Liverpool Black Sisters doing it for themselves

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group of women with placards and loud hailers Members of Liverpool Black Sisters protest at Derby Square, 1980s. © Liverpool Black Sisters/Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre

This Black History Month we are celebrating diverse voices from Liverpool’s Black community. This final blog in our series commemorates the pioneering work of the Liverpool Black Sisters.

"The biggest legacy of Liverpool Black Sisters is the impact made to the lives of the women and families who gained support, advice or guidance in order to access opportunities not afforded to them in the 70s and 80s, and who were able to gain a better perspective of their contribution to the city and the Black community. Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre is a community building that was the vision of the Sisters, that has turned into their reality" Michelle Charters, CEO of Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre and former member of Liverpool Black Sisters, speaking in 2018.

Liverpool Black Sisters were a Black women’s group, based in L8 who worked to improve the lives of women in their community.  The group grew out of the Liverpool Black Women’s Group whose early pioneer members included Claire Dove MBE, Bea Freeman; Liz Drysdale, Carleen Montoute et al. They renamed themselves Liverpool Black Sisters around 1979 when the group gained younger members and a more activist focus. They reformed in the basement of the Charles Wootten Centre, Upper Parliament Street, then moved onto the Coach House before finding a more permanent base in the L8 Law Centre, Princes Road, Toxteth with a dream that someday they would have their own building. Black woman participated in Liverpool Black Sisters and over the decades there was a total of 120 members.

Women sat in a circle, looking at documents Liverpool Black Sisters meeting, L8 Law Centre. (Suzanne seated wearing t-shirt), early 1990s © Liverpool Black Sisters/Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre

Suzanne Morris was a member of the group from the early 1980s for over 25 years. She served on the LBS management committee as Secretary for most of that time, as well as Chair for one year. Suzanne initially joined as she already knew a few people in the group and wanted to help make a difference for women like her. Suzanne tell us more -

"Being a member gave me much more confidence and it certainly opened my eyes to lots of things that were going on. We attended national campaigns and took part in marches across the country. We campaigned on mental health issues and against threatened deportation of African women. We started an afterschool project which picked children up from local schools and brought them to the centre for learning activities. This enabled a lot of women to get jobs or go into education that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. And, of course it was fantastic for the children. There are many success stories, some went on to become barristers and are helping to make a difference themselves."

Liverpool Black Sisters officially became a charity on 28 June 1989. 2019 will mark 30 years of Liverpool Black Sisters improving the lives of women in Liverpool. Watch this space for some special celebrations! Thank you to Suzanne Morris, Michelle Charters and all of the members of the Liverpool Black Sisters.

Lead image: Members of staff from the Children’s Centre, Kuumba Imani Centre c2000 © Liverpool Black Sisters/Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre