‘We can’t believe it’: Cambridge University master dismayed by slave trader’s plaque retention | University of Cambridge

Jhe is master of a Cambridge University college at the center of a dispute over a memorial to a benefactor involved in the slave trade has described a recent church court ruling that it should remain in the college chapel as “astonishing”.

jesus college applied to the Diocese of Ely remove the memorial to its 17th century benefactor, Tobie Rustat, whose links to slavery are universally recognized, and expose it on another site of the college. They argued that his presence had a negative impact on the mission and ministry of the church.

Speaking to the Guardian after lose the case, Sonita Alleyne, the master of Jesus College, said the decision was a profound moment for the Church of England, which has apologized for its own links to the transatlantic slave trade. “This is the first test for the church,” she said, “a church that in the 17th century owned slaves.”

It is a test that the church seems to have failed. “This is a church that tells black people: you must shut up, shut up and pray under a memorial to a slave trader,” Alleyne said. “It’s very, very disappointing. How could they come to this decision?

Alleyne, who was the first black master of an Oxbridge college and the first woman to head Jesus College since its founding in 1496, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, and grew up in Leytonstone, in the east from London, a Seventh-day Adventist. His sense of disbelief at the decision is audible. “There is such a thing as racial dignity in worship. This is something that has been ignored.

“The memorial to someone who invested in murder, death, slavery, torture – is that more important than that feeling of being able to be in a church comfortably? And if we don’t like it, we just have to suck it or not enter?

“The Church of England sits at the heart of the Anglican communion throughout the world. The average Anglican is a 30-year-old African. What are we really saying with this judgment?

Since Alleyne took office as Jesus College’s 41st Master in October 2019, she has led the college not only through a pandemic, but also through a process of critical self-reflection as it examines long-lasting legacies. end of slavery and colonial violence. . His personal message on the murder of George Floyd received wide attention, as did the return of a looted bronze rooster from Benin to the delegates of Nigeria.

Alleyne with Prince Aghatise Erediauwa during a ceremony at Jesus College to return the bronze looted from Benin to Nigeria. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

His tenure also coincided with growing diversity at the University of Cambridge. Jesus College’s 2020 cohort has been described as “the most diverse in history” with more than four in five students from public schools and colleges and one in three students of color.

She is also keen to highlight her work in developing better professional support for students, so it is not just about getting into Cambridge and leaving with a good degree, but also about finding a rewarding career and improving social mobility, especially for the most disadvantaged. To this end, she has encouraged entrepreneurship, mentoring, speed networking, career interviews, internships and work experience opportunities, especially in the creative industries where she has made a name for herself, by founding the production company Somethin’ Else, which she ran until 2009.

Alleyne also wants to encourage members of the college to make a difference in the wider Cambridge community, particularly the nearby Abbey area, which scores high on all indices of social deprivation, and she is patron of Red Hen, a charity that supports local primary schools. students and their families.

However, for better or worse, the disagreement surrounding Rustat’s memorial earned him the most columns.

the decision wednesday that Rustat’s memorial should remain in the chapel followed resistance from a group of 70 former college students, who opposed the plan for its removal, arguing that Charles II’s former courtier had been misrepresented.

The judgment agreed with them that opposition to the ornate memorial stone, designed by Grinling Gibbons, was based on “a false narrative” about the magnitude of the financial rewards Rustat derived from slavery. He found that Rustat’s investments in the Royal Adventurers slave trade brought him no financial return, while his investments in the Royal African Company were not realized until 20 years after he donated to the college.

Alleyne argued that meticulous research revealed that Rustat was “heavily involved”, on the same level as Edward Colstonwhose statue was toppled in Bristol in 2020, and she was shocked that the fact that he was less successful as a slave trader was used in the judgment to help justify keeping the memorial in place .

“He didn’t receive any dividend, but he attended meetings. He knew how many people had been lost at sea, how much cargo had been lost. He is a real investor in the transatlantic slave trade, in one of the most successful companies. People have died. People were marked. People have been raped. People were worked to death.

The Tobias Rustat Memorial at Jesus College, University of Cambridge.
The Tobias Rustat memorial at Jesus College. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

The judgment came as a surprise to many, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke out in favor of removing the memorial, urging the church to change its practices. Alleyne expressed anger that after contesting and losing the case, Jesus’ increasingly diverse community now had to return to the chapel and carry on, in the shadow of a slave trader’s memorial.

“It’s a pretty monumental moment – it was a moment of reparation for the church for its past involvement in the slave trade,” she said. “This is unacceptable. It’s offensive. It’s like saying to Rosa Parks: you had a good time. Now you’re coming to the back of the bus. That’s bullshit.

“It is people who are not part of the community who are now making judgments about what the community is now and what the young people are now. We can’t believe this was the result.

The college is considering seeking leave to appeal. Meanwhile, Alleyne, a graduate of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, finds herself reluctant to enter the chapel and will consider holding formal events elsewhere that would normally take place in the chapel – such as the awarding of scholarships.

“It’s the church. The church is supposed to love us all. You can’t just say you love us. You have to show it. The idea that you would just say endure and shut up and go on now… We don’t just have to accept that from the church.

“It’s just not fair. What does this judgment say? They basically say: if you don’t want to come in, then go ahead and don’t come in, because it doesn’t matter.

‘We can’t believe it’: Cambridge University master dismayed by slave trader’s plaque retention | University of Cambridge

Source link ‘We can’t believe it’: Cambridge University master dismayed by slave trader’s plaque retention | University of Cambridge

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