Activists and residents in Hackney have launched a boycott today (October 19) of a local museum because of a statue of slave ship owner Robert Geffrye.
The Museum of the Home has long been criticised for deciding to keep a statue of Geffrye despite wide support for removing it in a public poll.
The museum, which can be found in Shoreditch , has been met with protests in the past. A number of residents, activists and politicians feel angry that the statue of Geffrye is still a feature.
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Community group Hackney Stand Up to Racism has been organising protests and leafleting in the local community to raise awareness of the issue.
This boycott comes after a number of protests outside the museum over the past few months.
Local MP Diane Abbott, Hackney mayor Philip Glanville, several local councillors have joined with teachers, lecturers and activists to pledge to continue protesting until the museum’s trustees deal with the ongoing issue.
In a statement Diane Abbott said: “The entire history of slavery and colonialism were shameful eras. We should not be honouring the slavers and colonialists, we should be disowning them and disavowing them. We should also be teaching people about the most shameful aspects of that history.
“So, I want to encourage you and support in this ongoing campaign. You are doing important work. You have right and you have the future on your side. Geffrye must fall!”
Sasha Simic, an activist speaking on behalf of the group, said their position is not to have the statue destroyed, but rather ‘taken down from a position of superiority, a position of prominence’.
(Image: Dean Ryan)
Sasha said: “We’re accused of wanting to erase history – no that’s not true, we want more history! We want to have that story told and made transparent through the museum.
“I think this is about racism. I think this is about wanting one interpretation of history and actually trying to hide the fact that the British establishment made its money from slavery, without acknowledging the bloodshed of it.”
On the museum’s website, there is a page dedicated to explaining the statue’s presence in the museum.
The page explains that the museum held a public consultation to allow local people to have their say on the issue.
More than 2,000 people shared their views, and the overall response was in favour of removing the statue.
However, the museum said they also took into account the government’s ‘ retain and explain ‘ position, meaning that historic statues will only be removed in the most exceptional circumstances.
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The museum was also advised by culture secretary Oliver Dowden to leave the statue up. He told the museum that “removing statues, artwork and other historical objects is not the right approach”.
Mr Dowden went on to say: “Historical objects were created by previous generations, who often had different perspectives and different understandings of right and wrong.
“As a government-funded organisation, I would expect you to be mindful of the above approach.”
The Museum of the Home was contacted for a further statement and said more information about the statue is available on its website.
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