Civil Rights Leader Ratna Lachman dies



I came back from an annual break to hear the very sad news that a good friend and remarkable Civil Rights activist, Ratna Lachman, passed away just over a week ago.

Ratna had been ill for a couple of years with cancer, but we all thought that after much treatment she was over the worst. For some time after the diagnosed illness she was doing what she’d always done best; fighting social and racial justice with a passion.

She was the longtime Director of Just West Yorkshire, a campaigning organisation that focused on tackling race and religious inequality in the Yorkshire region, but Ratna was more than a regional campaigner. She was always collaborating with others on the national and international stage.

For many years she partnered OBV on many  major elections, including four general elections, two referendums, and three EU elections. She also played an instrumental part in writing the General Election Race Equality manifestos.

Whenever there was a  collective letter to be sigined, to  the PM, a Minister, or a private company, Ratna was always one of the first to sign. She’d tell me, ‘Simon, I don’t care if they –local or national government- pull my funding, we have to say what needs to be said’.

But Ratna was more than just an activist, she was a builder of movements; she spent an awful lot of her time travelling around the country trying to get groups to work better together. I can tell you as a matter of fact that when Ratna Lachman walked into a room, there was no ego to be pruned or noticed. There was just a quiet woman with a big heart and steely determination who strongly argued that collective achievement was bigger than all of us.

I occasionally called her up for no good reason to tell her what a wonderful person she is, and that she almost single-handidly put the issues of race inequality in West Yorkshire firmly on the national map. She’d laugh nervously and modestly respond, ‘Ah come on, I’m only doing my little bit’.

Her last work with us at OBV was a debate during the last General Election.  At a meeting in Bradford, one of the organising partners suggested that men sit on one side and women on the other. A furious Lachman fumed, 'I haven’t fought all my life for elderly men to tell me and my sisters where we can and cannot sit. It won’t happen.'

Ratna Lachman was a campaigner extraordinaire. She has left an indelible fighting spirit in which other young men and women the area will follow in her footsteps.  To many of us campaigners we've lost a friend and sister.

RIP dear Ratna

Simon Woolley.