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Call to replace Picton statue at Cardiff City Hall with one of his 14-year-old victim

01 Jul 2020 5 minute read
Sir Thomas Picton

An open letter to the Leader of Cardiff Council signed by over 80 Cardiff citizens is calling for the statue of Sir Thomas Picton at City Hall to be replaced with a memorial to Louisa Calderon.

The open letter – organised by the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel (SSAP) – to the Leader of Cardiff Council calls for the statue of Sir Thomas Picton to be replaced with a memorial to his most famous victim.

Picton’s governorship of Trinidad was authoritarian and brutal and led to his trial in 1806 accused of ordering the judicial torture of Calderon. Calderon was a 14 year old mulatto girl, accused of being involved in the theft of money from a Port of Spain businessman, Pedro Ruiz, whom Louisa’s mother had arranged for her to live with as a ‘mistress’ at age 11.

Unable to get a confession through interrogation, Picton issued the order to ‘Inflict the torture on Louisa Calderon’. Calderon did not confess and was imprisoned for a further eight months before being released. Picton admitted ordering the torture and was found guilty by a jury in England.

He was never sentenced, however, and in 1808, Picton was acquitted.

“While statues of slave traders continue to be taken down around the world, the question of what is to be done with the empty plinths left behind by these statues and how to address their history is undoubtedly posed,” the letter says.

“These are questions that should be answered by the communities in which these statues have long stood. Indeed, in the case of the statue of Picton, residents of Cardiff ought to have a say.”

Takura Aldridge, SSAP Youth said they were seeking the help of leaders who weren’t afraid to confront the past in order to move forward.

“As young ‘BAME’ people, we aren’t afraid to do it alone,” he said. “Though, it’d be better if the council and other institutions could join us.”

Fadhili Maghiya, Director of SSAP said that the Black Lives Mattter movement in Wales had seen many young people rising up to denounce and address historical and racial injustices.

“SSAP Youth is no different,” she said. “We need to ensure that the narrative is changed to reflect a more balanced telling of our histories.

“The story of Louisa Calderon and her abuser, Thomas Picton, is part of our Welsh history. Her story represents hundreds of thousands more. Their story needs to be told.”


‘Key issues’

Later on today Plaid Cymru will call in a Senedd debate for making the history of black people and people of colour a statutory part of the new curriculum.

They will call on the Welsh Government to make the teaching of Welsh history and the teaching of black history and the history of people of colour compulsory in schools.

Under the Welsh Government’s current curriculum plans, schools would not have to teach pupils about black history and the history of people of colour, nor about Welsh history.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Siân Gwenllian MS said making these elements statutory would present “a historic opportunity” to redress structural inequality in Wales and to ensure that the education system creates “an equal and inclusive Wales for all in the future”.

30,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to make it compulsory for schools to teach Black and POC UK history in Welsh schools.

The report commissioned by First Minister Mark Drakeford – to understand why Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting BAME people – recommended immediate action to include BAME history and education in the National Curriculum for Wales for primary and secondary pupils to “prevent racism and promote cultural diversity.”

The Welsh Government’s draft Curriculum Bill will be published on the 8th of July.

“Plaid Cymru has long argued that the history of Wales should become a statutory element of the new curriculum so that every child can come to know and understand the history of our nation,” Siân Gwenllian said.

“However, the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations have brought into sharp focus the need for the history of black and people of colour also to be included as a statutory part of the curriculum.

“The Welsh Government’s Curriculum Bill does not currently making it compulsory for any school to teach Welsh history or black history. Instead, it leaves those elements as discretionary and up to individual schools.

“Having a fully open-ended curriculum means that every pupil will not have the opportunity to learn about issues that we believe are key to creating a more equal and prosperous society and in shaping citizens who are aware of their past.

“But making these elements a statutory part of the new curriculum presents an historic opportunity to redress structural inequality in Wales and to ensure that the education system creates an equal and inclusive Wales for all in the future. It will ensure that the next generation of children and young people in Wales learn about anti-racism and the diversity of Wales – and that they can see the world through the window of the country in which they live – Wales.

“It would be a tragedy if the Welsh Government did not seize upon this opportunity.”

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