Claudia Jones plaques
Date of Installation: August 2008 Location:
Plaque: Blue and Bronze
To celebrate the 2011 Notting Hill Carnival two Commemorative Blue Plaques are being unveiled to honour the two First Ladies of Europe’s largest Street festival.
Claudia Jones (1915-1964)
Claudia Jones (née Cumberbatch) was born in Trinidad in 1915, and her family emigrated to New York when she was eight years old. Growing up, she faced emotional and financial challenges, including losing her mother when she was 13 and falling ill with tuberculosis at 17, which led to lengthy hospital stays. She was also exiled and deported to the United Kingdom from America in 1955 for being a communist and civil rights activist.
Jones began writing for a Harlem journal reporting on local events as a young woman. After hearing the Communist Party’s defence of the Scottsboro Boys in 1936, she worked on the Young Communist League’s newspaper, later becoming state education director and chairperson for the YCL. In 1937 she joined the editorial staff of the Daily Worker, rising by 1938 to become editor of the Weekly Review. After the Young Communist League became American Youth for Democracy during World War II, Jones became editor of its monthly journal, Spotlight. After the war, Jones became executive secretary of the Women’s National Commission, secretary for the Women’s Commission of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), and in 1952 took the same position at the National Peace Council. In 1953, she took over the editorship of Negro Affairs. Jones began to campaign for job training programs, equal pay for equal work, government controls on food prices, and funding for wartime childcare programs.
After being deported for her work in 1955 to the United Kingdom, she immediately joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and remained a member for the rest of her life. She formed a relationship with the Indian activist Abhimanyu (Manu) Manchanda (1919-1985), who was also an activist. In 1958, she founded Britain’s first major black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette (WIG).
Following the 1958 riots in Notting Hill, Claudia organized a walk from Powis Square to Tavistock Square to show off some of the more positive aspects of Caribbean culture. Although containing dancers and steel drum players, the walk was not an official carnival but a cultural statement. She also held indoor Carnivals at a hall in St Pancras, which gained in popularity. Along with Rhaune Laslett, she was responsible for inspiring the carnival culture in Britain. After a continual struggle with her poor health Claudia Jones died at the age of 47 in 1964. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery next to Karl Marx.
In 2008, NJCT unveiled a commemorative plaque to pay tribute to her as one of Britain’s most significant post-war Caribbean personalities. The plaque was unveiled by His Excellency John S. Jeremy, High Commissioner for Trinidad & Tobago and the Honourable Joanna Garner, Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. The Notting Hill Carnival is very much part of the identity of the Royal Borough and it is fitting that one of the most important people involved in its inception is recognised in this way.Councillor Merrick Cockell Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,
We are proud to commemorate Claudia Jones, who established the very first carnival on the streets of Notting Hill and recognised the power of the arts to bring people from different communities together. Cllr Colin Barrow, Leader of Westminster City Council
We are pleased to be associated with this commemorative event to celebrate the life of Claudia Jones. A true daughter of the soil, Ms. Jones’ efforts to promote our culture and bring recognition to the early Caribbean diaspora and thereby create history in the United Kingdom must be heralded. The High Commission for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
The UK Centre for Carnival Arts is proud to partner with the Nubian Jak Trust in celebrating the life of one of the most influential women from the UK Carnival scene. Claudia Jones is an inspiration to everyone who has ever wanted to make a difference. Paul Anderson, Executive Director of UKCCA
As the current guardians of her legacy, the London Notting Hill Carnival board is delighted that Claudia Jones is being recognised in this way. We hope that these plaques will remind us of all of the sacrifices that others have made, so that today we can enjoy the freedoms of a truly multicultural Britain. Allyson Williams, Interim Chair of LNHCL
Claudia was formidable, a woman with a profound vision to use culture as the scale to balance the differences between peoples. Carnival Village intends to build on this vision that will establish a home for the Carnival and is proud to honour this great pioneer. Shabaka Thompson from the Carnival Village.
It is wonderful that someone who gave so much to her community, and who stood up for justice and equality, should finally be recognized for giving Britain its greatest symbol of cultural diversity – The Notting Hill Carnival. Jak Beula
Locations: Blue Corner of Tavistock Rd and Portobello Road (Carnival Sq) Ladbroke Grove, London, W11
Bronze: Carnival Village, The Tabernacle, Powis Square, London W11.
