Olive Morris Memorial Awards announced

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The Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) has announced the recipients of the 2022 Olive Morris Memorial Awards, in remembrance of community leader and activist Olive Elaine Morris (1952 – 1978).

The anniversary of her birth in St Catherine, Jamaica, falls on Sunday (26 June).

The awards were created as an opportunity to celebrate Olive’s radical and grassroots activism as it lives on in the work of a new generation of young women and non-binary activists of African and Asian descent, aged between 16 and 27 years. 

The awards were open to those who are engaged in grass roots political work. For example, as organisers, advocates, activists, artists, or being themselves victims of repression for their political activities. Each awardee will receive £500. 

The recipients of this years’ awards are: 

Barbara Edem Ntumy (28) received the award in recognition for her work with Decolonising Contraception and London Black Women’s Project alongside her student activism.

She said that “the legacy of Olive Morris is a huge source of political inspiration. Most importantly, the legacy of connecting struggles in a post-colonial globalised world is still relevant as we continue to fight for our liberation.

“It is truly an honour to be associated with her legacy.” 

Lola Olufemi. photo by Robert Christian

Lola Olufemi (25) was honoured and surprised to be nominated for an award and noted that: “Olive’s political conviction and the work you [Remembering Olive Collective] all do in extending it has been so formative for me – this really feels like coming full circle in a way”.

Olufemi is recognised as an organiser and involvement with groups such as Sisters Uncut, demonstrations against Yarlswood Detention Centre and involvement in efforts to decolonise the Cambridge University curriculum, and ongoing work with the Feminist Library.

Olufemi is also the author of Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power(2020) and Experiments in Imagining Otherwise (2021).

illustration of Olive Morris by Hana Stephens included in Lola Olufemi’s recent book Experiments in Imagining Otherwise.
Yasmin Begum

Yasmin Begum (27) was thrilled to receive the Olive Morris Memorial Award and said: “I was a squatter as a teenager, and this award means the world to me. Words cannot articulate how profound the influence of Olive Morris is on me.”

Begum is recognised for her work with the groups No Borders Cardiff No Borders South Wales ; People’s Autonomous Destination ; The Anti-raidsNetworkCardiff People of Colour Collective, and campaigns against deaths in police custody in Wales.

Shanelle Webb

Shanelle Webb (24) was “truly grateful to win this award, especially one in the name of one of my first inspirations in community work, Olive Morris.

“I first learned of her legacy whilst doing a work placement at Olive Morris House with Lambeth council as a teenager, and hope to use the award to support our plans of creating a youth-led community housing model in Kennington.”

Webb is recognised for her work with The Soul Shack LDN CIC that has delivered community-based workshops for those at risk of violence and exploitation in Lambeth, as well as food security initiatives such as free breakfasts and food drives for community members. 

Scarlett Westbrook

Scarlett Westbrook (16) was delighted to find out she had been nominated for the award and said: “Olive Morris was a trailblazer in racial and gender justice, and I am immensely honoured to receive this award in her memory.

“Her passion for grass roots organising for social justice is one I share, and I am so grateful for this award.

“The importance of racial justice cannot be understated as people of colour are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, and by recognising these disparities together, we can build the world that we deserve.”

Webb is being recognised for her work as a climate justice activist, involved in organising the Birmingham School Climate Strikes; contributing to the English Climate Emergency Education Act; and working towards Birmingham adopting a clean air zone, as well as all the work she has done to raise the profile of young activists to enact political change.

Special Award to Afruika Bantu Saturday School (Established 1997)

Afruika Bantu

In addition, The Remembering Olive Collective has this year made a special award of £500 to the Afruika Bantu Saturday School, which was established in 1997 and named in honour of Afruika Bantu (11/9/55 – 12/9/99), a woman of African descent who was a contemporary of Olive and who is remembered as an activist, scholar, black history researcher and teacher.

The school, which is dependent on volunteers, has been providing supplementary education, including history, science and maths, to Black children for more than 25 years and ROC wanted to recognise and honour their work and commitment.

The Afruika Bantu Saturday school said they were “delighted and humbled” to have been chosen by the collective for this award.

“It is a significant moment for us and highlights yet again the impact that Afruika Bantu has left through her legacy. Afruika (born Annette Blair) was indeed a contemporary of Olive Morris and was known to her.

“Both women being involved in the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent OWAAD, with Olive being a founding member.

“Our school was originally called the Next Generation Saturday school, but when she passed on, we renamed the school in her honour.

“Sister Afruika was a determined proponent of Garvey, a community activist, and staunch leader involved in APLO, Black History for Action and, in later life before her untimely death, our Saturday school.

“Annette, as a Garveyite was very focused on education, research and the deconstruction and analysis of scholarly texts and articles, applying theory to the real world and struggle.

“Afruika dedicated herself towards the upliftment and development of our young people.

“She was inspiring and encouraging and had a deep intellectual capacity. Put simply, she was the dream teacher that every pupil needs in their life to guide them on their journey.

“We would like to say a massive thank you for honouring the Afruika Bantu Saturday school and our students with this award.”

Due to the impact of the pandemic the planned awards ceremony will now be held online (date to be confirmed) although the collective plans to bring the awardees together later in the year.

Legacy

As well as stewarding the awards, ROC is currently involved in ensuring that Olive’s legacy is remembered following the demolition of Olive Morris House.

Having sold its Brixton Hill site to developers Muse, Lambeth moved its staff and services to the civic centre in the new town hall development in Brixton. 

“They moved everything except Olive’s name,” said ROC.  “While we are disappointed that, after 34 years, Lambeth no longer sees fit to name its customer service centre after Olive, we are heartened to see Haringey council naming a supported housing scheme Olive Morris Court in memory of Olive. (

“We were also pleased to see a blue plaque unveiled on 26 June 2021, by Nubian Jak at 2 Talma Road, SW2, where Olive once lived.”

ROC has been liaising with Muse, to ensure that a foundation stone commemorating Olive Morris House will form part of the development at 18 Brixton Hill. It would be made from Portland Stone, and the following lettering has been agreed:

On this site stood Olive Morris House
(March 1986 – March 2020)
A Lambeth Council building dedicated to
the memory of Black community activist
Olive Elaine Morris
(26 June 1952 – 12 July 1979)

An outline image of Olive with a megaphone would also be etched into the stone with the words: “My heart will always be in Brixton” written underneath.

ROC is currently waiting to agree on a suitable location for the stone and to approve a mock-up of the final piece.

From the outset, ROC sought to preserve the original lettering from Olive Morris House, but this was stolen from the site during the redevelopment.

Muse has since had a copy of the lettering made and it is planned to install this in the Karibu centre, which is re-naming its first-floor hall as Olive Morris Hall.

The Karibu Centre in Gresham Road, (formerly the Abeng Centre) has historic ties with Olive as it hosted the first OWAAD conference in 1979 as well as the memorial services held for Olive in 1979. It is one of the last remaining projects from the 1970s to remain in existence.

There are plans for a dedication ceremony linking the unveiling of the foundation stone at the 18 Brixton Hill site with the dedication of the Olive Morris Hall at the Karibu centre later in the year.

The Morris family, the 2022 awardees and previous recipients of the awards, together with members of the community will be invited to attend. Details will be announced when available.

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