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Liverpool to honour its 'greatest fighter against racism'

TRIBUTE: Dorothy Kuya

A WOMAN described as ‘Liverpool’s greatest fighter against racism’ will be honoured posthumously during this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day.
Dorothy Kuya, 80, passed away shortly before Christmas. Kuya, who was born in Toxteth, known locally as Liverpool 8, had an impact far beyond Merseyside, becoming one of the country’s leading figures in combating inequality.

National Museums Liverpool will now name the annual Slavery Remembrance Day Memorial Lecture in her honour. It will now be known as the Dorothy Kuya Slavery Remembrance Memorial Lecture.

The high-profile lecture takes place in the city on the eve of Slavery Remembrance Day (August 23). Arrangements for this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day, run by National Museums Liverpool in partnership with Liverpool City Council, will be announced in July.

Among the high-profile speakers who have delivered lectures are: Martin Luther King III, US Civil Rights activist Diane Nash and Professor Verene Shepherd.

In this message Dr David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, paid tribute to Kuya.

He said: “Dorothy Kuya was Liverpool’s greatest fighter against racism and racial intolerance. It is perfectly fitting that National Museums Liverpool recognises this by naming our celebrated Slavery Remembrance Day Memorial lectures after Dorothy.”

Kuya has been described as a cultural historian, a political activist (she was an active member of the British Communist Party and a community champion).

However, it was as an anti-racist campaigner that she first came to national prominence while employed as the first Community Relations Officer (CRO) in Merseyside.

Prior to her appointment, in the mid 1960s, she had campaigned with others in Toxteth or Liverpool 8 against the then Labour government’s criteria for funding projects under its Urban Programme in those areas where the “immigrant population” forms more than 20 per cent of the local population. The programme was aimed at helping people in these areas better assimilate into British society by creating employment and training opportunities.

Under the government’s criteria many of Liverpool’s black community were barred from help because the majority were born in the city with many families established since the 19th Century.

The campaign was successful in convincing politicians that the community’s lack of assimilation into British life was as a result of discrimination based on skin colour rather than factors such as language barriers.

Kuya was also instrumental in helping establish a number of leading community organisations during her time as CRO, including South Liverpool Personnel - a community-based employment and training agency; the Black Social Workers Project which led to the first black social workers being employed in Liverpool; Ujaama House, for homeless young people and the Merseyside Caribbean Centre, a social hub for generations of Liverpool 8 locals.

She eventually moved away from the city to become head of race equality for Haringey council but moved back to the city in 1994 to retire.

Even after her retirement she continued to work apace. As part of the Granby Residents Association, she campaigned against the demolition of homes in the area and she also helped to develop Liverpool’s Slavery Remembrance Day, first held in 1999 and held annually since then every August.

Dr Fleming said: “I once read somewhere that one of Dorothy’s proudest moments was the opening of the International Slavery Museum in 2007. She never said that to me, but I remember thinking that this was the best possible endorsement of the museum and I was so pleased that we had actually done something of which Dorothy was proud.”

He added: “I admired Dorothy and I shall miss her. Liverpool will be a poorer place without her.”

Paul Ogolo, Kuya’s nephew, said: “We are truly honoured that the lecture will be named in Aunty Dot’s memory. She was instrumental in shaping the International Slavery Museum and was a tireless anti-racism campaigner. She fought all her life against racial intolerance, and fought for the truth and justice. Her name should live on to educate and inspire future generations.”

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