Archive for the 'Press' Category


Olive’s biography in Face2Face Africa

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Red Pepper – Do you remember Olive Morris?

CHIDGEY, Red (August/September 2010) Do you remember Olive Morris?. London: Red Pepper, no. 173, pp. 34-35.

An article by DIY feminist historian Red Chidgey, on using blogs to reclaim feminist histories, focusing on the Remember Olive Collective.

You can read full article in Red’s blog.


History of Feminism Network – New exhibition Do you remember Olive Morris?

New exhibition Do you remember Olive Morris? Listing
22 November 2009, History of Feminism Network website

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The Voice – Remembering Olive Morris

Remembering Olive Morris by by Janelle Oswald
11 November 2009, The Voice and The Voice Online

An exhibition honouring this important, but largely forgotten black British activist opens this month. Janelle Oswald looks at the life of a ‘radical sister’.

If you have not shopped in Brixton lately you may be unaware of the new local ‘currency’ circulating in the south London neighbourhood.

Launched as a business initiative to encourage residents to ‘buy local’, the ‘Brixton pound’ notes feature a range of local historical figures. On the one pound note, the young black woman holding a megaphone to her mouth is one of Brixton’s lesser-known community figures, Olive Morris.

Born in Jamaica in 1952, Morris moved with her family to Britain at nine, and went on to become a passionate and committed community organiser and activist.

Read full story


The Morning Star – Olive Morris: Forgotten activist hero

Olive Morris: Forgotten activist hero By Lizzie Cocker
29 October, 2009 — The Morning Star Online
Reproduced in its entirety with permission of the author.

Introducing an inspirational civil rights campaigner whose life and work offer important lessons for the left.

In an age when xenophobia and Islamophobia are being stoked by illegal wars and immigration myths, the need to wrench hidden realities from history in order to see today’s truths has never been more urgent.

And thanks to the Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) founded in 2008, a bit of this history became available to the public last week at the Lambeth Archives in Brixton, south London.

Olive Morris, despite her awe-inspiring short life, remains virtually unknown. And she is one of the greatest unsung heroes I have ever come across.

My encounter with Morris began when a friend switched on my radar for forgotten female protagonists. He mentioned a local project he was doing on four practically unheard-of women activists who left in their wake cultural, social and political improvements which are enjoyed not just in London but in some instances internationally.

Three of these women were black.

With my radar on standby, I stumbled across a website which asked me if I “remember Olive Morris?” above a picture of a young black woman smiling with her shades on behind a megaphone.

No, I thought. I had never heard of Olive Morris.

And as I investigated further it became apparent that my ignorance was widespread.

Morris died aged just 27 in the 1970s. But she had such an unshakeable impact on those who knew her that many of the people with memories, documents, photographs and letters relating to this young woman responded to ROC’s calls to make her story a matter of public record.

As a tireless campaigner for black women, a socialist and an internationalist, Morris dedicated herself to fighting injustice wherever she saw it.

One of the most vivid examples was in 1969 when police arrested a Nigerian diplomat in Brixton as he stepped out of his Mercedes.

The police were so stunned to see a black man with such a flashy car that their reflex was to treat him as a criminal who had stolen it.

Crowds gathered round gaping as the police began to beat him.

A 17-year-old Olive struggled through the spectators and physically tried to stop the attack.

She was flung down and subjected to black police boots kicking her in her breasts. She was stripped naked and told as the blows kept on coming: “This is the right colour for your body.”

One Nigerian student wrote in tribute to her upon her death: “It is reasonable to expect that Olive Morris’s heroism will be immortalised alongside such black luminaries like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and many others who were proud to be black.”

But despite this ROC found while putting the jigsaw of her life story together that this woman remained only in the memories of those whose lives had crossed hers.

So vivid were the memories that these pieces of the jigsaw have now found an eternal home in the archives.

