Dame Jocelyn Barrow

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Dear Members,

I would like to bring to your attention the career of Jocelyn Barrow.

Jocelyn has, in my opinion, single handedly done more for this country than anyone I know.

She has fearlessly knocked down the barriers of ignorance, self interest and exclusion, that have for so long been a barrier in our country. She has, along with her friends, helped to bring diversity, music and colour into our lives.

1950’s Britain was a very grey place. It has been in no small part the influence of the Afrocaribbean community that bought us the music of the 1960’s and subsequently Cool Britannia, and has taught us, often against our will, tolerance, understanding and compassion for others.

“I sought my father in the world of the black musician, because it contained wisdom, experience, sadness and loneliness. I was not ever interested in the music of boys. From my youngest years, I was interested in the music of men.” Eric Clapton

The way in which the Afro Caribbean community have integrated into British Society, is a massive credit to their faith and self belief. We owe them, and in particular Jocelyn our deeply felt thanks.

The World is a better place because of your work – Thank you Jocelyn


Please see Jocelyn’s Obituary in today’s Times newspaper.

Dame Jocelyn Barrow obituary
Race relations campaigner and member of the Windrush generation who became the first black female governor of the BBC
Wednesday May 06 2020, 5.00pm, The Times

Dame Jocelyn Barrow said that meeting Martin Luther King as he passed through London helped to crystallise her ideas – BBC

Jocelyn Barrow was delighted to have the support of Lord Sieff of Brimpton, chairman of Marks & Spencer, in the 1960s campaign against racial discrimination. “They’re a Jewish family and he understood the discrimination,” she recalled. This was a time when some members of the public did not want black people to touch them or their clothes, even in hospital.
“[Sieff] agreed, if we found some pretty West Indian girls, he would employ them,” Barrow told the Black History Month website, adding that until that time people of colour had largely worked out of sight, in the stockroom. “The whole of the Oxford Street, Regent Street area [in London] began to look at employing black people in different ways.”
Sieff’s message did not reach every store, or if it did it was not acted upon. Some months later Barrow visited M&S in Brixton, south London, and spotted a notice in the window advertising vacancies. “I looked around the shop and there were black customers, white salespeople, white cashiers,” she recalled. Back home she telephoned to inquire about a job and was invited for interview. The meeting had barely started when the manager advised her that all the posts had been filled. At that point Barrow pulled out a letter from Sieff and the manager “turned puce”.

“It’s that sort of thing that we had to work through,” she said. “You had to be vigilant across the country. If you want to achieve something you can’t let people who are pulling at your skirt pull you down. Or lay traps to throw you down, prevent you from achieving what you set out to achieve.”

As general secretary of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (Card), Barrow helped to prepare the way for landmark legislation on race relations. As an activist teacher she was a pioneer of multicultural education, pointing out that teachers who have low expectations for black pupils often find they are fulfilled. And during her time as the first black female governor of the BBC, Moira Stuart was plucked from the invisibility of radio to become a television newsreader.

Barrow was a founding member and vice-chairwoman of the Broadcasting Standards Council, the forerunner of Ofcom. To prepare for the role she deliberately subjected herself to the kind of nasty videos that, she was appalled to learn, children could hire from a local shop for a few pence. “I have to try and understand some of the difficulties they have to overcome, what influences the way they behave,” she told The Times.

Yet immigration and the status of immigrants in society remained central to her concerns. “When does an immigrant cease to be an immigrant?” was a question she raised in an interview with The Times more than 50 years ago.
Jocelyn Anita Barrow was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1929, the daughter of Olive (née Pierre), a Trinidadian and her husband Charles Barrow, who was Barbadian. “I was brought up with great confidence . . . to feel that nobody could prevent me from doing what I wanted to do,” she recalled. It was a well-to-do family. “I can just pick up the phone and ask my father to send me the fare if I want to go back,” she said after a decade in Britain.

Her younger days coincided with a time of great change in Trinidad. “I was still at school when women got the vote at home in 1946,” she said. “Women had to be educated even to have an opinion; we young ones taught our mothers and our aunts.”

She trained as a teacher and was involved in the People’s National Movement, which in 1962 formed the country’s first post-independence government. Meanwhile, Barrow had sailed to Britain in 1959 as part of the Windrush generation to undertake postgraduate studies at the Institute of Education in London. Disappointed at the break-up of the West Indies Federation, a short-lived political union in the Caribbean, she chose to remain.

Her experience of teaching in British classrooms was dispiriting and led her to set up Each One Teach One, the name coming from an African-American proverb, to help black children and their families navigate a hostile education system. Yet schools were only part of the problem. “They couldn’t get jobs, much less promotion,” she told Camden New Journal. “They couldn’t get proper housing and had to put up with people telling them to go back where they came from or refusing to serve them in shops.”

A turning point came in 1964, when Barrow and a small group of activists met the 35-yearold Martin Luther King as he passed through London en route to Oslo to collect the Nobel peace prize. “King was warm and charming and wanted to give us an idea of what we should be doing,” she said. “It helped crystallise our ideas and we went on to form Card.” Their campaign led to a ban on racial discrimination the following year, legislation that was tightened in 1968, when she served as vice-chairwoman of the International Human Rights Year committee.

By the end of the decade she was a lecturer at Furzedown teacher training college in Tooting and in 1970 she married Henderson Downer, who had been called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn the previous year and served as a judge in Jamaica. They had no children but Barrow, a devout Christian, raised two nieces at their home in Bloomsbury, central London.

In 1992 Barrow, who had a natural air of authority with which she could command any room, was the first black woman living in Britain to be appointed DBE, and in 2003 she was voted one of the “100 Great Black Britons”.

Despite retiring from public life in 2013, she continued to have concerns.

“My biggest worry is for young people who are bearing the brunt of cutbacks in youth services, schools and councils as well as lack of housing,”

she said last October.

“Too many young black boys continue to be excluded.”

She warned:

“We have made great strides, but we are still stuck in some of the same problems, and that immigrants-go-home mentality is rearing its head again.”

Dame Jocelyn Barrow, race relations campaigner, was born on April 15, 1929. She died on April 9, 2020, aged 90

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