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28th July 2020

Environment Black Lives Matter: ‘Racism in slaver monument town left me in tears’

Environment Black Lives Matter: ‘Racism in slaver monument town left me in tears’

Environment

environment Ameer Davies-RanaImage copyright
Rhys Griffiths

Image caption

Ameer Davies-Rana can be seen on S4C’s Hansh service and heard on BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Wales

A TV presenter who endured racism while growing up has backed calls to remove a monument to a slave trader.

Sir Thomas Picton, a 19th Century war hero from Haverfordwest, has been denounced for cruelty as a slave owner and colonial governor of Trinidad.

Carmarthenshire councillors have voted unanimously to adopt a plan to tackle racism in line with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ameer Davies-Rana, 23, said it was time to “get rid” of such memorials.

Mr Davies-Rana, who has contributed to S4C’s Hansh service and to BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Wales, said he suffered racist comments “from an early age” while growing up in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire.

“In primary school, I was the only person of colour, so it made me question my identity. In secondary school, racism was thrown in my face with the p-word and n-word,” he said.

Mr Davies-Rana said he could recall one incident while visiting Carmarthen, when he was passing a group of children on a busy street “shouting at the top of their voices, the n-word”.

“I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I turned a corner, I burst out crying,” he said.

Calls have been made to remove memorials around the UK which honour people with links to slavery and racism.

It follows protests around the world after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis in the United States.

An “urgent audit” is to be carried out of statues, street and building names to address the country’s connections with the slave trade, the Welsh government announced on Monday.

There have also been calls to remove the obelisk to Picton in Carmarthen, along with street names associated with the general, who was killed at Waterloo.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionTV presenter Ameer Davies-Rana wants the obelisk removed but one councillor says it should include a more “rounded picture” of Picton’s past

Mr Davies-Rana said: “Personally, I think we should get rid of them. We are in a new day and age. Racism is not tolerated, regardless of who you are.”

At the Carmarthenshire council meeting, the motion discussed calls to:

  • Make an unequivocal statement that it abhors racism, prejudice and discrimination in all forms – past and present
  • Support the message of Black Lives Matter and believes in the right of citizens to protest peacefully in a safe environment
  • Recognise the importance of BAME communities and commits to working with them to educate, identify and eradicate racism
  • Set up a group to ensure BAME people’s concerns, fears and proposals are heard and they inform future policy
  • Works with the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime commissioner to deal with racism, prejudice and discrimination within the judicial system
  • Commits to working with schools to include colonialism, exploitation, discrimination and racism in the new curriculum
  • Undertakes a review of public monuments, as well as street names and report upon their appropriateness in 21st Century Wales
  • Embraces Black History Month (October) by holding public events to highlight the reality of the negative impact of racial inequality and celebrate the contribution made by BAME communities

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionProfessor of history Chris Evans explains Thomas Picton’s links to slavery

Councillor Cefin Campbell, a Plaid Cymru member of Carmarthenshire’s executive board, said the authority was determined to see meaningful change.

“We need to reach out and listen to BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities’ concerns and experiences,” he said.

“We need that to impact on our policy. We need to educate young people about the impact of racism and how unacceptable it is.”

A review of public monuments – including the controversial Thomas Picton monument – will be reviewed.

Addressing the meeting, Llwynhendy Labour councillor Fozia Akhtar said memorials such as Picton’s should be removed “as we should not promote anybody who promotes racism”.

“We need to re-evaluate who we put up as role models,” she added.

Independent councillor Shahana Najmi, who represents the Lliedi ward Llanelli, said issues on diversity in the authority’s workforce needed to be examined.

A task-and-finish group will be set up to hear the concerns of the BAME community across the authority, to inform policy. It will be asked to conclude its work within six months.

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