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Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 13:49 UK
Do you remember Olive Morris?

By Sheila Ruiz
BBC London

If you are not a Lambeth resident and you were born after the 1970s, you will probably not have come across the name of Olive Morris before.

Olive Morris speaking at a rally against Police brutality in 1972
Olive Morris speaking at a rally against Police brutality in 1972

If, on the other hand, you are an adult living in Brixton, you will most likely remember - or will have heard of - this important, local historical figure.

Now, everyone will have the opportunity to find out much more.

Olive Morris' story will soon be made publicly available through the Olive Morris Collection at Lambeth Archives.

The archive collection will launch on 21 October at Brixton Library as part of Black History Month.

Comprised of oral history interviews with those who knew Olive and other personal materials, the collection is the result of the ongoing "Do You Remember Olive Morris?" project led by the Remembering Olive Collective (ROC).

OLIVE MORRIS
Olive Morris was born in Jamaica in 1952
She lived in South London from the age of nine
Olive was a member of the British Black Panthers
She was central to the squatter campaigns of the 1970s
She helped to set up various women's groups, including the Brixton Black Women's Group and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent
In 1979 Olive Morris died of non Hodkin's lymphoma (a type of cancer)

Remembering collectively

The Remembering Olive Collective, set up in October 2008, is a diverse group of women working together to "document the life and times of Olive Morris".

Through their archival and oral history research and ongoing blog, the women from ROC aim to create "a collective portrait of Olive Morris".

Born in 1952 in Jamaica, Olive came to live in south London aged nine. From her early teenage years, she became involved in community and political activism in Brixton.

She was a member of the Black Panther Movement, helped set up various women's groups, including the Brixton Black Women's Group and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent, and was central to the squatter campaigns of the 1970s.

During her student years in Manchester (1975-78), Olive also became involved in the community struggles in Moss Side, contributing to the formation of the Black Women's Mutual Aid and the Manchester Black Women's Co-op.

Plaque of dedication at Olive Morris House
Plaque of dedication at Olive Morris House

Olive Morris died tragically young in 1979, aged only 27, of non Hodgkin's lymphoma (a type of cancer) leaving a strong legacy behind her.

In 1986 Lambeth Council named a building after her, Olive Morris House on Brixton Hill, in recognition of her lifetime achievements.

More recently, Olive Morris was voted by members of the public to feature on the one pound note of the Brixton £, a local currency created to boost the economy in Brixton.

Future ideas in remembrance of Olive Morris organised by members of ROC include an exhibition at Gasworks, with an accompanying public programme of events and workshops; a publication to be launched at the end of the exhibition in January 2010; and a community radio series.

"A lot of stories were lost, so I think it is really important that those stories are told and told again so that they do become part of our sense of historical self."
Stella Dadzie

Remembering the past for the future

The documentary work which ROC has carried out resulting in the Olive Morris collection has been commended by all participants of the Do You Remember Olive Morris project.

Writer and historian Stella Dadzie, who was also a prominent black activist in Olive Morris' time, explains why:

"A lot of stories were lost, so I think it is really important that those stories are told and told again so that they do become part of our sense of historical self."

At present there are a number of heritage projects documenting the history of specific minority groups in London.

A ROC member at a stall in Brixton Library in March 2009
A ROC member at a stall in Brixton Library in March 2009

All of them have one thing in common, namely the need to preserve a history which would otherwise be lost for future generations.

The emergence of community archives within historically marginalised communities has been facilitated in recent years by the use of web 2.0 technologies as the latter provide an opportunity for the free sharing of information.

Speaking on the advantages of the Remember Olive Morris blog, ROC's founding member, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, said:

"It has really been an amazing tool for us. People come across it in the most unlikely ways.

"There is some information there which we publish that is not published on the internet at all.

"There is nothing, for example, on the British Black Panthers, and if you type 'British Black Panthers' into a search engine, we come up on top.

"So I think the blog has been really instrumental in contributing to filling an information gap on this subject."

The Remember Olive Morris blog will be archived by Lambeth Landmarks, Lambeth Archives' digital arm, and The British Library through its digital preservation programme.

The launch of the Olive Morris Collection will take place on 21 October at Brixton Library, Brixton Oval. The collection will then be publicly available at Lambeth Archives, 52 Knatchbull Road.

The 'Do you remember Olive Morris?' exhibition will be open from 25 November 2009 until 24 January 2010 at Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall St. Admission is free.





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