Cecil Rhodes sign covered at Vancouver school following concerns of anti-black racism

Jun 14 2019, 12:31 am

The Vancouver School Board has covered up the Cecil Rhodes plaque at L’Ecole Bilingue Elementary school.

This comes after Jennifer Reddy, OneCity School Trustee, submitted a motion to remove the Cecil Rhodes sign from the school’s playground as a commitment to “acknowledge and address anti-black racism.”

L’Ecole Bilingue was known as Cecil Rhodes Public School until 1977. Rhodes was a British businessman and politician. He founded De Beers — the diamond mining and retail giant.

He served as the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in the late 1800s and also founded the Rhodes Scholarship — an international award for postgraduate students to study at Oxford University in England.

Reddy’s motion states that “Rhodes was a leader in the establishment of systemic and institutional racism towards Black people in Southern Africa.”

Patricia MacNeil, director of communications with the Vancouver School Board, confirmed with Daily Hive that the plaque at the school has since been covered.

The sign was originally a tile floor piece at the school’s old building. The school underwent a seismic upgrade in 2017 and the floorplate was placed at the basketball court.

MacNeil says that the school’s parent advisory committee (PAC) were in discussions about the sign last year.

“With seismic projects, original features are usually incorporated into replacement and or upgraded schools and they present educational opportunities for students. At that time, there was the wish by those in attendance to have further discussions with the wider school community before raising it with the board,” said MacNeil, who added those discussions are now taking place.

“In collaboration with school communities, the VSB works to ensure the values and wishes of students, their families and staff are reflected in their schools — both the physical elements as well as within educational programming.”

MacNeil says Vancouver School Board has asked the facilities department to cover up the plaque.

“This will allow time to support and engage with the school community as it considers how to move forward. The board looks forward to hearing about those discussions as it considers next steps,” said MacNeil.

“As this matter is very topical to our understanding of historical wrongs and how they should be acknowledged, it is a real-life learning opportunity and for collaboration moving forward.”

This isn’t the first time there has been a push to extract historical references to Rhodes from public spaces.

The #RhodesMustFall protest movement began in 2015, in support of removing the Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town. The statue was taken down in April 2015.

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