Hackney park changes name over slavery links honouring ‘beloved’ local woman instead

A Hackney park has been renamed to honour a local woman following concerns from local residents that the park’s previous name had links to the slave trade.

The park, located just north of Well Street Common, was unveiled last week on November 4 to a positive reception from members of the community.

The park was previously named after Sir John Cass, a 17th century politician and director of the slave trading company the Royal African Company.

READ MORE: The London museum that has been boycotted because of a slave trader statue

The Royal African Company trafficked enslaved Africans for profit in the late 17th century with significant investment and direction from Sir John Cass.

Now, the park is named after local woman Kit Crowley. Kit was born in 1918 and passed away in 2018 after spending most of her life supporting her neighbours and local community in and around Hackney.

Kit was nominated by fellow residents to replace the name of Sir John Cass due to the impact she had on everyone she met in the Hackney community.

Kit was put forward by local residents who had been impacted by her kindness over the years

Kit lived in the area for 62 years and has been described by those who nominated her as “a role model for children of the Windrush generation growing up in the area”.

Experiencing a difficult childhood in a single parent household, Kit reportedly endured poverty and racial prejudice and grew up at a time where survival relied on the kindness of neighbours.

Kit Crowley Gardens is the first public space in Hackney to be renamed in the borough’s Review, Rename, Reclaim project.

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Guests heard live renditions of some of Kit’s favourite songs performed by singer Vivienne Isebor and guitarist Joel Antwi-Boasiako

This project is a collaboration between the Council, community leaders, cultural experts, historians, teachers and young people that all share a “passion to make Hackney’s public spaces more representative of the communities that live here”.

The ceremony was hosted by Cllr Carole Williams, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources, and the UK’s first Council lead with responsibility for Windrush.

Guests heard live renditions of some of Kit’s favourite songs performed by singer Vivienne Isebor and guitarist Joel Antwi-Boasiako, and a touching reading of Kit’s favourite poem, My Garden, by Thomas Edward Brown, delivered by Kit’s son John Di Carlo.

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Cllr Carole Williams said: “Hackney is committed to ensuring our public spaces reflect all of our borough’s diverse history, that we do not wittingly and unwittingly glorify those who have not made a positive contribution to life in the borough, and to turn the tide.

“In doing so, we are taking the lead, embedding the work in our anti-racism plan, and ensuring the borough’s history as a welcoming borough continues for new migrants who chose to make Hackney their home.

“It is an honour to share this special moment and to be part of this important step in our journey as a council to redress the balance and ensure that this council proudly acknowledges the achievements of our diverse communities.

“We will continue to work towards making sure that our public spaces reflect the people and events that mean something to our residents, speak to Hackney’s history and show our commitment to diversity and anti-racism, so that together we can celebrate our borough’s inspirational stories, amazing histories, and local heroes like Kit Crowley.”

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