The Cross Rhodes Freedom Project is calling on Government to set up a commission to examine people who are venerated and memorialised, in public spaces, especially in the capital city of Port of Spain.
Making the call on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of Independence, the CRFP said, the world is today witnessing how nations symbolically represent their past, can legitimise certain values and undermine others in the present.
Noting that in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas a new generation that cuts across racial, class and gender lines, is striving to rescue public spaces “from history’s most vile epochs to honour humanity’s highest values,” the CRFP said, it wants nothing less for Port of Spain and other Caribbean cities.
The CRFP said the Caribbean’s continued adherence to an ethos that gives public space and pre-eminence “to the most notorious and immoral colonial figures without ever interrogating the atrociousness of their actions and their calamitous repercussions over time, is increasingly out of place.”
The organisation noted the veneration of the Genovese sailor Christopher Columbus, who initiated one of the most barbarous chapters in all of human history.
The CRFP said that to ask Caribbean citizens, particularly the Indigenous Peoples, to accept national property occupied by “reverential statues to this man who, stole and renamed their lands, trafficked, raped and enslaved their ancestors, destroyed their way of life and denied their humanity, is patently absurd, cruel, and even perverse.”
This was especially perverse, the CRFP said, “as the state seeks to draw attention to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by declaring a public holiday in October.”
Even in Spain, the release said, people are beginning to see October 12, 1492 as a source of shame rather than pride as Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has publicly said the country should stop marking “a genocide” with an €800,000 military parade.
The former mayor of Cadiz, José María González, is quoted as saying, “ We never discovered America. We massacred and suppressed a continent and its cultures in the name of God.”
The CRFP said, “Shame on us in Trinidad and Tobago that we have not one, but two Columbus statues, the last curiously erected in Moruga in 2010.”
Mindful that Columbus is just one of a slew of unjust colonial-era icons that overwhelmingly dominate Caribbean cities from Georgetown to Nasau, the CRFP said, “one cannot help but compare the cultural paralysis in TT and the Caribbean to the revolt taking place in the USA over the past two years.”
The fatal protests by White supremacists to reverse a decision by the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee and rename Lee Park, Emancipation Park, the CRFP said, is now accelerating the removal of Confederate statues and other memorials to iniquitous historical figures, including Columbus.
The CRFP was “purposely named” after Cecil Rhodes, primary architect of South Africa’s apartheid movement.
The campaign uses his name as a metaphor to invite Trinbagonians to view themselves as a people at a crossroads.