Sadiq Khan has unveiled £25,000 grants to help Londoners ‘decolonise’ street names As part of a diversity initiative launched following protests inspired by Black Lives Matter.

The Left-wing Mayor of London has announced a £1million fund that will be shared out among community groups including those wishing to campaign to change ‘offensive’ road names.   

The Untold Stories Fund is part of the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm. It was established in response to BLM demonstrations to diversify art and statuary that were under scrutiny for commemorating figures related to Britain’s history, empire, and slavery.

Mr Khan stated that London’s diversity is its greatest strength, but for too long, statues and street names in the capital have only provided a limited view of our city’s complicated history.

“I’m determined not to let our public space hide the extraordinary people who have made London what it is today.

Milligan Street in Tower Hamlets is one street that is linked to the slave trade. It was named after Robert Milligan, a slave trader whose statue was removed from its plinth last January. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaking to the media while launching the Change Please campaign, in London, October 7, 2021

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, addresses the media at the launch of Change Please in London, on October 7, 2021

Hackney and Ealing councils have already moved to change the names of Black Boy Lane and Havelock Road

Hackney and Ealing have already taken steps to change the names for Black Boy Lane, and Havelock Road.

A statue of Sir John Cass is seen in London on June 8, 2020

A statue of Sir John Casss can been seen in London on June 8, 2020

People taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Trafalgar Square, London, May 31, 2020

Participants in the Black Lives Matter protest at Trafalgar Square in London, May 31, 2020

London Tube map redesigned. Station names are replaced by figures such as Errol Brown, Justin Fashanu and Andrea Levy. This is to celebrate Black History Month 

London’s Tube Map has been redesigned in honor of Black History Month.

The 272 station names were replaced by notable black figures, including Errol Brown, Justin Fashanu, and Andrea Levy.

Other notable figures include the first black woman to join the Royal Navy. She disguised herself as William Brown, and replaced Barons Court.

Embankment was named after Pablo Fanque, a Victorian circus proprietor. Battersea Power Station became John Archer, London’s first black mayor.

Other notables included Cecile Nobrega, composer and poet, who led a 15 years-long campaign to establish England’s first permanent public monument to Black women in Stockwell, south London. John Edmonstone (Jamaican-born settler) was also featured. Edmonstone was a naturalist and taught taxidermy.

Hackney and Ealing councils already attempted to change the names Black Boy Lane and Havelock Road, named after Sir Henry Havelock. However, grassroots groups are largely lacking the funding needed for the renaming.

The Untold Stories grant program could be used to help groups pay all costs associated with the process, including funding consultations with residents and emergency services, as well as funding Royal Mail.

Residents are often charged by councils to change their street names. This cost could be covered by the grant program.  

The 15-strong Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, headed by Mr Khan, includes an academic who suggested that all international examples white supremacy can be traced back at Britain, and a campaigner who once confronted the Queen in order to demand she apologize for historical injustices.

Politicians were critical of the project, concerned that figures from our national past could be erased through ‘unelected activists’.

The Mayor of London, however, stressed that the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm’s purpose was not to remove statues but to ‘raise public awareness’.

The spotlight will be on statues, street names and building names as well as memorials in the capital.

The panel will probe the controversial subject of evaluating existing statuaries. Many of them have been outspoken about it.

Toyin Abbetu, a social activist for human rights, praised activists who painted red Robert Geffrye’s hands in Hackney as a symbol of the ‘blood on His hands’.

He called them ‘transgressive, but progressive acts of public service’ for making ‘visible the history of such monstrous wrong’.

After disrupting a ceremony at Westminster Abbey marking freedom from slavery, Agbetu was in the news for grabbing headlines in 2007.

He yelled, “You should be ashamed!” We shouldn’t be here. This is an insult to our dignity. After being accused of racism and antisemitism, he resigned. 

Aindrea Emelife (prominent art critic) is also a member of the Commission. She voted for the replacement with a BLM activist of Edward Colston, a statue depicting the Bristol slave trader.

Colston was memorably torn down and thrown into harbour during protests last January.

It has been replaced by Jen Reid’s likeness, a BLM protester that climbed on the empty plinth and clenched in Black Power fashion.

Ms. Emelife described seeing the crane lift the crane onto the plinth, from her lookout point. The adrenaline rush as this project is realized guerrilla style.

Toyin Agbetu grabbed headlines in 2007 after disturbing a ceremony at Westminster Abbey marking the abolition of slavery

Toyin Agbetu grabbed headlines in 2007 after disturbing a ceremony at Westminster Abbey marking the abolition of slavery

It also includes famous faces such as Emmy-winning actor Riz Ahmed, who has starred in Star Wars: Rogue One and US series The Night Of

The Commission also includes prominent art critic Aindrea Emelife

It also includes Emmy-winning actor Riz Ahmad (left), who starred in Star Wars: Rogue One as well as the US series The Night Of. Aindrea Emelife (right), a prominent art critic, is part of the Commission.

City Hall announced that the panel was selected through an “open recruitment process” and will serve their initial two-year term.

It also features famous faces like Emmy-winning actor Riz Ahmad, who has starred as Riz Ahmed in Star Wars: Rogue One or The Night Of.

A staunch critic of the Prime Minister, on a television show he once called Mr Johnson ‘an out-and-out complete c***’ who is ‘overtly racist’ and ‘blatantly lies to the public’.

He also stated that he hates “diversity” because it doesn’t equate with true representation.

Lynette Nabbosa (business academic and fellow panellist), who founded an organization for role models to engage youth of color, previously suggested that white supremacy was rooted in British history.

Colston was memorably ripped down and thrown into the harbour during protests last year

Colston was memorably ripped and thrown in the harbour during protests last January

In October 2013, she wrote: “The UK seems to be a common denominator in atrocities around the world. All roads lead to my country of origin, no matter where you find white supremacy.

“It was the UK’s racism which gave rise to slavery and colonialism. It is not in the past, but schools, colleges, universities, and streets have never stopped honoring those who oppressed us.

After George Floyd’s death, Mr Khan announced that he would establish the Commission.

The death caused a reverberation around the globe, and prompted activists in the UK and the United States to deface and topple statues of historical figures.

Khan announced the panel and said that too many Londoners felt ignored by the street names, statues, and building names around them for far too long. It is important that we do all we can to celebrate and properly remember our rich and diverse past in our city.

“It is an honor to bring together these inspiring leaders from London to create the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm. Each member brings with him or her great insight and knowledge that will improve the representation of our public landscape.