'It links back to...slavery': 10-year-old petitioning to change street name
LONDON, ONT. -- Plantation Road is a quiet street in London, Ont.'s Oakridge neighbourhood, with an elementary school on it. It's also where 10-year-old Lyla Wheeler lives - and wishes it had a different name.
“Well it links back to the history of U.S. slavery.”
Lyla, who is very interested in Black history, says it was about a year ago when she realized the ties her street name had to slavery.
“We went to the Caribbean grocery store one day and I was asking where sugarcane came from. I was also reading the 'Who Was' books, and there was a chapter about life on the plantations and I was thinking about that. When we came onto our road I asked, 'Why is it called Plantation Road?'”
Lyla’s mom Kristin Daley says realized her daughter had a good point.
“She looked at me and said, 'Why is it called this? Why do we live on a street with such racial connections?' I remember it very well and I remember thinking, you’re such an old soul.”
That’s when, a year ago, Lyla decided to start a petition to change the name of her road. Now, since the recent Black Lives Matter movement, the petition has gained momentum, with close to 2,000 signatures of support from all over.
“She’s just has amazing support from places as far as Trinidad, Tobago and Barbados,” says Daley.
Lyla has reached out to her ward councillor, Steve Lehman, as well as Councillor Elizabeth Peloza. Peloza has been working with other councillors and community members on the issue.
“I have crafted draft wording with the city clerk on where I am at with the feedback I have gathered, but still have to gather more feedback from the community and what they want, and if they even want this changed from their perspective," says Peloza.
Lyla says she knows some people don’t agree with her, but she hopes people think about the history surrounding the word plantation.
“Most plantations did have slaves, and if they didn’t pick 200 pounds of cotton, indigo or rice they would get whipped, so I don’t think it should be a name associated with slavery.”
Lyla says she’s hopeful the community will come together and agree to choose a different name. She says, if people want to make sure it remains a historical name, one suggestion could be to call it Henson Road, in honour of Josiah Henson.
Henson was a black slave who escaped to Canada in 1830 and founded a settlement and labourer’s school for other fugitive slaves near Chatham, Ont.