DAKAR: Goree, an island off linked closely linked with the African slave trade, has decided to rename one of its main squares in response to racist violence in the world.

The municipal council unanimously agreed on Saturday to rename the Place de l’Europe as Place de la Liberte et de la Dignite humaine (Liberty and Human Dignity Square), the mayor Augustin Senghor said in a press release.

The 28-hectare island, situated two kilometres (1.2 miles) offshore from Dakar, was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast between the 15th and 19th century, according to the UN’s cultural agency.

Unesco, in 1978, registered Goree on its World Heritage list as “symbol of human exploitation”.

The decision to rename the square is not directed against Europe, “far from it”, said Mamadu Adama Diop, who heads the Goree mayor’s cabinet.

The European Union “has always supported Goree” and “there are Europeans of dual nationality on the municipal council”, he said.

Instead, the renaming is a response to “the wave of racial violence of which the black and Afro-descendant community is regularly the victim” and of which the death in the United States of George Floyd, is an example, according to the mayor’s press release.

Goree wants to be “at the forefront of the fight for the total and final eradication of all forms of racism, particularly those directed against black people, in accordance with its vocation as a place of memory,” it added.

The island was first inhabited by the Portuguese in the 15th century and was then taken over at various times by the Dutch, French and British.

The date for the renaming has yet to be fixed as access to the island, a commune of Dakar, is currently restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The inauguration will feature tributes to Floyd, an unarmed African American who died in May with an officer’s knee on his neck, and the victims of racial crime, with the help of Senegalese artists, the municipality said.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2020