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  • Writer's pictureHenrike Laing

Black Community Leaders Welcome Plan to Name Streets After Anti-Slavery Heroes

Updated: Feb 2

Houses on the street 'Reitmarkersrijge' in Groningen remind of the city's colonial past. © Henrike Laing

Members of the Black community in Groningen express delight at the municipality’s plan to name streets in new residential areas after Caribbean anti-slavery heroes, as awareness of this history seems to be lacking.

Several parties of the Groningen City Council want to jointly create recognition of heroes who fought and showed resistance against slavery. In doing so they also want to create visibility and educate the local community on Groningen’s past of slavery.

A much-needed step, as Aminata Seye says. “I think Dutch people are only aware if they want to be aware.”

The 20-year-old was born in Senegal but now lives in Groningen. Seya is well-connected in the local African and Caribbean community and is active in the association “Black Ladies of Groningen.”

© Aminata Seye

“We always hear about the struggle of slaves but very rarely about the slaves who rose against the colonial powers and fought for us and for where we are now,” Seya stresses.

The theme when teaching black history is always struggle, what impacts the life of black persons nowadays, she says. “You have to constantly try and prove that Africa isn't some sort of damsel in distress.”

Naming streets after heroes will push people to learn that Caribbean and African history goes beyond slavery and struggle, Seya hopes.

“It helps our people to be proud of themselves”

The lack of a bigger picture of slavery is what led the city council member Jahir Scoop to start the project. “There is more. It is about fighting for freedom and being proud of yourself.”

Scoop was born in Curaçao and sees a certain dismissal and disinterest in the subject in today's society. “Some people say it is not their fault and they don’t want to talk about it.”

With the street names, he wants to sensitize the local population to this history, but also create a daily place in society for the Black community. “It helps our people to be proud of themselves and helps them live in the society. It does a lot of things.”

Jahir Scoop © Henrike Laing

When and where the streets will soon commemorate heroes who fought against slavery is still unclear. In July, the city council already approved the plan of Scoop and his Labor Party (PvdA).

A new project group will be formed at the end of the fall that will discuss the plans further, Johan de Boer of the Groningen Street Naming Committee tells The Groninger.

The city wants to implement the street names in newly built neighborhoods. As De Boer reports, there are some vague options but “there are always some pros and cons, we have to weigh them carefully.”

As of the beginning of next year, he anticipates one or two possible locations. Meanwhile, the project groups will work together with historical experts, among others, to create a list of relevant names that could be considered for the signs.

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