Editorial: Barbuda Hall

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Ever so often, a bit of news crosses our desk that causes us to smile and let’s us know that there are still bright sparks among all the doom and gloom we read about every day.
Recently, University of Liverpool students suggested that William Gladstone’s name be removed from a building and replaced by another. One suggestion for the replacement of the Roscoe and Gladstone Hall is Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow. Upon hearing the news, Mr. Snow stated that he was “flattered” that students would decide that he was a worthy replacement above others, such as a former prime minister. An interesting twist to the story is that Snow was actually expelled from the university but later, he was granted an honorary degree.  
At this point, you are probably wondering what’s the link that would make this story so interesting. Well, read on and you will see a couple more twists.  
One of the reasons given for the removal of Gladstone’s name is his stance against the abolition of slavery. Not only that, Gladstone spent many years in the British Parliament dealing with the issue of slavery and publicly supported the economic interests of plantation/slave owners, a group to which his father belonged. And not only belonged but is said to be one of the, if not the largest, slave owner in the British West Indies.  
Saying that Gladstone spent many years in Parliament is an understatement. His political career lasted over sixty years. He was the leader of the Liberal Party and served as the prime minister of the United Kingdom for four terms, from 1868 to 1894. You may know one of his famous quotes, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Fast forward to today and there is veterinary medicine undergraduate student Alisha Raithatha who has launched a poll on the Liverpool Student Guild website to leverage the redevelopment of the hall of residence as an opportunity to “reject a racially marred legacy.” On the website, Raithatha states that the politics of Gladstone were “funded by his father, Sir John Gladstone’s wealth, which was built on the back the slave trade,” adding, “William Gladstone is known to have fought for reparations for slave traders like his father during the abolition of the trade, as well as not being in favour of the abolition … We believe that someone with this controversial background should not have a university hall named after them, especially in a city where we try hard not to forget the atrocities that took place on our docks.”
Where this story gets even more delightful is in the response from Jon Snow. He has said that he would love for the Roscoe and Gladstone Hall of residence to be named after hurricane-hit Barbuda. Yes! Our Barbuda! He said that the university should get behind a “real cause” explaining, “There is this island of Barbuda which has the descendants of slaves who were once endowed with permanent homes …  The hurricane has done away with that and the authorities on the neighbouring island of Antigua, which runs Barbuda, have simply decided to more or less sell it to the highest bidder and dispossess them of their land rights.”
Mr. Snow stated, “I would love it to be named Barbuda Hall, at least until those descendants of slaves are given back land rights.”
We are not going to get into the Barbuda issue or the news presenter’s knowledge of the Barbuda land situation because that will just kill the smiles that this news story brought to our faces. As hard as it may be to do, if you ignore all the politics that surround talk of Barbuda land, this is a great story.  
An expelled British broadcaster, whose name has been suggested as a replacement for a four-term liberal prime minister on a residence hall of the University of Liverpool because of his pro-planter views on slavery, suggests that the hall be named after Barbuda so as to highlight the impact of slavery on the slave and their descendant’s right to land ownership.  
Now, no one should get their hopes up that the building will be renamed Barbuda Hall, but since this story is already stranger than fiction, who knows? In this story, we have seen a hall co-named for a staunch abolitionist and a pro-planter. Because of the latter’s “racially marred legacy,” it has been suggested that it be renamed for a news presenter who, in turn, thinks that Barbuda is the type of “real cause” that the hall’s name should represent because of the direct impacts of slavery on the island’s history. Add in some talk about reparations and this story would be beyond golden.
You are smiling, aren’t you?
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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