Haringey Community Press

Haringey Community Press

Ex-council leader in fresh call for 'offensive' street to be renamed

Cllr Ejiofor says there is strong community support for renaming Black Boy Lane, despite street's residents opposing move

Hero for Ex-council leader in fresh call for 'offensive' street to be renamed
Joseph Ejiofor was ousted as Haringey Council leader earlier this year

The former leader of Haringey Council has called for a street name in West Green that has been linked to racism to be changed urgently.

Joseph Ejiofor said the “offensive” Black Boy Lane should be renamed "La Rose Lane" by February after claiming the council’s latest proposals risked pushing a decision “into the deep grass”.

In June last year, then-leader Cllr Ejiofor announced a review of monument, building, place and street names in Haringey to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Boy Lane was singled out as needing “immediate review”. 

A report presented to the council’s corporate committee on Tuesday detailed plans for a further consultation on the proposed renaming, which would take place “as part of the development of a strategic framework covering a range of issues with the full engagement and support of residents across the borough”.

Cllr Ejiofor, who was ousted as council leader in May by Labour colleague Peray Ahmet, told the meeting he was “very disappointed” with the content of the report.

He said: “The name Black Boy Lane itself, it is offensive. A lot of African-heritage people are offended by the street name itself. A number of anti-racists are equally offended.

“The report seems to subsume the proposal to rename Black Boy Lane in some pretty deep grass, to be quite frank.”

The council proposed renaming the street La Rose Lane, in honour of writer John La Rose, in December 2020. Although the exact origin of the name Black Boy Lane is still debated, a civic centre report noted that “black boy” is now commonly used as a derogatory name for African-heritage men.

But in March this year, the council’s corporate committee deferred a decision on the renaming to allow for further engagement with residents. 

It came after a consultation revealed that although 64% of respondents supported the renaming, 72% of respondents living on the street itself objected to the specific proposals. Concerns raised by those living in Black Boy Lane included fears that the £300 compensation offered by the council would not be enough to cover the costs they would face as a result of the change.

Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Ejiofor said: “Nowhere in this report does it show that any action has happened [by the council] whatsoever out in the community - and lockdown has been gone for over three months now.”

He added: “If we delay a decision on Black Boy Lane, it will just get pushed into the deep grass.”

The former leader said he wanted the committee to separate the renaming of Black Boy Lane from the wider review of street and place names. He called for the renaming to take effect on 1st February next year and for the council to commit to supporting residents living in the street.

But Mike Hakata, the council’s deputy leader, defended the plans laid out in the report as the “correct approach”. He said: “Instead of taking an ad hoc approach, we need this strategic approach to really understand where these names come from, who we are celebrating, and what monuments we have for our lives.

“We need that strategic approach, because actually is not as simple as just picking and choosing which ones we like the best or don’t. It actually is about the important historical impact.”

The deputy leader added that trustees of the George Padmore Institute, which was founded by La Rose, had written to the council saying that “the renaming proposed in the way that it has been conceived and been carried out is not one that John himself would have supported and it is not in tune with his vision”.

He said the council could not override the desires of the custodians of La Rose’s legacy.

However, Cllr Ejiofor said there had been “disagreement among some members of the institute” and that La Rose’s family were “united behind this change”.

The meeting was adjourned to allow the legal officer, Raymond Prince, to consider the legal and financial implications of Cllr Ejiofor’s proposal.

When the meeting reconvened around half-an-hour later, Raymond proposed deferring a decision to a future meeting – scheduled to take place on 23rd November – to allow council officers to consider the implications of the proposal.

Labour's Emine Ibrahim called for the committee to pass a motion to support Cllr Ejiofor’s proposal and “task officers to come back to us on 23rd November with the information that will allow us to make an informed decision on the way forward”.

Six members of the committee voted in favour, with two abstentions.