Scholar-activist invited to help London 'reflect and respect' diversity

Portrait photo of Toyin Agbetu

Toyin Agbetu, a founding member of Hackney's review of public spaces, has been selected to join the Mayor of London's new diversity commission. - Credit: Hackney Council

A scholar-activist who helped to set up the review of public spaces linked to slave and plantation owners in Hackney has been selected to join the mayor of London's new diversity commission. 

Toyin Agbetu was a founding member of the council's naming review in June 2020, which consults residents about parks, roads and statues named after controversial historical figures and ensures public spaces are representative of the communities that live in the borough.

It accompanies the council's Black Lives Matter motion as part of a mission to fight racism in Hackney. 

Mr Agbetu, a filmmaker and scholar-activist at human rights organisation Ligali, said: “It's a wonderful privilege to take on this role to help make London reflect and respect the entirety of our diversity.

"I look forward to working with the commission to ensure the public spaces in the city we call home are a beautiful model of inclusivity."

He will join the mayor of London's new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, which shares the values of Hackney's Review, Rename, Reclaim by ensuring historical names and figures reflect diversity in the capital's spaces. 

Since the launch of the borough's naming review, Mr Agbetu, a member of Hackney's community steering group, has advised the local authority on how public places named after people involved in the transatlantic slave trade could be renamed. 

Cllr Carole Williams, the council's equality lead, said the community steering group has been "the defining factor" in Hackney's naming review: "They have helped us in our commitments to being an anti-racist borough and informed how we lobby government for the justice of Black Caribbean and African legacies. 

"We've presented the success of working with the community with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and are pleased to see them adopt the same approach.

"We look forward to seeing how Toyin adds value to London's new review as he has to Hackney’s.”

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The mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said Mr Agbetu has "set an example" for how councils can "reconcile with contentious pasts", adding: “We’re pleased he has been chosen for [the London commission] and proud to see Hackney’s work and people represented within this important journey for London.”