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Should a statue of City great Justin Fashanu be built in Norwich?

PUBLISHED: 18:00 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:53 12 June 2020

Justin Fashanu and Phil Hoadley. Picture: Archant library

Justin Fashanu and Phil Hoadley. Picture: Archant library

Archant

Six out of 10 people polled are dissatisfied with the Conservative government; 11,000 people have lost their jobs; over seventy percent of voters think the economy will get worse next year, and in Bristol police confront angry protesters.

Norwich City fan Andrew Reeve, who is calling for a statue of Justin Fashanu to be built in Norwich. Picture: Andrew ReeveNorwich City fan Andrew Reeve, who is calling for a statue of Justin Fashanu to be built in Norwich. Picture: Andrew Reeve

No, this isn’t last weekend. This was April 1980, and just two months previous Justin Fashanu had scored one of the most amazing goals for Norwich City ever seen at Carrow Road. It was so good it went on to become the BBC’s Goal of the Season. In the footage we see Fashanu celebrate his goal with a simple and calm raise of an index finger as if to say “Yeah, I know”.

Back to the present day and in Bristol police don’t confront angry protesters toppling the statue of a slave trader who earned a considerable fortune working for the Royal African Company who branded their ‘RAC’ logo onto the chests of slaves.

WE all know exactly why the Black Lives Matter protests spread around the world. We all know everyone’s life is important, but we also know that for nearly every single white heterosexual person living in Norwich and Norfolk, not a single one of them has experienced anything similar to the mental and physical abuse people of colour and in the LGBTQIA+ community has every single day by the police, employers, institutions, neighbours, classmates, colleagues. Children do not grow up hating anyone because of their skin colour, sexuality, gender identity.

The campaign to erect a statue celebrating the life and career of Justin Fashanu has been inspired by recent events, and those in which anyone has been mentally and physically abused by for simply being who they are. Fashanu was the first openly gay black professional football player. Not one professional football player at the highest level has come out since. Why? Are they afraid? Probably, yes. In 2020, how on earth is that even slightly possible?

Sadly, Justin Fashanu took his own life in 1998.

The idea for a statue celebrating Justin Fashanu isn’t because he was black. It’s not because he was gay. It’s not because he had mental health issues. It’s because he was a human being who achieved great things despite the abuse he suffered for being black or for being gay or for being depressed or for being all three.

Norwich has a rich history of welcoming and inspiring people, most famously the Strangers, a group of Protestant refugees from the Low countries who brought with them weaving skills, and canaries.

Those Strangers feature in one of Shakespeare’s most powerful speeches written for the play Sir Thomas More, which was banned for 400 years. There is a Youtube video of Sir Ian McKellen delivering the speech at the Oxford union. I suggest watching it, and when you do notice your heart and your tears, for Norwich, where you were born, or where you chose to live, was one of the few places to welcome the Strangers.

Norwich City’s bright colours of yellow and green light up the city and its people, and stadiums across the country. They are colours shared with Jamaica, Ghana, Cameroon, Brazil, sunflowers, meadows, trees, daffodills; they’re cheerful, smiling, welcoming colours. They’re the colours Justin Fashanu wore, and as supporters the colours we wear. Justin Fashanu should be celebrated as the figure that inspired empathy, respect, and understanding. By erecting a statue of Justin Fashanu, not only do we celebrate him, we celebrate ourselves. Let’s make it visible. Be Kind.

Sign the petition for a statue to be erected celebrating Justin Fashanu here.


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