OPINION

Protest reminds us of our desire to celebrate legacies that reflect our city’s values

Posted On 19 Jun 2020 at 12:01 am

More than 10,000 people took part in a peaceful, physically distanced, Black Lives Matter protest in Madeira Drive in Brighton last weekend.

As someone who was proud to be there, I can testify it was a moving and powerful event.

The Black Lives Matter movement has rightly shone a spotlight on the legacy of colonial statues and street names in the UK.

It is important that we reflect on Brighton and Hove’s Georgian history, which meant much of the investment that led to its growth came from Caribbean sugar plantations and the enslavement of people.

Today we pride ourselves on being a city of sanctuary that people from all backgrounds can call home.

In that spirit, the council is reviewing all plaques, monuments, statues and street names on public land to ensure that we are celebrating legacies that reflect our city’s values.

We will talk to our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and historians to ensure we fully understand our complex heritage.

Based on that, we will commission new street art installations which celebrate our diverse values.

One monument we can reflect on with pride – thanks to the research, fundraising and restoration work done by the Brighton and Hove Black History Project – is the gravestone of Thomas Highflyer in Woodvale Cemetery.

A freed slave from east Africa, Thomas was rescued at sea in 1866 and settled in Brighton. He died 150 years ago this week at the age of 12, almost certainly from one of the many common diseases of the period.

It is an important legacy for our city that the family who gave him lodgings in Kemp Town ensured that he attended school at St Mark’s in Whitehawk.

And the records uncovered by the Brighton and Hove Black History Project show that the headmaster encouraged other pupils to give him a warm welcome.

In tribute to Thomas Highflyer and those who supported him I want the discussions about monuments and street names to ensure our city is associated with freedom and sanctuary, not oppression and bigotry.

Please contact me directly if you are aware of any statues, monuments, street or building names that you think are a cause for concern.

Councillor Nancy Platts is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Kenneth Ingle Reply

    Of course black lives matter, although few people are really black or white, but pink, yellow and a number of brown tones. What we are seeing now, in these demonstrations however, is also racism. The motto should be “All human lives matter”. You cannot change history with vandalism! We could nevertheless demand, that our historians start to write the truth, in stead of the humbug being taught in many schools and Unis., throughout Europe. This would also apply to the rubbish spread about the cause of WW2. Get back to the facts about the past and we will all be able to build a better future.

  2. Bradly Reply

    Concern of cause: Royal Pavilion

  3. Adrian Hart Reply

    Council leader Nancy Platts asserts: “More than 10,000 people took part in a peaceful, physically distanced, Black Lives Matter protest in Madeira Drive in Brighton last weekend. As someone who was proud to be there, I can testify it was a moving and powerful event”.

    If she was there she will know that there was no possibility that this mass gathering could ever have been “physically distanced”. I was also there and, like others, took dozens of photos. As thousands sat in the sun to cheer speakers, the distance between individual members of the crowd was the same as any other densely packed audience. As they cheered photos testify to the organisers efforts to hand out face masks but almost of all of these were pulled down around protesters necks by this time.
    Me, I’m ok with it but is this the same Nancy Platts that recently said “the excessive number of people descending on the city’s seafront “made social distancing impossible””?
    As local media and influential pro-lockdown/pro-BLM protest figures tried to square the circle on this contradiction some of the photos they selected to use to prove exemplary social distancing would have made the air-brushed propagandists of the soviet era blush. Creepy.

  4. Gill Wales Reply

    What is the evidence for stating that ‘much of the investment that led to (Brighton and Hove’s) growth came from Caribbean sugar plantations and the enslavement of people’?
    According to Sue Berry’s extensively researched history of Georgian Brighton, most of the development of Georgian Brighton was by local builders and local landowners, whose sources of wealth was varied, including farming, brewing and coal.
    There is only one row of Georgian houses in the city known to have been developed by a sugar plantation owner: Royal Crescent.

  5. Gill Wales Reply

    Is it true that ‘much of the investment that led to (Brighton and Hove’s) growth came from Caribbean sugar plantations and the enslavement of people’?
    According to Sue Berry’s extensive history of Georgian Brighton, most of the Georgian development of Brighton was by local builders and local landowners.
    Only one street in Brighton is known to have been built by a sugar plantation owner (Royal Crescent). Other local developers’ wealth came from farming, brewing, coal.

  6. Gill Wales Reply

    Sorry, wrote the same thing twice because the website froze.

  7. Helen Reply

    The Sussex University piece on this found ‘Brighton and Hove residents received significant financial compensation after the end of British colonial slavery in the Caribbean.’

    You can read more here. Nancy seems to be relaying researched facts (given the call to ‘get back to the facts’ although I am sorry the facts don’t seem to match what you want to think…)

    https://www.brighton.ac.uk/about-us/news-and-events/news/2019/01-23-tracing-brightons-forgotten-slave-owners.aspx

    • TOWYN Reply

      Are you non-white and/or non British? Have you received racism first hand in the UK based on the colour of your skin? I’m British but not white. Yes I have received racism. No I don’t feel the need to hold the entire UK population accountable nor responsible for the racism I received by a minority of individuals. What I did instead was use all the avenues provided to me by the UK in order to rise up because that is what the UK said I was entitled to and that is what was delivered. Was it easy? Nope. Did it make me want to protest? Nope. Did it give me an understanding of what equality could and should actually look like? Yes.

      You know, I never ever thought I would be sitting here now and having to stand up against people who want to stand up against racism. This is pretty messed up to say the least.

  8. Gill Wales Reply

    Thank you for the link, Helen. Useful information. It says that 69 slave owners or former slave owners had a Brighton or Hove address at some point between 1800 and 1880. Doesn’t answer my question, unfortunately, because it doesn’t say how many of them were here during the Georgian development period. The Sussex University article leads to another, by the same authors and published by the Institute of Race Relations. This adds some additional insights which I think are also little known. That in 1824 Brighton grocers refused to sell West Indian sugar in support of the campaign to abolish slavery. And that in 1830 a ‘packed public meeting’ in Brighton unanimously voted for the end of slavery and to petition the House of Commons to do it. I don’t understand how asking a question leads anyone to infer what I ‘want to think’. It’s important to ask questions and there is nothing to be read into it other than a desire to understand the truth.

  9. Tamara Reply

    Kenneth Ingle There is a difference between all lives matter and Black Lives Matter. If you want to learn more about it, there is
    a lot information out there in public domain you can access to.

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