A Cambridge University college has spent £120,000 on a failed attempt to remove a memorial in its chapel to a 17th-century benefactor who was heavily involved in the trade. slave, it appeared.

Writing in the Guardian, Sonita Alleyne, a master’s degree student from Jesus College, defended the decision to fight the case and criticized the “old-fashioned” and costly church process that ended in failure for the university.

The disputed memorial was the subject of an ongoing three-day trial in February, where the university had to seek permission from the diocese of Ely to remove the plaque from the chapel wall, where it prevented members of the community of worship, and transferred it elsewhere on the university campus.

Alleyne, the first black master’s degree from an Oxbridge college, says that after research revealed the extent of Tobias Rustat’s 30-year involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the majority of fellows were voted in favor of asking permission to move the memorial.

“This feels simple,” Alleyne wrote. “From an ethical standpoint, Rustat’s activities helped finance slave factories along the west coast of Africa. It allowed ships to transport tens of thousands of enslaved women, children, and men across the Middle Passage. And it has resulted in these people being worked to death in the murder fields of the Caribbean and the Americas.”

However, last month the court consistently decided that the objection to the memorial was based on “a false story” about the size of the financial reward Rustat obtained from slavery. and decreed that the memorial be kept in the chapel. Jesus College has since decided against an appeal, but has called on the Church of England to find a better way to address issues of racial injustice and disputed heritage.

Alleyne said: “No wonder we have to fight this case. “In doing so, the university will spend around £120,000 on an archaic process it has no choice but to follow, is governed by solicitors and inappropriately designed to deal with sensitive issues of racial justice and disputed heritage. The church has to develop something better than this.”

Throughout the process, Alleyne said, she feels Rustat’s memorial weighs in on the more than 150,000 Africans he helped traffic enslave. “After reviewing the ruling, I believe this process cannot take into account the life experience of people of color in Britain today.”

She compared the Rustat dispute to the opposition to the admission of female students to university. “Just two generations ago, girls were admitted for the first time,” she said. “Protesters cite 483 men-only years among other vehement criticisms. Their arguments have proven to be indisputable. The buildings were renovated and created new arrangements and traditions. As a result, today’s university is much fairer and a lot more academically interesting. “

She added: “I am proud to own an institution like Jesus College. Fellows who began discussions and quiet conversations in May 2019 were not immune to these difficult topics or courses of action. It is part of our journey towards equity. It is important to Jesus College, and it must be important to the Church of England. “

Many high-ranking figures in the Church of England, including the archbishop of Canterbury, have expressed support for Alleyne and the memorial’s relocation.


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