The New Year has not ushered in an easing up of debate over the controversial statue of British admiral Horatio Nelson, which was defaced on the eve of Barbados’ independence last November.
With prominent pan-Africanists such as Trevor Marshall, Anthony Mighty Gabby Carter, Sir Hilary Beckles and David Comissiong insisting the figure must be removed from Heroes Square, pan-Africanist and trade unionist David Denny has added his voice to the debate.
Denny told a Kwanzaa celebration organized by the Haynesville Youth Group and the Pan-African Coalition that the Freundel Stuart Government ought to place the removal of the statue on its agenda this year.
“Lord Nelson represents slavery and therefore we cannot and we should not allow Lord Nelson to remain in our National Heroes Square and not even one of our national heroes is standing in our National Heroes Square. It is an insult to African people living in Barbados,” Denny, the general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, said to much applause as he addressed the event to honour African heritage at the police outpost in Haynesville, St James.
The statue of the British hero has stood at what was then Trafalgar Square – renamed Heroes Square in 1999 in honour of Barbadian heroes – for over 200 years. For most of this period it looked down on the square and Broad Street, before it was turned 180 degrees by a Democratic Labour Party administration after public protest.
It was covered in yellow spray paint and other graffiti on November 29 last year, with whoever defacing it leaving a sign: “Lord Nelson will Fall. This racist white supremacist who would rather die than see black persons free, stands proudly in our nation’s capital. Nelson must go! Fear not Barbadians have spoken, politicians have failed us.”
The text was similar to the headline of a column written by Sir Hilary in September last year, calling for the removal of the sculpture.
In the piece entitled, Why Nelson Must Fall, the UWI vice chancellor referred to the exploits of the naval warlord.
“Nelson . . . by his political decisions, military actions and public speeches, was a vile, racist, white supremacist; he disposed black people, and dedicated his political and military life to the cause of protecting Britain’s criminal possession of the 800,000 enslaved Africans held during his lifetime.
“The 85,000 enslaved Blacks entrapped in Barbados only knew of Nelson as leader of the naval power dedicated to keeping them in slavery. The 15,000 slave owners in Barbados who welcomed Nelson in the Caribbean and celebrated his presence, did so because their greatest fear was black freedom,” he wrote.
Sir Hilary later came out strongly in defence of whoever defaced the statue, suggesting that one day the person or persons may very well be revered by society for seeking to right an “immoral” wrong.
Meantime, Denny also renewed his call for Nanny Grigg, described as a valued component in the Bussa Revolution of 1816, and pan-Africanist and social activist Israel Lovell, to be recognized as national heroes for their contributions to the fight for freedom and enlightenment of the Barbadian population.
“Israel Lovell’s contribution in the 1930s means a lot to the liberation of the black working class in Barbados and for the creation of the labour movement that represents the black working class in Barbados,” Denny said, while adding that Grigg played an influential role in educating Barbadian slaves about the revolution in Haiti.
Denny also suggested that the St Mary’s Primary School should be renamed after Gabby, while calling on Government to rename the Fairchild Street bus terminal after Spiritual Baptist leader Granville Williams for his contributions to strengthening the African ancestry in the church.