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[BROADWATER FARM ANNIVERSARY] Remembering Cynthia Jarrett


BROADWATER FARM in Tottenham, north London, may be the most notorious housing estate in Britain.

It was here, 30 years ago, that the frustration of black youths fired up by decades of racist policing reached boiling point.

The Broadwater Farm riots was the day "the police got a bloody good hiding", to reference the words of Bernie Grant, the then leader of Haringey Council. For others, it will be remembered as the day a police officer, PC Keith Blakelock, was killed.

But for the community, the riots were a direct response to the tragic death of Cynthia Jarrett on October 5, 1985.

While a great deal of coverage has been dedicated to the officer’s death and memory, very little has been extended to the woman passing provoked an outpouring of community anger and led to one of the worst riots the country has ever witnessed.

The 48-year-old mother-of-five collapsed and died during a police raid on her home at 25, Thorpe Road, in Tottenham.

Local police stormed the property claiming to be searching for stolen goods having stopped her son Floyd Jarrett earlier that day over a suspicious car disk.

He was later charged with theft and assault but was cleared in court of all charges.

The family said Jarrett was pushed – something officers have always denied – and consequently fell to the ground and died almost instantly.

News of Cynthia’s death immediately sparked outrage within the black community who were already reeling from the shooting of another black mother – Cherry Groce – who had been shot and paralysed by police officers during a bungled raid in Brixtons.

“My mother’s death was the straw that broke the community’s back,” said Floyd Jarrett, Cynthia’s second eldest child.

He continued: “My mother was a lively, bubbly, homely woman. I would call my mum ‘a mother to all children’. She never shut the door to any of our friends. She was a lovely, amazing woman of God who did not deserved to be murdered in her own home by police officers.”

The family have always held the police responsible for their loved one’s death. However, an inquest ruled the death an accident.

No police officer has ever been held accountable for the death.

Cynthia Jarrett was born on July 26, 1936, in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica.

She and her husband, known as Boysie, grew up together in the same area.

“My dad, Boysie came to UK first and then sent for her,” explained Floyd. “I came from a family of five. My siblings are Patrick, myself Patricia, Michael, and Irene. My mother also sadly lost a baby at 18 months from pneumonia.”

Remembering his mother, Jarrett recalled affectionately: “My mother was a big lady, a proper mama! She loved her food; she weighed about 24 stone.

“She had a passion for the kitchen and whoever came to our house, if dinner was being served they would always get food. Even if it meant she would go out, get more food and cook again – as long as the visitor got fed she was happy.

“My mother should have been a chef. She loved to cook – stew chicken, oxtail, cow foot, soup, bread pudding, toto you name it. My favourite food was her Saturday soup. Even when I left home I would come home for her Saturday soup. I remember one occasion when I came home, she said, ‘Floyd what would you do if I was never here…?’

The other memorable thing about his mother Cynthia, Jarrett added was that “Everybody loved mum. Nobody ever said a bad thing about her because she was such a good person. A God-conscious woman, she worshiped at The Avenue, Broadwater Farm, and she made sure we all had to go to church. She instilled in us great family values, respect, love and most importantly unity - keeping together.”

He recalled some of her favourite sayings which included ‘prevention is always better than cure’ and ‘what don’t kill, fattens’.

Cynthia, whose nickname was Miss Dings, also had a passion for fashion and loved glamorous film stars.

“My mother loved to dress,” said Floyd. “She wore big, fancy hats. She was a country woman, and kept her country ways. Mum was into films and she could tell you all the movies, actors and actresses. Her favourite was Bette Davis. She would sit down on a Saturday to watch the matinee after cooking her Saturday soup.

“She was known for dancing and being light on her feet. My dad use to have a sound system back in the days called Billy, which is why we were so popular growing up. My father use to keep dances known as blues dance – we were known as the Jarretts in the community. The dances were how our parents remembered Jamaica and the rest of the islands, which they left behind in search for a better life. Caribbean people would come out at the weekends and forget their little worries and unite as one people.”

Jarrett said he never had the chance to find out if his beloved mother wanted to return to her homeland because of her untimely death.

His father eventually did return to Jamaica.

Had Cynthia been alive, she would have seen her 14 grandchildren and, currently, eight great grandchildren grow up.

He added: “I would like people who didn’t know my mother, especially the younger generation, to understand she was a mother of the community to all. She never had a bad word for anybody. Her heart was pure. She only shared love, kindness and happiness.”

A memorial to Cynthia Jarrett can be found outside Tottenham Town Hall, underneath the building’s right hand windows.

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