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Campaigners’ call for CLR James Library

12:10 08 September 2010

CLR James

CLR James

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ANGRY campaigners are calling on the council not to discount the cultural contribution of Hackney’s African and Caribbean residents by ditching the name of a popular Dalston library.

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CLR James Library, Dalston Lane.

More than 100 protesters have signed a petition to demand that the new library being built as part of the Dalston Square development to replace the CLR James Library in Dalston Lane retains the name.

Members of the borough’s Black & Ethnic Minority Arts network (BEMA) and House of Arts & Music Production Services (H-AMPS) took action after discovering that the library’s current name was set to be dropped.

Town hall bosses called the library after the Afro-Trinidadian historian, cricket journalist and theorist Cyril Lionel Robert James in 1985. They now want to call it Dalston Library and Archives when it reopens next spring.

“I think the council, at the time the library was named, was making a statement and commitment regarding the literary contribution of African Caribbean people worldwide,” said Ngoma Bishop, chairman of BEMA.

“Given the high percentage of African and Caribbean people in Hackney, I feel that taking a decision to drop the name is making an equally strong statement in the opposite direction.

“It’s one step short of being an insult to the community.”

CLR James gained acclaim for The Black Jacobins, his 1938 book about the 1791-1804 Haitian revolution, and his 1963 autobiographical book, Beyond A Boundary.

He attended the library’s naming ceremony. He died in May, 1989.

“This is not just about his contribution as a black individual,” said Andrea Enisuoh, of social justice group Hackney Unites.

“He was a campaigner and a thinker and we want to keep his legacy alive.”

“It is known internationally that there is a CLR library in Hackney and that is something we should be proud of.

“It’s about what sort of Hackney we want to see in the future. Now that Hackney and Dalston are developed, do we no longer want to support these people?”

A Hackney Council spokesman said: “We feel it’s important for the names of our libraries to reflect their location. We also had to consider the fact that Hackney’s archive service will be situated in the building.

“This will also ensure consistency with the borough’s other seven libraries, which are named after the area they are located in.

“However, this is the not the end of the council’s affiliation with CLR James, who we are proud to be associated with.

“As part of the new library, there will be a permanent exhibition to chronicle his life and works and an annual event in his memory, and we are pleased to report the state-of-the-art education room will also be named after this influential figure.”

To sign the Save the CLR James library petition. go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveclrjameslibrary/.

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