Surprised but pleased after learning that a committee had been convened to look at renaming national spaces and even roads after local heroes instead of those regarded as colonial tyrants and slavery advocates, Cross Rhodes Freedom Project Director Shabaka Kambon yesterday credited the authorities for taking that forward step.
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday disclosed that an inter-ministerial committee had been set up by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley several months ago, to examine and move this process along.
Revealing this as he delivered remarks during the Emancipation Day celebrations in Port-of-Spain, he said, “They are looking around at our national spaces and our roads with a view of transforming the names to ones that we would better appreciate and recognise.”
Responding to this almost immediately after, Kambon said that his group had been, “preparing a campaign in August to increase and augment our activism in the country.”
He said it had been almost two years since they had petitioned the Parliament to identify and repurpose any monuments/statues and signs/symbols that glorify or celebrate racism and white supremacy in Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2020, the group petitioned Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from Tamarind Square—but to date, nothing has been done.
“Perhaps it was just the pandemic that the government had to focus on other things,” Kambon added, “Now we are happy to hear that there is in fact some movement forward on the part of the authorities…we just need the details now.”
Hinds said both the Caribbean Freedom Project of which Kambon’s group is a part, as well as the Emancipation Support Committee will be invited to participate in the discussions.
Kambon excited the crowd as he said the proposal to rename Oxford Street after Kwame Ture was already on the table.
Yesterday’s announcement comes on the heels of a move by the National Museum in Cardiff to remove the portrait of Thomas Picton—the 18th-century Welsh military leader who became notorious for the cruelty of his reign as governor of Trinidad from 1797-1803, from the main display to that of lesser prominence.
Picton’s legacy is now marred by disclosures that he authorised 35 executions in Trinidad during his governorship.
Several places in Trinidad were named after the tyrant including Picton, Laventille; Fort Picton, Laventille; Picton Court Apartments, PoS; Picton Road, Sangre Grande; Picton Street, Woodbrook and San Juan; Picton Street and Picton Street Ext., Diamond and Picton Street and Settlement, Esperance.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell urged the nation to celebrate the achievements of its African ancestors who had endured much pain and suffering, but also managed to create a rich and wonderful tapestry.
Pleased to note the number of young people who continued to uphold the African traditions, he said, “Today’s bondages are quite different from what our ancestors experienced.”
He advised, “It is our collective responsibility as their elders, to instill values that empower them to step out into the world with an unshakeable sense of identity.
“Let us encourage our youths to look back before they forge forward, to acknowledge those shoulders upon which they stand today.”
In recalling the struggles of African ancestors to establish themselves and the fight for freedom, Hinds said the Government was committed to ensuring this set of people continued to improve their circumstances.
Referring to the applications Government had received for State lands to be used for agricultural purposes, he admitted, “We did not see African people among the enthusiasts in that regard.”
Hinds assured, however, “We have taken action as a Government and as a Cabinet, to ensure that when we deal with these applications, we see equity and we see balance and that is happening now.”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was unable to attend the event after he contracted the COVID-19 virus.