When Claudia Jones started Britain’s first Caribbean carnival in 1959 to raise money for the victims of the 1958 August bank holiday Notting Hill riots, she immediately began to influence the landscape of African Caribbean culture in Britain. She would have an annual carnival every year afterwards until her death in 1964. But while a lot is known about Ms Jones, very little is known about another important figure in the history of Notting Hill. In 1965 a community worker and social activist named Rhaune Laslett O'Brien introduced the week long Notting Hill Street Festival in North Kensington – a multicultural take on an older local fayre. Hill.
Rhaune Laslett was born in London’s East End in 1919, of Russian and Native American heritage. Laslett lived in West London for most of her adult life, which after WW2 became one of Britain’s most diverse districts. She dedicated her life to helping the poor, fighting for better housing and community cohesion. Her home was opened to the community and her work was supported by luminaries including Muhammad Ali and Marc Bolan. Her motivation for reinventing the Notting Hill Fayre was to give local people a chance to celebrate together the many different cultural backgrounds within the area of Notting
At the first festival Rhaune invited professional musician Russell Henderson and his group to play the steelpan in her playground. After several hours in the playground, Henderson told fellow musician Sterling Bettencourt and others in the band to walk down the street with the pan around their necks. What then followed was a procession of people dancing through the streets of Notting Hill behind the sweet sound of steelpan music. The panmen had brought the spirit of Caribbean Carnival to Rhaune Laslett O'Brien’s multi-cultural celebrations. No one could know at the time it would eventually develop into becoming Europe’s largest street festival.
From 1966 until the early 1970s Rhaune Lasslett worked with the Caribbean community, many of them her friends, to organize the Notting Hill Carnival. In 1973 Leslie Palmer took over running the event and created the carnival we know today by introducing costume bands and sound systems as well as reaching out to communities beyond Notting Hill.
Rhaune Laslett died in April 2002, after suffering from multiple sclerosis for 50 years. But her legacy of racial tolerance and cultural respect can be seen every August Bank Holiday when people of diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate on the streets of West London. The unveiling of the Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett plaques will officially open up the 2011 Notting Hill Carnival Weekend celebration.
In 2008 Claudia Jones was honored with a bronze plaque in carnival village. The commemorative blue
plaques organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust in 2011, are supported by London Notting Hill
Carnival Limited, the Royal borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, and
Carnival Village. They will be unveiled facing each other on the corner of Tavistock Square (carnival square) and Portobello Road, London W11, on Friday 26th August at 1pm. A reception will follow at Carnival Village, The Tabernacle, Powis Square, London W11.
For more information call 0800 093 0400.
Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said:
“For nearly half a century Notting Hill Carnival has been a major event, not just for Black Britons, but
Britain as a whole. It makes complete sense to recognise the key people in its creation and Rhaune
Laslett is certainly one of those.”
Founder of the Nubian Jak Plaque Commemorative Plaque Scheme, Jak Beula said: “The Trust is delighted to be honouring Ms Rhaune Laslett with a commemorative plaque this year. As one of the key architects of the Notting Hill Carnival, her vision of a multi-cultural festival inclusive of all, could not be more fitting for the nation’s capital than in 2011.”
Joint Chair of Notting Hill Carnival Limited Chris Boothman said: “Rhaune Laslett's contribution to
one of London's most important cultural events is far too often overlooked. We hope this recognition will
remind everyone that she was every bit as important as all the other pioneers of Notting Hill Carnival.”
Shabaka Thompson Chief Executive of Carnival Village said: “It has always been my intention to
honour Rhaune Laslett at the Carnival Village, The Tabernacle, especially after we paid homage to
Claudia Jones at this venue. It is pleasing to see this eventual realization that I know will not only satisfy
her family but bring the desired balance to who were the pioneers of Notting Hiil. It is fair to state that
despite all the male interventions over the years with the governance of the Carnival, another woman is
being honoured as a pioneer to this London iconic event.”
Pax Nindi, Creative Producer for UK Centre for Carnival Arts said: “It is a great honour for Notting
Hill Carnival to pay homage to Rhaune Laslett through presentation of the plaque being unveiled in what
became her home as one of our key pioneers of this great Carnival. From a one thousand people event to
over a million people event, we owe tribute to this great great lady and community leader who would
have never ever dreamt that this cultural gem was to become Europe 's biggest street event.”
Carol Stewart; Chair of SACRYD( Strategic alliance aimed at rejecting youth destruction:
www.sarcyd.org ): The launch of this memorial plaque comes at quite an poignant time for the Black
community, as we try to rebuild a sense of hope, peace , prosperity and celebrate all that is positive about
our culture at a time when there has been so much negative portrayal of Black people in the media. We
are pleased to see that the Carnival is going ahead as it is an important event in particular for our young
people giving them a sense of pride in their culture.
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