As I hungrily sifted through them trying to complete my own puzzle, it was Morris’s typewritten words that climbed out of the papers desperate to deliver the answers for problems we continue to face today.

A graduate in social sciences from Manchester University, Morris wrote numerous essays on Marxism, race and class. As a Brixton Black Panther, part and parcel of her membership was to attend lessons in Leninism and Marxism.

This education and her own activism influenced her relationship with progressive movements and she ultimately became frustrated with the British left, which she described as having “more in common with the ruling class and royalty than with fellow workers.

“Today increasingly the British working class is faced with a choice either to defend the ‘national interest’ or throw their lot in with the oppressed people of the Third World.

“The most immediate way in which this can be done is for them to support the struggle of the Third World people in this country,” she argued.

Morris sympathised with Trinidadian activist Claudia Jones who was poorly treated by the Communist Party, which failed to acknowledge her far-reaching capabilities and consigned her to an administrative role, and Grunwick striker Jayaben Desai who was virtually abandoned by trade unions.

She became disillusioned by institutions for the working class, which instinctively she would have had the most natural allegiance with.

“We have used the great British tradition of trade unionism to try and further our cause for equality and justice, but on countless occasions we have found that the movement does one thing for white workers and another for black workers,” said Morris.

“White workers have time and time again refused to give our unions recognition, they have crossed our picket lines for racist reasons, they have organised against our organisation in the trade unions.

“Take for instance STC (Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd) where white trade unionists and union officials – with exception of a few – put skin colour before the overall interest of the proletariat and often resorted to physical violence against their black fellow workers.”

Morris was exasperated by what she saw as an inherent self-interest that blocked mainly white apparently progressive groups from seeing where the real battles needed to be fought. She lambasted the Anti Nazi League “trendies” for busying themselves with “shouting their empty phrase of ‘black and white unite and fight’.”

Empty, she said, “because there was no sound basis on which such unity could be built.”

The ANL, she continued, has “become one big carnival jamboree of political confusion for the middle class.

“It doesn’t raise the political questions. It buries them in the name of ‘broadness’.”

Morris highlighted that the National Front, which the ANL directed all its enthusiasm into fighting, was merely a symptom and not a cause of the racist ideologies and practices which prevailed in every sector of society.

As the black groups Morris worked with organised to fight oppression on all levels – running supplementary schools, clubs and recreational facilities, clubbing together to buy houses, striking, organising pickets and circulating petitions – she urged people truly dedicated to fighting racism to confront the issues which affect black people’s lives on a daily basis in schools, the police, local government and even trade unions.

“Not a single problem associated with racialism, unemployment, police violence and homelessness can be settled by ‘rocking’ against the fascists, the police or the army,” she said.

“The fight against racism and fascism is completely bound up with the fight to overthrow capitalism, the system that breeds both.”

The symptomatic BNP and other far-right organisations are rearing their ugly heads above the fertile ground laid by a political framework which has perpetuated the criminalisation, social immobility and isolation of black and ethnic minorities.

But black history has a lesson for the left.

As long as support is only forthcoming when racism is so visible that it can no longer be ignored rather than being part of the daily battles against all discrimination that permeates society, the struggle to create equal conditions for everyone will keep taking one step forward and 10 steps back.

To get a glimpse into the rest of Olive’s life visit or visit the collection at the Lambeth Archives in the Minet Library, 52 Knatchbull Road, London SE5 9QY.

Olive Elaine Morris
Born in 1952 in Jamaica and moved with her family to Britain aged nine
Died of cancer in 1979
Travelled to China, north Africa, Ireland and Spain
A council building in Lambeth bears her name
Groups she cofounded or worked with:
The Black Panther Movement (later the Black Workers Group),
Brixton Black Women’s Group
The Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent
Manchester Black Womens Co-operative
National Co-ordinating Committee of Overseas Students
Black Womens Mutual Aid Group
Brixton Law Centre
The squatter movement


BBC London – Olive Morris Collection Launch

An article by Sheila Ruiz (ROC member) about the launch of the Olive Morris Collection appeared on BBC London website on Friday 16 October 2009. Click here to read the whole article.

