Born in Trinidad, Claudia Jones migrated to the US with her family as a child. She caught tuberculosis as a teenager, and had to manage her health in relation to the damage done to her heart and luncgs for the rest of her lufe.
Radicalised as a communist and a Black Nationalist, Jones was imprisoned several times, and then deported as an ‘enemy of the state’ in 1955. The British Colonial Governor of Trininadad and Tobago would not allow her entry: “She may prove troublesome,” so she moved to the UK.
Jones’ campaigning focused on what she called the “triple oppression” of class, race and gender faced by black working class women. She faced a lot of racism in British communist circles.
In 1958, Jones founded Britain’s first major black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette. It was anti-racist, anti-imperialist and Marxist.
After the 1958 race riots in Notting Hill, Jones suggested a Mardi Gras-style carnival to unite and celebrate the multiple cultures in the aresa. For this, she is known as the Mother of Notting Hill Carnival.
Jones is buried in Highgate cemetary, to the left of Karl Marx.
Shirley Thompson is a composer, artistic director, conductor, academic, violinist and film maker.
She was the first woman to compose and musically direct for a major drama series at the BBC. Since then, she became the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony in the past 40 years. The piece is an epic story of London’s 1000 year history, and included the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, two choirs, solo singers, a rapper and dhol drummers.
Thomson draws influences from hop hop, reggae, jazz and soul, and her pieces include Queen Nanny of the Maroons, which was the first opera to give a heroic role to a woman’s voice. Queen Nanny was a rebel slave leader in 18th Century Jamaica.
Hope Powell revolutionised women’s football in England.
Playing for Millwall Lionesses at 11, she joined the England team at 16, and was on the team for Englans’ts first World Cup appearance in 1995. She played for Engald 66 times.
At 31, Powell became the youngest coach of any English national football team, and the first woman, and the first person of colour to hold that office.
As coach, she didn’t just coach the seniors, she demanded a total overhaul of investment and support: she oversaw the structure from Under 15s to Under 23s, implemented central contracts so players can now train and play full time (instead of balancing football with another full-time job), and demanded high levels of medical expertise for her players – on par with that provided for men.
Powell is now Women’s First Team Manager of Brighton & Hove Albion.
CONTENT WARNING: graphic description of racist state violence, police violence, assault, murder.
Joy Gardner was a mature student. She had come to the UK to visit her mother and had overstayed her six month visa. On 28th July 1993, an immigration officer and five police officers turned up on her doorstep. They sat on her body, bound her hands to her sides, and wound 13 feet of surgical tape around he hear, as her young son listened from the next room. She collapsed due to asphysxia and died 4 days later.
The police officers were charged with manslaughter, but acquitted after arguing that what they did was standard practice.
Joy’s mother, Myrna Simpson, and her son, Graeme Burke, have never stopped fighting for justice.
The annual United Friends and Families Campaign march is on 28th October 2017 – 12pm, Trafalgar Square.
Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/148179809121346/
Space scientist & science educator
Aderin-Pocock was always committed to the stars, building her own telescope in her youh. After receiving her PhD in Mechanical Engineering and working for a while, she turned back to telescopes. She has worked on some massive astronomy engineering projects, like the Gemini telescope in Chile.
A space expert keen on democratising science, Aderin-Pocock visits schools inspiring kids, and now presents the long-running BBC astronomy show, The Sky at Night.
Travis Alabanza is an unapologetically Black, trans, gender nonconforming performance artist, theatre maker, poet and writer. They have performed in venues from the V&A, to the Tate, to Bat Wotever, and recently toured the US. Their performances and art practices are purposely disruptive and challenging, often deliberately making their audiences uncomfortable at realising the racism, transphobia, fetishisation and exclusion that Alabanza highlights and speaks to in their work. In May 2017, instead of filling Transmission Gallery with their own work, as requested, Alabanza curated a space for over 20 Black British artists to exhibit, in “a creative clapback to the white walls that normally plaster our vision.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.