Liverpool is famous for many things: The Beatles, football and that distinctive accent. But it’s much lesser-known for being home to the oldest black community in Europe, with evidence suggesting a presence as early as the 1700s. And with this history has come a fraught relationship with race. Decades of discrimination have garnered a powerful response from black women activists working in the city, and Liverpool’s past and present tells of multigenerational efforts of black women supporting their communities.
Born in the Toxteth basement of The Charles Woolton Centre around 1979, a notable historical community group was The Liverpool Black Sisters. With over 100 women joining their ranks, the group were crucial to the fight for black liberation in the 80s.
“At that time, we needed black women’s voices and a political stance to challenge the status quo,” says Brenda ‘Bea’ Freeman, an original Liverpool Black Sister. “Black women's children were being kicked out of school and the community was facing severe racism. We come together to challenge what was going on and have a voice politically.”
Now 70, Bea holds illustrious experiences of activism – from joining protests outside prisons during the 1981 Toxteth riots to hosting poet Maya Angelou during her visit to Liverpool in the 90s. The work she and others performed is still evident in the city with an impressive host of black women activists from the group still in influential positions across Liverpool today.