Plantation Road debate puts London on the road to revisit renaming of streets

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City politicians have backed a plan to overhaul the way street names are changed in London, which could change the future name of Plantation Road, but not without a struggle.

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City politicians have supported a plan to overhaul the way street names are changed in London, which could change the future name of Plantation Road, but not without a struggle.

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There was a step back at Tuesday’s civic work meetingcommittee as Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza asked her colleagues to support a motion that would see staff reconsider existing policies for street name changes, compile a list of historic black Londoners for whom the streets could be named and consider a petition started by Lyla Wheeler, 10 years, to erase the name of Plantation Road in London from the map.

“When we talk about marginalized voices who feel silenced, it’s important to recognize the space we give them and how we allow them to voice their concerns,” Peloza said.

“When they come to us, they (should) feel heard and that we are going to act,” she added.

Com.  Elizabeth Peloza wants the discussion of renaming Plantation Road to expand to look at the street naming and renaming policies in London.  (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press)
Com. Elizabeth Peloza wants the discussion of renaming Plantation Road to expand to look at the street naming and renaming policies in London. (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press)

Lyla’s petition has over 4,000 signatures. She started campaigning for a name change last year, at the age of nine. Peloza said many black Londoners have also called for action.

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Ward Councilor Steve Lehman of Ward 8 wanted to wait for any possible name changes to Plantation Road, saying the policy review should come first. His motion to remove it from the motion failed.

He wanted more public comment on this particular street name, saying many residents “preferred their street name not changed.”

Despite the debate, the motion was carried unanimously, 5-0.

Lyla Wheeler wants the city to stop using the word plantation as the name of the street she lives on in London's Oakridge on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press)
Lyla Wheeler wants the city to stop using the word plantation as the name of the street she lives on in London’s Oakridge on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press)

District 1 Council. Michael van Holst said he was living on Plantation Road when he first moved to London and there are still family there. He pointed out that the surrounding streets are named after trees.

“Although we are very concerned about anti-racism, I wonder if in this case we are making an association that is not justified,” he said.

Van Holst also urged politicians to see the problem “from the perspective of people who have lived there for a long time and who love trees,” noting that a street name change is “onerous” for residents as it includes the change of identity documents and other accounts.

“Anything worth doing tends to be expensive and difficult to make real changes,” Peloza said later.

Peloza and Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy said their colleagues should consider the perspective of London’s black community.

“Sometimes words have evolved to have a completely different meaning from their original definition. We see that all the time. Planting is one of them. There is a distinct connection between plantations in the southern United States and slavery, ”Cassidy said.

The matter will go to council next week for a final vote.

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