Place names in Haringey to be reviewed

Street, place and building names in Haringey with historical links to colonialism will be reviewed

Credit: Stephen Furner

By Luchia Robinson

Leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Joseph Ejiofor has said that there is need for a long-overdue discussion about the way in which we memorialise historical figures.

Cllr Ejiofor’s statement comes amid a wider public demand to challenge racism in everyday structures.

The toppling of the statue of slave trader, Edward Colston, in Bristol, last month, physically symbolised the tearing down of these structures, bringing the discourse of dismantling racism to the collective forefront.

In response to the statue felling, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan announced that there will be a commission to ‘review and improve the diversity of London’s public landmarks.’

Sadiq Khan said: “We must commemorate the achievements and diversity of all in our city – and that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated.

In an interview with Sky News, he added: “We’ve got to recognise that our public realm – statues, squares, street names don’t accurately reflect our values or London in 2020.”

In light of this review, Cllr Ejiofor said: “If we are to truly demonstrate our commitment to and solidarity with the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, we must seriously address these issues.

“If we were naming roads today, we would never choose Rhodes Avenue, which is named after Thomas Rhodes – Great Uncle to Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist.

A petition to rename Rhodes Avenue Primary School in Wood Green is currently being led by three former pupils: Alex Wiffin, Alexia Counsell and Frances Browning. They advocate for the school to be renamed in honour of the late South African activist, Oliver Tambo, who lived in exile, in Haringey for over two decades.

As the long-time president of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Tambo fought against the apartheid government, bringing the plight of Black South Africans to international attention.

Petitioners, Alex, Alexia and Frances say: “The Rhodes name cannot be disentangled from the pursuit of white supremacy and the dehumanisation and subjugation of Black people. The school’s name pays homage to a family whose most notable member fought against the ideals of great leaders in civil rights and the anti-apartheid movement, such as Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.

“Oliver Tambo lived in our community, and there are two monuments to memorialise him in [Albert Road Recreation Ground] N22, which sits adjacent to Rhodes Avenue Primary School. The ultimate irony appears that imperialism and the man that helped to end its rule in South Africa are juxtaposed within a few hundred yards of each other.”

Cllr Ejiofor says the Head of Rhodes Avenue Primary School, will be guided by the commission to change the school’s name. With regards to other place names within the borough, he said: “Street names such as Black Boy Lane may have a more contested history, but we cannot ignore the fact that meanings change over time, and the term Black Boy is now used most commonly as a derogatory name for African heritage men.”

He added: “As a borough, everything we do must be a reflection of our values and to do this we must not shy away from correcting the mistakes of the past. This is why we will be working with our residents, BAME communities and organisations, and experts to understand the history of our street names and other memorials, to understand their true meaning and reflect on whether or not they are appropriate for our society today.”

Haringey Council’s decision to review the imperial linked place names has been welcomed by the Haringey Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Liz Morris, former leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Haringey Council, said: “It is right to consider the messages these send about the acceptability of racism, colonialism and other noxious ideologies.

“To ensure the review has credibility it should be conducted on a cross-party basis and engage the full range of voices in the borough. It should also draw on the expertise of historians to contextualise these names and why they were chosen.”

A public consultation will follow the outcome of the review.

Residents can send any concerns, queries or suggestions regarding Haringey’s place names to:leader@haringey.gov.uk

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