Online petition has more than 9,000 signatures
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As calls for the removal of statues memorializing colonial or slavery-era figures have intensified worldwide, National Heroes Committee Chairman Reverend Canon Sebastian Campbell yesterday said Bahamians are too passive to take action.
Campbell’s comments come as an online petition to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Government House grew to more than 9,000 signatures.
The United States’ police killing of George Floyd has triggered global anti-racism protests around the world – on the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several monuments and controversial statues have been defaced or pulled down throughout the United States and Europe as demonstrations continue for racial justice.
Overnight, two Christopher Columbus statues in different U.S. cities were vandalized – one beheaded and the other spray-painted, set on fire, and tossed into a lake.
“Maybe this is an ideal time for Bahamians to have their protest and to bring this to the forefront,” Campbell said, referring to the longstanding battle to celebrate Bahamian heroes.
“This is an ideal time. Bahamians are too docile and too laid back. We need to march…Our children need to be educated. Our people need to be educated. The real story of Columbus has not been told…and therefore we venerate him as some sort of hero in our country.”
He continued, “Bahamians need to be more radical. We are not radical enough. We only get radical when it comes to our money. I think we need to march and close the town down.”
Campbell added that The Bahamas must continue to uplift Bahamian heroes and shape the country’s sovereign identity.
The Italian explorer who “discovered” the new world when he landed on San Salvador in 1492 has come under increased scrutiny, with historical texts linking his storied pilgrimage to murder, rape, slavery, and genocide.
Craig Woodside, one of the young men leading the charge on the latest petition, said he started the online petition to give awareness to the global climate surrounding the issue.
The group held a press conference in front of the statue yesterday calling for support for the petition.
The change.org petition has garnered more than 9,000 signatures since it was launched four days ago.
It is expected that at the end of the 2020/2021 budget debate, a petition for the removal of the statue will be sent to Parliament on behalf of the Bahamian people, according to Progressive Young Liberal Latrae Rahming.
He said, “We look at the crimes of Christopher Columbus, we reflect on our history and we say to Christopher Columbus today, the time is up. This is a different country and a different time.”
The National Heroes Committee and Bahamians throughout the country have been lobbying for the removal of the statue and anything celebrating Columbus for more than 20 years, according to Campbell.
Campbell said advocates were able to reach a milestone in 2013, when Discovery Day – which celebrated the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas on October 12th, 1492 – was replaced by National Heroes Day.
“The heroes committee supports the idea because it goes further than just a physical removal, really it is to create a debate and have a spiritual removal of Columbus,” he added.
Several monuments at Landfall Park on San Salvador also memorialize Columbus’ arrival there. Another monument placed on the floor of the ocean marks the exact spot where his ship is believed to have dropped anchor.