to the day when people like me becoming a member of an organisation like the Society of Merchants Venturers is not news but the norm,” she said.

‘Right direction’

Caroline Duckworth, the SMV treasurer, said the organisation was “very different” to when it was founded centuries ago.

Ms Duckworth said: “Whilst we recognise that the society is not yet as diverse as it should be, we are moving in the right direction.”

The society currently has more than 70 members, who are chosen from the wider Bristol area.

The SMV said “whilst it could not change the past” it was “clear that we must address and acknowledge Bristol’s historic connection to the slave trade”.

Sandra Gordon, co-chair for the Bristol Committee Of Race Equality (CORE), said it was a “progressive move” and she hoped Ms Burgess would be the “first of many”.

She said: “When I look at the SMV, I’ve never had the privilege to go into the secret room round the secret table, that’s my perspective.

“It needs to feel like a diverse table because that’s what Bristol is.”

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