The Proud Black Lady

Edward Colston was an English sea merchant born in 1636. He traded in wine, fruits and textiles. By 1680, he became involved in a company which held a monopoly in the English trade of African slaves.

In 1895, 114 years after his death, a statue was erected in his name in the city of Bristol. In June of this year his statue was toppled.

The second statue shown was inspired by the likeness of Jen Reid, a woman known for nothing more than a Black Lives Matter protestor. It was created by Marc Quinn to portray the powerful moment of the citizens banning together and heaving the Colston statue into the nearby river.

By the following day after the Black Lady was erected, by the mayor’s orders, she was also removed. At least the Black Lady stood proud for one full day in the English city.

Note: I do understand the new statue was placed without permission. My short post certainly does not portray any complete narrative. I also realize the importance of good conversation about statues in general. Who should be erected? What was noble of their cause, etc. Many of our own presidents owned slaves while in office (including our first president.). The modern view of slavery is that it is exploitative. The distorted view of the past was that it was somehow good for us and good for them.

So it makes me wonder what is the correct thing to do. Every person erected as a statue has surely made mistakes at some point in their lives. Since statues are a form of art (sometimes exquisite,) maybe they should never be destroyed but only exist in museums.

I live in Bristol and have on and off for the last couple of decades. It’s sad to see a situation that is so complex boiled down to bipartisan rehetoric. Bristol is a city with a well known past of wealth from the slave trade, and no one has stepped away from that as it is our history. It also has a vibrant multicultural accepting community which makes it the city I love. This is not a black and white situation….it is very grey. The new statue was taken down as it wasn’t given permission to be there…it’s that simple. (Let’s) …try and have a real conversation with our neighbours. We have more in common than not.

-Benjamin Clayton.

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