ny activist: columbus statue should be replaced with toussaint l’ouverture

December 5, 2017
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In response to the national conversation about Confederate monuments and statues erected to honor White Supremacy and colonialism, Mayor Bill DeBlasio initiated the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers to advise him on what is to become of the questionable monuments around New York City. First up for discussion have been statues of Christopher Columbus, Theodore Roosevelt, and J. Marion Sims. One of the most outspoken critics of the Columbus statue has been activist Glenn Cantave.

“What this says to me is that my life as a black man does not matter,” Cantave told the room of community Queens locals during a debate about what should happen to the monuments. “My last name is Cantave, it’s a slave owner’s last name. I don’t know my real last name because of Columbus.”

Cantave, who is the founder and CEO of Movers and Shakers, an innovative movement utilizing augmented reality to advocate for marginalized groups, is rallying to have the Columbus statue replaced by one that honors Toussaint L’Ouverture—who led the Haitian Revolution in the 18th century. NYC has the second-largest population of Haitians outside of Haiti which, Cantave argues, is a positive thing for the Haitian diaspora, but more so, a positive thing for all New Yorkers from oppressed groups.

“In general, monuments reflect financial glory,” he said. “Oppressed peoples don’t have role models to look up to. L’Ouverture’s efforts resulted in the establishment of the first, free black republic. If you had him glorified as a statue and his name in the textbooks, that would change everything.”