This page contains documentary evidence of unsung heroes. New Heroes will be added monthly.
Connie Mark , John La Rose, and more feature. Ben Bousquet for example was an amazing man who co-wrote the only British book on Black women in World War 2
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St Lucian Ben Bousquet was an incredible historian who inspired many with his knowledge and passion. He campaigned against Apartheid, was one of the first black councillors in Kensington and Chelsea, raised funds for victims of the 1958 Notting Hill riots, founded the Labour party Black sections in the 1980's, co-wrote West Indian Women at War and worked with Claudia Jones and Julius Nyerere
Ben Bousquet died, peacefully, at home in South Africa in the company of his beloved wife Mary in June 2006. Over almost two decades, we had worked together on a number of articles and lectures on West Indian history, with our biggest joint project being the book ‘West Indian Women at War’ which was published in 1991.
I knew Ben as a man of two core passions.
First, a remarkable passion for people. His desire to engage in conversation with everyone he met resulted in him accumulating acquaintances at a staggering pace. These were frequently turned into friends.
His second passion was a hatred of injustice. It shaped his political life. His life-long campaign against apartheid South Africa was fuelled by this passion. Many of his constituents during his years as a Labour councillor in Kensington and Chelsea, and his clients when he worked in community relations at Lambeth Council, benefited from his staunchness as a champion for the victimised. And the Labour Party Black Section, which he co-founded in the 1980s, stemmed from a sense of injustice at the lack of representation of Black people in Parliament and senior ranks of the Party.
These two passions were not separate from his enthusiastic commitment to Black history. As an important African-Caribbean historian, Ben’s passion for history was inspired by the people that populate it (often ordinary people doing extraordinary things), and the constant struggle for justice which weaves through it like an unbroken thread. In short, it was about the people and the struggle for justice.
That is what our annual lectures at the Imperial War Museum, and our book ‘West Indian Women at War’, were about. And that is what the many other books that we discussed at length, but never got round to writing, would have been about. I, and his legion of friends, will miss him dearly.
10 August 2006
John La Rose (1927-2006) was a poet, essayist, publisher, film-maker and Director of the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books.
Born in Trinidad he was Secretary General of the West Indian Independence Party in Trinidad in the 1950s. He founded New Beacon Books in the UK in 1966 and co-founded the Caribbean Artists Movement (1966), the Caribbean Education and Community Workers Association (1969), the Black Parents Movement (1975), the New Cross Massacre Action Committee (1981) and the European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice (1990). His publications include two books of poetry, Foundations and Eyelets of Truth Within Me, and Kaiso Calypso Music (with David Rudder). He also co-authored Attila's Kaiso: A Short History of Trinidad Calypso (with Raymond Quevedo). He was Chairman of the Institute of Race Relations in the early 1970s and Director of the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books throughout its existence from 1982 to 1995. He was the European representative of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union in Trinidad. John La Rose died on 28 February 2006.
A cultural and political activist since the 1940s, he was involved in the struggle for political independence, and for cultural and social change in the Caribbean and later in Britain, the rest of Europe and the Third World. He was also co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) in 1966 and New Beacon Books, the latter as a result of the demand for books stimulated through the work of the CAM, which reflected the cultural resurgence among blacks in Britain that came with the black consciousness and black power movements of that period.
La Rose participated in the Glasgow conference ‘Self-Determination and Power’ in 1990 alongside Noam Chomsky and Scottish philosopher George Davie, and links with Glasgow continued through the Scottish Bookfair of Radical Black and Third World Books in 1993 and 1995 respectively.
A commemorative blue plaque in honour of community activist Connie Mark MBE, was installed by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, in association with Care UK and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, at Mary Seacole House in Hammersmith where Connie used to be a resident. The plaque was unveiled on 30th June at 2pm as part of the Borough's Windrush Season.
In remembrance of some of the pioneering work Connie did, among those attending the unveiling were Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency The Honorable Burchall Whiteman MP, Shirley Graham-Paul (co-founder of the Mary Seacole Memorial Association), Amru Mark (daughter of the late Connie Mark) and Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, His Worship Andrew Johnson.
Mrs. Mark came to Britain in 1954 after working as a medical secretary for the British Army Medical Corps in Jamaica. As well as her pioneering work and contribution in highlighting Caribbean culture in post war Britain, she was also patron for a number of organisations including founding the Friends of Mary Seacole - later known as the Mary Seacole Memorial Association.
She was awarded an MBE on the Queen's honor's list in 2001 and remained active until her death on 3 June 2007. She was married twice and had two children from her first marriage.
Connie Mark, cultural worker and community activist, honoured with a commemorative blue plaque at Mary Seacole House, 24 Invermead Place, Hammersmith, London W6. The home is owned by Care UK and managed by Hanover.
Jak Beula, chair of the Nubian Jak Community Trust said: I knew Connie from when I was a teenager, and she was a truly inspirational person. I'm proud that the Nubian Jak Community Trust, as part of its Windrush Celebration will be honouring her with a commemorative Blue Plaque.