What's in a name?
Cyril Lionel Robert James, otherwise known as CLR James, remains one of the most illustrious men of letters to emerge from the Caribbean.
A row has broken out after Hackney Council has decided to ditch his name on one of their libraries.
Born in 1901 in Trinidad he came to England with his friend, the West Indian cricketer Learie Constantine in 1932. He settled in Lancashire for a time and wrote for the Manchester Guardian.
James' ambition was to pursue a literary career and in 1933 moved to London. The same year that Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. That puts his times in some perspective.
He soon made a name for himself as an expert critic of the colonial system and a radical political activist. To be precise he was a Trotskyist who believed in trying to infiltrate the Labour Party to bring about social change. Later on he became a firm Marxist and with his childhood friend George Padmore became part of an afro-Caribbean intelligentsia.
This intelligentsia included future African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, first Presidents both of independent Ghana and Kenya respectively.
As a playwright he put Paul Robeson on the West End stage in 1936 taking the lead role in James' play on Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian revolutionary who kicked the French, British and Spanish out of the west of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in 1804.
He wrote the first novel to be published by a Caribbean author in the UK, Minty Alley in the same year. He went on to write the seminal study of the African Diaspora through the story of the Haitian revolution in his book The Black Jacobins in 1938.
His autobiography published in 1963, Beyond a Boundary, cemented his reputation as a man of letters and a lover of that most English of games, cricket.
Why the potted literary history? Well, in 1985 a library in the London Borough of Hackney was named in his honour, the CLR James Library.
He attended the dedication and opening himself, a big fuss was made of the importance of celebrating the contributions made by black Britons to our modern City. CLR James died in 1989.
The whole event was meant as a mark of respect for his contribution towards the British understanding of the Caribbean way of life and his literary accomplishments.
Well, in its wisdom the current arts gurus in Hackney have decided to expunge his name from their new library being refurbished on the existing site. Instead of the CLR James Library, it will be called the Dalston Library and Archive.
His widow, Selma James, who just a couple of years ago was invited to toast the continued success of the use of his name, has told me of her disgust at the decision to remove her late husband's name from this place of knowledge and learning.
Supporters of Selma have already started an international petition at what they see as a modern example of disrespect.
Actually there are no crass explanations from Hackney over the name change. They're not saying he was too much of a Marxist, or nobody knows who he is, simply they want to name it after Dalston because that's where the library is.
Nevertheless, crass is quite probably an apt description of the decision by Hackney Council to change the name it not so long ago bestowed on a public building for the contribution by an Afro-Caribbean scholar.
Of course it may be that old CLR and his rather left-wing views no longer fit the mould of the modern view the Labour Party has of itself. But that would be a sort of revisionist agenda unbecoming of a local authority who simply wants to honour individuals for their intellectual contributions to the life of the community.
There are hundreds of buildings all across London named after civic leaders and people who have made a significant contribution to communities in their lifetimes. It is often a small sign of recognition for a lifetime's work.
If we were to go around changing all these names we in some way would be divorce ourselves from our past and those who helped shape it.
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