A short live selflessly dedicated to the activism. That would summarize Olive Morris: a fight for the rights of those in disadvantage without asking for anything in return.
And who were the most disadvantaged in UK in the seventies? Mostly racialized women: Asian, Africans and Caribbean immigrants, coming from some of the colonies. Women that would normally live in very traditional and excluded communities, where they’d suffer a tipple oppression: being poor, immigrants and women in a society which would limit them to the care of the children and the home, with no power to decide over their own lives.
To make sure their rights were recognized, she founded the Organization of Women of African and Asian Descent in 1978.
But she was a fighter way before that. In 1970 she became a member of the Black Panthers, which later on became the Organisation of Black Workers. It was a dark time for racialized people. They suffered constant harassment from the extreme right parties, experiencing arbitrary brutality from the police and discrimination when looking for a job that would allow them to fight with dignity.
She fight to end institutional racism, to make changes on the educational system so the new society could be egalitarian and fair.
Along her life she was detained in many occasions, but she didn’t care as long as she was imprisoned for fighting for a just cause. She stopped evictions and never ceased to encourage her neighbours to rebel against injustice.
Olive died at the young age of 27 from a lymphoma, and was relegated to oblivion. A woman who strived to make a better world and passed without recognition.
Maybe you don’t now Olive, same as we didn’t know about her, but nowadays she’s considered one of the most influential black person in the United Kingdom. And we wonder: why you haven’t heard of Olive Morris?
We can’t answer to that, but we can tell you why we want to remember her now: because after all these years several organizations started to ask who was the most influential person was in your live, and Olive was in many answers. Dying at 27 and after all that time, and she still was a reference and inspiration. This made us wanting to write about her and to honour her making her the “boss”.
In 1986, in Lambeth, a town hall building was dedicated to get, and in 2008 the movement Remember Olive Collective was born, created by the Uruguayan artist Ana Laura López de la Torre, to bring back her memory and so that all the people who ever met her could share pictures, writings and memories about her.