RIP Dame Barrow: A life gloriously lived helping others


R.I.P Dame Jocelyn Barrow.

Among the many unseen painful occurrences of the Covid19 are, for example, when a loved one dies during this time and we’re not able to pay respects. Whether or not it was due to coronavirus, those nearest and dearest beyond the immediate family often cannot attend the funeral.

A mother of a good friend of mine passed away the other week, and I would love to have paid my respects, but of course the circumstances clearly don’t’ allow.

Another painful unseen factor that occurs with this deluge of daily bad news, is when someone important to our community dies and the news is barely news, which means that we’re not able to at least celebrate a great life lived.

One of those is the passing of the indefatigable race equality and educational pioneer, Dame Jocelyn Barrow.

Anyone who has been involved in race equality politics over the last 30 plus years, or is aware of our countries recent Black history will have known, or known of Dame Jocelyn Barrow. I never knew her as a rebel rousing activist, that is sometimes needed in the struggle, but rather as a toweringly respected matriarch, stronger than an ox, wiser than most, with the determination to get things done.

And boy did this woman get things done! See excerpts of her Wikipedia page below.

Lastly, about 16 months ago I was honoured to be sitting on Dame Barrow's table when she was given- fittingly by Patrick Vernon- the Legac Life- award that was established by Lee Jasper and Marlow Morris . At the time she was a little frail but sharper than a tac.

She asked me during our conversation " Simon, are thngs really getting better or worse, because from where i'm sittting I see much pain and continuing injustice in the community. You're doing a job", she continued, before stating, " but I want you to know if you need me you know where to find me. I'm here to help".

And they were the last words she ever said to me. I guess in many ways they sum up this wonderful woman, who in no small measure and almost until the end was resolute about helping our community.


Rest in peace, and rest in the knowledge that life's work is acknowledged, appreciated and wonderfully celebrated.






Simon Woolley

Below are excerpts from Jocelyn's Wikipedia page

Jocelyn Barrow, daughter of Barbadian father, Charles Newton Barrow and Olive Irene (nee Pierre), was born in Port of Spain in colonial Trinidad (her mother's native land), where she was active politically as a member of the People's National Movement. She undertook training to become a teacher, and in 1959 travelled to Britain for postgraduate studies, attending the University of London, where she read English.

Barrow was a founding member, general secretary and later vice-chair of Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) — the organisation that between 1964 and 1967 lobbied for race relations legislation and was responsible for the Race Relations Act of 1968. Barrow said in a 2019 interview: "Card was a very effective organisation though it wasn’t as grassroots as I would have liked it to have been. It was led by people like me, Lord [David] Pitt and Anthony Lester, a QC. The people at the bottom were too busy trying to survive though some did join."

Barrow was also a leading member of the North London West Indian Association (NLWIA), set up in 1965 as a major component of the West Indian Standing Conference, which had been founded in 1958 after the Notting Hill riots to speak out on behalf of West Indians; among other activities, the NWLIA responded to prejudice against black children in the state education system, which was exposed in a leaked report.

In 1968 she was appointed vice-chair of the International Human Rights Year Committee, and from 1968 to 1972 was a member of the Community Relations Commission. Barrow also held the post of vice-president of the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds.

As a senior teacher, and later as a teacher-trainer, at Furzedown Teachers College and at the Institute of Education in the 1960s, she pioneered the introduction of multi-cultural education, stressing the needs of the various ethnic groups in the UK.She was a member of the Taylor Committee of School Governors.

Between 1981 and 1988 she served as a governor of the BBC, the first black woman to have been appointed to the board of the corporation, which in 2001 was controversially described by its then director-general Greg Dyke as still "hideously white". Barrow was also founder and deputy chair (1989–95) of the Broadcasting Standards Council, forerunner of Ofcom.

She was chair of the 2005 Mayor's Commission on African and Asian Heritage (MCAAH), set up by then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, that produced the report Delivering Shared Heritage, about which she said: "Our findings and resulting recommendations, far from being of interest only to African and Asian communities, set out a code of values for delivering inclusive and healthy heritage management practice for everyone."

She was instrumental in the establishment of the North Atlantic Slavery Gallery and the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. She was a Trustee of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and a Governor of the British Film Institute, as well as the first patron of the Black Cultural Archives (BCA). Acknowledging the key influence she had in the founding of BCA, their tribute to her stated: "Also known as the African People's Historical Monument Foundation, Dame Jocelyn recognised the need for a national monument like BCA to educate future generations.