In today’s good news, a statue of a Black Lives Matter protester just replaced one of a literal slave trader in Bristol, and we absolutely love to see it.
Early Wednesday morning in Bristol, artist Marc Quin secretly erected a sculpture of Jen Reid. Reid, a stylist, is one of the many Black Lives Matter protesters who helped take down the statue of Edward Colston and throw it into the river back in June. FYI, Colston was an English merchant and Tory party member in the 17th century who owned and sold slaves and promoted and profited off systemic racism towards Black people.
Called ‘A Surge of Power,’ the new statue recreates the moment Reid’s husband caught her powerfully raising her fist in the air after she and other protesters removed a sculpture that represented generations of hatred and colonialism. That moment inspired others around the world to forcibly remove statues of leaders who historically practiced and promoted slavery and systemic racism towards Black, Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. So, replacing the statue of a slave trader with someone who helped dismantle the symbol of white supremacy and colonialism, at the site that inspired the world to forcibly remove other symbols of hatred isn’t just poetic justice, it’s a powerful and inspiring message that defines history.
But, unfortunately, according to the BBC, the Bristol Mayor plans to remove the statue. As they explain, the sculpture was the work and decision of a London-based artist, and not decided by the people of Bristol. So, given that it wasn’t legally approved, it has no legal grounds to stay. That said, even if the statue is removed, the symbolism of this photo and the conversation about racism this statue has continued will become a powerful part of history.
Despite the government’s response, Reid told The Guardian that the general public response towards the statue has been mostly positive. Nobody tried to remove it when it was first put up. At 6am, the only council presence was a road sweeper who stopped to get out and take a picture of the inspiring image before continuing on with his shift. Later that morning, a passing cyclist told The Guardian they “had no idea” the statue was being erected but admitted it “was absolutely beautiful.”
According to BBC producer Alex Littlewood, many have gathered by the statue and taken a knee. And, as we’re all still protesting and demanding justice for the tragic deaths of BIPOC peoples in police custody, nothing is more powerful than “watching children stand next to it and raising their fists. Black children and white children, together.”
“It almost feels like it’s been there forever,” she told The Guardian. “It gets under the skin before you understand what it is, which I think is how you make people think about things, how you pose the question a different way and renew the conversation.”
“Jen created the sculpture when she stood on the plinth and raised her arm in the air,” added Quinn. “Now we’re crystallising it.”
Of course, while this is an incredible and inspiring moment, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. The Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter movements are not over. We need to continue fighting, challenge ourselves and those around us to be anti-racist and help demand justice for the BIPOC lives who were taken away from us by police brutality. Namely, the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Elijah McClain and many more.
Below, Syrup put together some resources to help you become a better, more informed activist.