Black History Month – Damilola Odelola

Damilola Odelola

Damilola Odelola taught herself to code. When she felt ready to apply for jobs, the underrepresentation of black people and people of colour was very clear to her: “If there’s a BAME person on a tech team, likely chances it’s a guy, and if there’s a woman on a tech team, likely chances she’s white.”

She couldn’t see any organisations specifically targeting women of colour.

“I have never been one to sit and complain about something I’m unhappy with, without attempting to change it.”

Odelola set up blackgirl.tech, a social enterprise that aims to make tech a safer space for black women and girls.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/damilola-odelola/diversity-in-tech_b_6454892.html

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Black History Month – Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott drawing

Diane Abbott  came from a working class background to become the first black woman MP in Britain in 1987, and has remained an MP for the past 30 years.

Abbott has consistently voted in favour of LGBTQ rights, welfare benefits and progressive taxation; and against more racist immigration rules, mass surveillance and the Iraq war.

Having faced down vicious racism and sexism to take her place as an MP, Abbott still receives abuse in the mainstream and social media: half of all offensive tweets sent to women MPs during the 2017 election campaign were to her. In spite of this, Abbotts majority (how much she won by) is bigger than Theresa May’s entire vote.

Black History Month – Mavis Best

In 1970s London, police used Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act to harrass black people. The ‘Sus’ law let police stop, search, arrest, detain and assault young black people aged 11 and up – mostly men.

Mavis Best and a group of other black women from Lewisham would go to the police stations and demand the youths be released. When it kept happening, Best spearheaded the Scrap Sus Campaign, lobbying the government consistently for 3 years until the law was scrapped. Best pointed clearly to who made this happen:

“The credit must go to the black community, no-one else.”

Black History Month – Mary Prince

There are no surviving images of Mary Prince, the first balck woman to publish an account of her life in Britain, and the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to the British Parliament.

Born into slavery in Bermuda, Prince was passed between Caribbean islands, from slaveowner to slaveowner. She accompanies her slaveowners to London in 1828. She escaped the family and made it to the Anti-Slavery Society in East London. The abolitionist movement supported her to publish her autobiography, which included such severe violence that many did not believe it was true, but what she described was a standard story for many slaves.

Her story galvanised the anti-slavery movement, and in 1833, the year Prince testified in libel cases prompted by her book, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed, abolishing slavery in most British colonies. Bermuda was free by 1834: it’s not certain, but if she was in good health, Prince may have returned home as a free woman.

Black History Month – The Women of the Mangrove 9

“We, the Black People of London have called this demonstration in protest against constant police harrassment which is being carried out against us, and which is condoned by the legal system.

In particular, we are calling for an end to the persecution of the Mangrove Restaurant of 8 All Saints Road, W.1.1., a Restaurant that serves the Black Community.”

The Mangrove was a restaurant that opened in Notting Hill, quickly becoming a hub for the West Indian community. The police repeatedly raided the space, claiming it was a drug den in spire of never finding drugs. In 1970, the Action Committee for the Defence of the Mangrove, and the Black Panthers, organised a march: “Hands Off the Mangrove.” There were 700 police available for 150 protesters, and after the police initiated violent clashes, many people were arrested. 9 black activists were taken to trial for incitement to riot. This was the opportunity for the police, Special Branch and the Home Office to discredit the growing Black Power movement.

Jones-Lecointe, alongside Darcus Howe, argued her own defence, arguing for an all-black jury based on Magna Carta rights. In her closing speech, she spoke in detail of the police persecution of black people in Notting Hill.

Barbara Beese approached a radical lawyer, who represented her and mediated with those defending themselves so they would present a united front.

After a 55 day trial, all were acquitted of the riot charges. The judge commented on the “evidence of racial hatred” in the Metropolitan Police. The Met Commissioner requested that this comment be retracted. It was not.