Women’s History Month – Olive Morris and Black Women of London
I first came to London in the mid 1980s so no, I don’t remember Olive Morris and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) took place in the early 80s just before I arrived. Olive Morris was a founding member of OWAAD and part of the Brixton Black Panther Party.
Olive Morris was a key figure in Lambeth’s local history. She worked with the Black Panther movement; set up Brixton Black Women’s Group, was a founder member of The Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and was central to the squatter campaigns of the 1970s. She died tragically young in 1979 at age 27.
The aim of this weblog is to create a collective portrait of Olive Morris, bringing together the personal memories of those who knew her, and publishing online information and materials relating to her life and work. Lambeth Council has one of its main buildings named after her and yet there is very little information about Olive Morris that is publicly available, especially on the Internet.
By the mid 80s police racial harassment along with the “sus — stop and search” laws contributed to the Brixton riots of 1981 and 1985; the Handsworth riots of 81 and 85 and Broadwater Farm riot in 1985. For me the mid 1980s marked the beginning of my awakening with the now historic community organizing from Camden Black Sisters, Camden Black Parents and Teachers Group and Camden Black Workers. None of us had heard of ‘intersectionality but thats what we were all living in our daily struggles across race, sexual orientation, gender, class. We read Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Bell Hooks, Zora Neale Hurston, and much more. We walked in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in South Africa and Grenada, with miners and other unions being torn apart by Thatcher. We struggled against police harassment especially – stop and search of Black youth, the institutional racism in our schools leading to the exclusion and pathologizing of our children, and for our rights in the work place. Now most of us have dispersed to various parts of the world, our children grown, our lives moved in new directions but all of US were brave.
Camden Black Sisters is part of Black Women’s History in Britain, the sisters themselves are part of the black struggle in history. I too am part of that history and I celebrate myself for coming this far.