Claudia Jones, also known as the ‘Mother of Notting Hill Carnival’ was the founder of the ‘The West Indian Gazette’ Britains’ first black weekly newspaper. This talented woman was a feminist, political activist, community leader, black nationalist, communist and journalist. In the first half of the 20th Century she was able to use her political affiliations as a multifaceted approach to the ongoing struggle for equal rights in the 20th century using her political affiliations to fight for equality for women and black people in both the UK and America.
Born in 1915 in Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad she and her family moved to New York, Harlem as many did in search of a work and better life. She attended school in the states but her education was cut short due to a Tuberculosis infections which damaged her lungs and left her with severe heart disease which would plague for the duration of her life.
New York would be Claudia’s’ home for over 30 years where she became part of political activism as a member of the American Communist Party. She used her community leadership skills and journalistic capacity to help the black community and become the editor of Negro Affairs to the parties paper ‘The Daily Worker’ becoming an accomplished voice advocating Civil and Human Rights. Her best know writing appeared in the ‘Political Affairs Magazine’ titled ‘An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Women!” This piece of writing created what is now known as ‘intersectionality’ – an analysis of a marxist framework.
In 1955 she was deported for her political activism and being part of the communist party. Because she came from a Trinidad a Commonwealth country she was given asylum in England where she spent the rest of her life working with and fighting for equal opportunities for the African-Caribbean community in London.
This ladies commitment to the black community despite illness and financial problems was unfaltering. Her lasting legacy is unquestionably as one of the founders of Notting Hill Carnival which she participated in launching in defiance of the race riots occurring in the London at the time. The carnival helped to showcase Caribbean talent and community together in unity of expression. Early celebrations of the Carnival were first held indoors personified with the slogan ‘A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom’. In 1966 the Carnival took to the streets of Notting Hill which Muhammad Ali attended. The annual event is still eagerly anticipated and welcomed every year by the black community in London.
May her legacy continue to live on in all of us as we continue to celebrate our greatness and break the shackles of oppression together.