Olive Morris was an anti-racist, anti-imperialist activist, community organiser and squatter. She was a member of the Black Panthers and co-founded the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent with Stella Dadzie.
She was tireless, helping to set up multiple other collectives and organisations, including the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative, Manchester Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group, Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Brixton Law Centre.
Morris died of Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 27.
The Remembering Olive Morris Collective was established in 2008 to document and make public her story.
Verna Wilkins is the multi-award-winning author of over 50 picture books and biographies for young people, which have featured on the National Curriculum and BBC children’s television.
Wilkins is the founder of Tamarind Books, launched in 1987 after her 5-year-old son came home with a ‘This is Me’ book in which he was coloured in pink. He refused when Wilkins offered him a brown crayon, saying it had to be pink because it was for a book.
Wilkins ran Tamarind Books for 23 years, championing diversity in children’s publishing. It is now an imprint of Random House UK.
Wilkins now runs inclusive programmes in schools across the UK.
Evelyn Dove was a singer and actress, heralded as Britain’s black cabaret queen. She belongs among such greats as Josephine Baker. The daughter of a Sierra Leonean barrister and his English wife, Dove studied singing, piano and elocution from an early age, and graduated from the Royal Academy of Music.
She joined the Southern Syncopated Orchestra – West Indian, West African and American musicians – but in 1921, 9 of them drowned in an accident at sea. Dove toured Western Europe, the US and India. She was the first black female singer on the BC, and one of her shows was so successful they turned it into a TV show. By the 1940s Evelyn Dove was a household name.
Stella Dadzie cofounded OWAAD – the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent – in 1978. She had been involved in the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-racist organising of the African Students’ Union at university, but had felt it did not take women’s liberation into account.
OWAAD campaigned on immigration and deportation, domestic violence, exclusion of kids from school, strikes by black women, policing and defence, and reproductive health. In 1985 she co-wrote The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain, which won the Martin Luther King Award for Literature. Nowadays she writes about anti-racist learning and strategies in schools, colleges and youth centres.
Fanny Eaton was a working class Victorian Londoner and a Pre-Raphaelite painters’ muse. The daughter of an ex-slave, Eaton moved with her mother from Jamaica to London in her 20s, in the 1840s. One of the leaders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, D.G. Rosetti, priased her for her beauty, and Eaton is a central figure in various paintings, such as The Mother of Moses, and The Mother of Sisera Looking Out at a Window.
Widowed in her 40s, Eaton raised her 10 kids mostly by herself, and worked as a model and ‘charwoman’, then servant and cook until she died aged 89.
‘Beachy Head Lady’ was a woman of Sub-Saharan African descent who lived in what is now Beachy Head, East Sussex, in 200-250 AD. Sub-Saharan Africa was not part of the Roman Empire. She may have been born in Africa and then travelled or was brough to the UK at a young age, or she may have been born in England: archaeologists are sure that she grew up in south-east England.
She was about 20 or 21 when she died, her body shoed no signs of wounds or disease, and she had healthy teeth and bones. It is very difficult to draw many conclusions from this other than the certainty that there were black people in Roman Britain, growing up in what is now Beachy Head.
The image above is based on a forensic facial reconstruction.
Kuchenga is a trans woman, a prison abolitionist, a Black Lives Matter activist and a writer. She also organises with Bent Bars, a letter writing project supporting LGBTQ prisoners in Britain.
Kuchenga was recently included amongst many other successful trans women in To My Trans Sisters, a collection of letters by trans women politicians, scientists, models, athletes, authors and activists from around the world.
Ngozi Fulani is the founder member of Sistah Space, a community-based initiative in Hackney, London, that supports African heritage women and girls who are victims/survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Fulani is an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor and an Independent Sexual Violence Advisort, and the senior member of staff at Sistah Space, which is run by volunteers.
There is a link to donate in the text below if you want to support Sistah Space‘s lifesaving work.
Una Marson was a poet, playwright, editor, the first black woman programme maker at the BBC, and an activist.
Marson’s work was anti-colonial, antiracist, working class, feminist and Pan-Africanist. Writing in both English and Jamaican patois, her work addressed the lived realities of working class Jamaicans and the wider Caribbean diaspora community in the UK. She wrote about being a colonial subject who comes to the ‘Motherland’ only to find it alienating and racist. She broke down racist, Eurocentric beauty standards and the negative impacts they have.
Marson took over a BBC radio show, which had been a way for soldiers to send messages to their families, and turned it into Caribbean Voices, a key international platform for Caribbean literature.
CN: mental health crisis, racist police violence, death, state collusion
Marcia Rigg was a legal PA in the City for 20 years, but gave up her career to fight for justice when her brother Sean died at the hands of the police in 2008.
Multiple failings in mental health services meant police (having failed to respond to calls from the hostel where he was staying) chased Sean – who was having a mental health crisis – down in the street. They held him in a prone position for 8 minutes after handcuffing him. They placed him face down in the police van. When he got to Brixton police station, he was no longer fully conscious, but it was over half an hour before a doctor was called. Sean was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.
We only know about this horrific series of events because of the tireless campaigning of Marcia. The IPCC investigation had concluded that the police had acted “reasonably and proportionately.” The obvious racist injustice of this conclusion was exposed by the coroner’s report which stated that the police used “unsuitable and unnecessary force” and their actions contributed to his death. An external review of the IPCC report was similarly damning. Rigg and her family’s campaigning also led to the 2012 Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing.
Rigg continues her fight against police violence today.