Birmingham’s brand new Black history sculpture defaced with “sickening” racist graffiti
Birmingham’s first and only sculpture celebrating Black history and heritage has been defaced with racist graffiti, in an incident described by a city MP as “sickening vandalism”.
Earlier today, local residents in Winson Green were shocked to discover the ‘Black British History is British History’ artwork – launched less than two weeks ago – had been daubed with offensive graffiti.
Created by artists Luke Perry and Canaan Brown, community organisers who commissioned the piece have been left angry after the word “N*****”, a deeply offensive slur towards Black people, was tagged in big bold letters on the sculpture, beside representations of Black soldiers and nurses.
As Birmingham’s first Black MP, Paulette Hamilton was invited to officially unveil the sculpture on Saturday 13 May alongside members from the local community.
The Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington said she was “shocked” and “appalled” by news of its vandalism.
“I am shocked and appalled to learn that the ‘Black British History is British History’ sculpture, that I helped unveil over a week ago has been vandalised with racist graffiti,” she said.
“The sculpture represents the struggles of generations of Black people, the discrimination they faced and the important contributions they made to British history.
“These actions don’t represent Birmingham and are a deliberate attempt to spread hate and divide communities, but we will not allow them to succeed.”
“If you have any information about who might have carried out this sickening vandalism, please get in touch with the police.”
The art piece – installed along Soho Loop Canal beside All Saints Park – features a ship mast to represent Black sailors who settled in British port cities; alongside symbols of the Roman era to represent the presence of Black people in Britain as far back as 2,000 years ago. Also included is a ‘Marshall Street’ sign immortalising the 1965 visit to Smethwick by US civil rights activist Malcolm X.
Additional detail on the sculpture features figures including a bus conductor, an NHS nurse, a schoolboy with a raised fist; as well as reflections highlighting the contributions of writer Olaudah Equiano and British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman Mary Seacole.
Artist Luke Perry described the work as an important part of the movement for positive change.
“This monument, designed alongside young and old members of Birmingham’s black communities, has been built entirely by the design of people with a vested interest in the positive representation of black British history,” he said.
Canaan Brown, a young engineering student who co-produced the piece under the mentorship of sculptor Perry, believes “the sculpture aims to inspire younger versions of ourselves”.
“To the black Britons, diasporans, and people in society at large, the sculpture serves as a message: Still we rise.”
The artwork is the first in a series planned to celebrate diverse communities across the city, as part of a new heritage trail.
The Black Heritage Walk Network group is one of several groups hoping to use the new cultural landmark as a heritage learning tool to foster a sense of pride and belonging, but organisers behind the project are dismayed by the malicious attack.
Aftab Rahman, CEO of Legacy West Midlands, described the attack on the sculpture as “deeply offensive” and “cowardly”.
“It has been brought to our attention that the recently installed ‘Black British History is British History’ sculpture commissioned as part of our Roundhouse to Chance Arts Trail has been defaced with racially abusive graffiti,” he told I Am Birmingham in a statement.
“We will take action to remove it immediately and a report to West Midlands Police has also been filed. This cowardly vandalism does not represent Birmingham and we condemn such acts in the strongest terms. Legacy WM remains committed to celebrating our shared heritage and cultural awareness.
“The graffiti on the statue is deeply offensive and racist. This incident takes me back to my youth, when this type of graffiti was common in public spaces – I had thought those days were behind us.
“We celebrate Birmingham for its diversity. I hope we can learn to appreciate that it was built together with the many migrant communities that chose to make it their home.”
Last year, in a similar incident, residents were left horrified after racist slurs were discovered painted across a public walkway in the Small Heath area of the city.
According to Home Office figures, more than 100,000 racist hate crimes were recorded in England and Wales for the first time in 2021, with offences against all minority groups rising by more than a quarter. Police forces recorded 155,841 hate crimes in the year ending March 2022.