Street renaming debate

Residents fear street renaming could incur massive costs

By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A street with a name linked to racism and colonialism could be renamed after a writer who campaigned for racial equality.

Councillors agreed to hold a consultation on renaming Black Boy Lane, in West Green, to La Rose Lane in honour of John La Rose – a poet, essayist and publisher who founded the Caribbean Artists’ Movement and publishing company New Beacon Books.

It comes after council leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor announced a review of monument, building, place and street names in Haringey to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Boy Lane was identified as needing immediate review, with a council report noting that “Black Boy” is now commonly used as a derogatory name for African-heritage men.

At a meeting of Haringey’s corporate committee on Thursday 3rd December, two residents warned the renaming could cost households and businesses large sums of money – significantly more than the £300 proposed by the council as a payment made to cover potential disruption.

Anne Taylor, who lives in the street, said people could face delays in receiving pensions and benefits and have to pay extra fees to ratify the new address on legal documents.

“Racism has no place in our society,” she said. “But this is like people clapping for the NHS – it made people feel good but never helped the NHS.”

In response to questioning from councillors, Ms Taylor claimed the coronavirus pandemic had stopped residents from getting together to discuss the issue and warned about the impact of the renaming on elderly people who do not have the internet.

Speaking in support of the change, Gary McFarlane, from campaign group Stand Up to Racism, told the committee the street was named Black Boy Lane by slavers.

“It is rooted in that past of slavery and denigration and dehumanisation of black people,” he added.

“People need to know the real history. That’s the thing that does undermine racism – when people can see where these words came from. I think it is about righting a historic wrong.”

Mr McFarlane said he was not against “more involvement with people who live on the street” and suggested the government, the City of London and the Queen could help cover the costs of the renaming.

In response to concerns raised by committee members, the council leader said he had letters from Mr La Rose’s family and the George Padmore Institute, which he founded, confirming they supported the renaming.

Councillors agreed to proceed with the next stage of the consultation, which is to ask residents their views on the proposed new name.

Chairman Cllr Isidoros Diakides (Labour, Tottenham Green) said the committee expected the issues raised around funding and administrative support for residents would be fully dealt with when members are asked to make a final decision on the renaming.

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