On Sunday 7th June there was a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol, where I live with my two children. Edward Colston’s statue, which has stood in the centre of Bristol for 125 years, was toppled by protesters, tied up with rope and dragged across the centre and dumped into the harbour; the harbour that made him so much money from trading slaves 300 years ago.
I am bloody terrible at homeschooling, but tonight seemed the perfect opportunity to hop in our van and take my kids on a Black history field trip. Unfortunately it’s one that isn’t on the curriculum.
On our way I told them about how our home city was built on money made from slave trading. I explained to them what a slave was. We listed all the places we knew of with Colston’s name. We talked about abolition. We talked about what an important day it was, both for Bristol and the Black Lives Matter movement.
We joined the 100 or so people socially distancing and holding vigil or just passing by the empty plinth where he once looked down on us all, and talked systemic racism both here and in the USA and listened to conversations. We read the placards, my daughter added her own, and we said the names of those killed by police brutality written on them. The only troublemakers around were two drunk topless blokes shouting “All lives matter! White lives matter!”, flipping the Vs at young Black people, their red faces full of anger.
Apart from that it was a safe, content space of reflection. Although I didn’t go on the protest I am so glad I took them down there to experience the calm of the aftermath.
We then followed the chalk-like bronze scrape-lines to the harbourside and to Colston’s last watery resting place, and talked about Bristol’s history and what should happen to the statue now. They both think he should be dredged up, put in a museum and used to teach all children who go there about how terrible slavery was, and to remember what happened today.
I have learnt a lot in 2020; today I learnt that we have a lot to learn from kids, because mine just can’t get their heads around the stupidity of racism, the protection of the perpetrators of police brutality and erecting a statue to a slaver.
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