Remembering Claudia Jones at Highgate Cemetery

She played a pivotal role in anti-racism campaigns after the Notting Hill riots

Friday, 25th February — By Angela Cobbinah

Claire Holder giving a reading of Claudia Jones' statement at her trial

Claire Holder addresses the gathering at the cemetery

FORMER Camden youth worker Winston Pinder was among the speakers at an event celebrating the life of civil rights heroine Claudia Jones in Highgate Cemetery on Saturday.

In 1955, he was part of a group welcoming Jones on her arrival in London after she had been deported by the US authorities during the anti-communist witchhunts.

“We heard that she was not in good health because she had been in prison for some time but when we met her the first thing she said was ‘I am ready to work’,” Mr Pinder told the gathering of about 50 people.

“She was a beautiful person in so many ways but very quiet about it. Long may she live in our hearts.”

Claudia Jones

Organised by the Communist Party of Britain, the event took place at Jones’ graveside to mark both her birthday and the day in February 1953 that she made her historic statement at her trial for sedition.

Claire Holder, former director of the Notting Hill Carnival, gave a reading of the speech in which Jones attacked her conviction for being a Communist and fighting for the “unequivocal equality for my people”.

Among the guests at the cemetery was the Cuban ambassador to Britain, Her Excellency Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez.

In 1983, Cuba donated money to a fundraising campaign organised by Mr Pinder for a stone to be erected on Jones’ unmarked grave.

Others speakers were Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, and community activist and artist Zita Holbourne.

Members of Caribbean Labour Solidarity, the RMT union, Liberation and the Young Communist League were also present, as well as some of those who helped to raise money for the stone, alongside Mr Pinder, who after working in Camden would go on to be deputy senior youth officer for Islington and later youth chief for Hackney.

Winston Pinder

Claudia Jones played a pivotal role in the anti-racism struggle in the UK, particularly in the aftermath of the 1958 Notting Hill riots, founding the West Indian Gazette newspaper as campaign platform.

She died suddenly at her home in Lisburne Road, Gospel Oak, in 1964 aged 49.

Her instructions were that her ashes should be interred next to Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery.

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