OBV Profile: Denise Headley

Denise, a local Councillor for Edmonton Green Ward, makes it clear that she became involved in politics because she had no choice, she was born Black and female; and believes that politics would have always been a part of her life whether she recognised it or not.

Before her work as a councillor, the daughter of Guyanese parents was very much a grass roots campaigner and relayed numerous protests she took part in as a youngster in the 1970s, the earliest when she was five.

Noting her parents as a positive influence in her political life Denise included past and present leaders such as Walter Rodney, Angela Davis and Marcus Garvey.

"My parents were always politically aware. It was normal in our family, we were very active and to some degree involved in protests for as long as I can remember" says Denise.

For the past 5 years, Denise, 35, has played a dynamic role in Enfield and is currently taking part in the OBV MP Shadowing Scheme. She is shadowing Harriet Harman MP, Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, and says of the programme: "I've been to cabinet meetings and so far the scheme has been really good. I like the area of work Harriet is involved in and I have found her to be very supportive."

The mother of five-year-old twin daughters and part time advice worker for Age Concern takes much pride in her work as an Enfield Councillor, an area where she has lived in for the past 15 years.

She enthusiastically recalled some of her successful achievements in the role so far, for example in 2003 she was instrumental in bringing together a nearly all Black shadow front bench for the first time in the borough.

She also ran for leader of the Enfield Labour group. She said: "I didn't win but that won't stop me from trying again."

The borough is reported to be one of the most deprived areas in London and Denise believes that this factor has affected and influenced the types of people and businesses that come to the area.

She says it was for reasons such as this that someone suggested to her that she should join the Labour Party so she did.

Fighting for marginalised groups and equality of opportunity are issues that have driven her throughout her term as Councillor, from campaigning for the rights of young people, mature citizens, on Black and minority ethnic issues and the environment, matters which have always been part of her focus.

"My eyes see it everyday, it grieves me but there are only a few people that will step up and do something about it. We have to speak up for ourselves."

Denise explained that being a Black Councillor has been a challenging job but believes that as a Black community we need to have the confidence to articulate what we are facing.

As a parent she tries to ensure her children have an understanding of society and the political system. "They go to Council meetings with me and I talk a lot to them about issues such as race at a level they can identify with."

For the future she would personally like to continue to have a strong relationship with her daughters when they reach 10, 15, 20 and beyond.

Whereas politically she says: "My role as a Councillor is something I'm continually developing on - It's work in progress. I have made some huge strides and I know that through the support I get I will reach my goals."