Black Lives Matter, the removal of the statue of slave trader Edwards Colston in Bristol, the Rhodes Must Go campaign in Oxford has demonstrated the importance that history can play in contemporary society. Nearly ten years ago, Enfield Caribbean Association (ECA) took part in the unveiling of a commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade.
ECA and Enfield Race Equality Council were responsible for the campaign to have the plaque erected in Community House in 2011. Visitors to Community House, can view the plaque on the main wall.
The plaque was unveiled on 1 October 2011 at the Enfield Civic Centre, as part of the Black History Month event sponsored by Enfield Racial Equality Council, Enfield Council and Sandwood Construction.
The Mayor of Enfield, Christiana During, welcomed many esteemed speakers, including the High Commissioners of Angola, Jamaica and Sierra Leone, who described the devastating effects still felt amongst their communities by slavery.
The Chairperson of Enfield Racial Equality Council, Bevin Betton, and Ken Allen, Chairperson of the Caribbean Association, offered a local perspective and highlighted the hard campaign fought by their organisations and the Enfield community to finally get local recognition of the devastating effects of the slave trade and this commemoration of its abolition in the North Atlantic.
The Council Leader, Doug Taylor, felt this was a good way to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade and the wonderful diversity in the Borough, as well as recognising and acknowledging the significant contributions made by Enfield’s African and Caribbean Communities to life in Enfield.
Guests at the unveiling of the plaque, as well as listening to the passionate speeches, enjoyed an evening of musical entertainment, including a Gospel Choir. The Mayor of Enfield hoped the evening was both informative and entertaining and that those attending would gain a deeper understanding of the effects of slavery, along with a renewed commitment to ensuring terrible acts such as that would never happen again in the future.
The plaque designed and crafted by sculptor Les Johnson, as an etching on acrylic, hangs in the Conference Room at the Civic Centre. Copies are also displayed at Edmonton Green Library and Community House, enabling visitors the opportunity to be made aware of the atrocities of the past and to affirm their own commitment to combating slavery and all it stands for.
Text on the Plaque
The bicentenary marks an important opportunity to reflect on the injustices of the past, the progress we have made, and the challenges that remain. We must never forget our role in one of the most shameful episodes in the history of humanity. Over hundreds of years, millions of African men, women, and children were captured, kidnapped, and forced to undertake a journey that led to a lifetime of misery and exploitation.
Today we all accept that slavery is abhorrent and repugnant. The bicentenary gives us the opportunity to remember the millions who suffered and died as a result of slavery and to pay tribute to the courage and moral conviction of all those – black and white – who campaigned for abolition. The spirit of freedom, justice and equality that characterised the efforts of the abolitionists is the same spirit that drives our determination to fight injustice and inequality today.
1807 – 2007
The bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade must leave a lasting legacy by inspiring everyone to work together to shape a better world.