Today I’d like to pay tribute to leading anti-racism campaigner Dorothy Kuya who died following a short illness on 23 December, 2013. Dorothy’s impact and influence stretched far beyond the L8 streets were she was raised.
Dorothy was one of life’s big characters. When I first came to Liverpool as Director of National Museums Liverpool in 2001 I was told that Dorothy wanted to meet me, and this was put to me in such a way that a) I had better not refuse, and b) I had better be on my guard because she’s tricky!
In fact, Dorothy wanted to find out about me and to establish whether or not I was likely to be an ally in combatting racism. As it happens, we always got on very well, and I remember how touched I was to be invited to her 80th birthday celebration in March 2013. I shall always treasure the card she sent me, with the photograph of herself as a baby. But she certainly kept me on my toes.
There are two things I shall remember about her primarily: first, she said what she thought – she held strong views, she was outspoken and she feared no-one; and secondly, she acted as a conscience for all those of us in public life in Liverpool – for me, Dorothy was one of those people of whom I think when considering what decision to make: “what would Dorothy think, what would Dorothy want me to do?” would often pass through my mind when International Slavery Museum business was on the agenda. So, should we invite Martin Luther King III to Slavery Remembrance Day? What would Dorothy think?
I once read somewhere that one of Dorothy’s proudest moments was the opening of the International Slavery Museum in 2007. She never said that to me, but I remember thinking that this was the best possible endorsement of the Museum, and I was so pleased that we had actually done something of which Dorothy was proud!
I wouldn’t want to give the impression that Dorothy was dogmatic. She was tough and passionate, yes. She was a courageous fighter.
But she was also kind, thoughtful and generous; and she was pragmatic – she understood that sometimes you’ll make more real progress by giving way on the small things, and that you should save your real energies for the big things.
I admired Dorothy and I shall miss her. Liverpool will be a poorer place without her.
You can read more about Dorothy in this tribute by writer Angela Cobbinah.
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