If you are not a Lambeth resident and you were born after the 1970s, you will probably not have come across the name of Olive Morris before.

If, on the other hand, you are an adult living in Brixton, you will most likely remember – or will have heard of – this important, local historical figure.

Now, everyone will have the opportunity to find out much more.

Olive Morris’ story will soon be made publicly available through the Olive Morris Collection at Lambeth Archives.


Olive featured on the Brixton pound (B£) note


As part of its drive to encourage and sustain local businesses, a group in Brixton have launched the neighbourhood’s own currency. Olive’s image is featured on the £1 and seems to be the note most media outlets highlight as representative of the spirit of the B£ project.

The Brixton pound (B£) can be purchased in £1, £5, £10, and £20 denominations and used at local participating businesses ranging from music shops to dance studios to food shops.

For information about exchanging sterling for B£ or becoming a trader accepting the B£, see the group’s website.

Further coverage of the B£’s launch and a range of perspectives on local currency/consumerism-as-activism, see the following links:


Femlist blog – Olive Morris Collection launch

The forthcoming Olive Morris Collection launch was announced in an article at Femlist blog on 12 October 2009. Click here to read full article.

After many months of research and interviewing those who knew Olive, the Remembering Olive Collective and Lambeth Archives are proud to be launching a public archive dedicated to Olive Morris and the different groups and campaigns she was part of. The collection includes Olive’s personal papers deposited by Liz Obi and over 20 oral history interviews. It will be permanently hosted at Lambeth Archives.


ROC interviewed by Nyansapo Radio

Remembering Olive Collective: Phone-in interview with Toyin Agbetu, Head of Social and Economic Policy, for Ligali’s Nyansapo Radio – Tuesday 10 March 2009

On Friday 6 March ROC had a stall inside Brixton Library as part of an event organised to commemorate International Women’s Day (8 March). Emma Allotey, Ana Laura and I were all there and we took it in turns to look after the stall, talk to people about Olive, and sell some of our lovely merchandise.

Our new poster’s arresting image of Olive speaking through a megaphone amongst a crowd of people captured a man’s attention. This man was Toyin Agbetu, founder of Ligali. As he stood there in front of the poster, he wondered about this brave unsung heroin and asked himself how come he had never seen or heard of her before.

Emma did a great job of informing the intrigued Toyin about Olive and her achievements, and he was so impressed that he decided to invite her to be a guest in his next radio show to share the message with a wider audience.

Emma could not do the interview, so she sent an email to the rest of the group asking if someone else (preferably of African descent due to Ligali’s remit – see below) could do it and I -reluctantly- put myself forward and volunteered.

Ligali describe themselves as a “Pan African Human Rights Organisation that challenges the misrepresentation of African people, culture and history in the British Media”. As a way of redressing the balance of power, Ligali produces “Africentric media, and education programmes that actively work for self-determination, socio-political freedom, physical health and spiritual wealth” (see for more information), hence the importance of having a ROC member of African descent as a guest speaker in their radio programme.

‘Empowering African Women’ was the title of the programme ROC featured in. Dedicated to International Women’s Day, the programme focused on the achievements of African women and discussed the issue of women’s activism. Consequently, the questions posed by Toyin centered around the legacy of Olive Morris as a black female figure, a community activist, and her relevance to the Pan African community -especially women – living in London today.

You can listen back to the programme by visiting Nyansapo’s audio archive


The f word – Olive would have told me to shut up and do something

Olive would have told me to shut up and do something by Tara Alturi
2 March 2009, The f word blog

Tara Atluri reflects on her time with the Olive Morris project as well as her being a part of the Remembering Olive Collective.

Olive would have told me to shut up and do something


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