Beresford Edwards was born in Guyana. In his youth he was a keen sportsman and represented his country on a number of occasions. He immigrated to Britain in 1960. Inspired by Marcus Garvey, he quickly became involved in community issues, fighting to better the lives of his community through empowerment, education, better housing and political awareness.
The promotion and understanding of African History was close to his heart and he was the Manchester Branch Chairman of the PACM (Pan African Congress Movement). Its forerunner, the Pan African Congress (PAC) organised the 1945 Fifth Pan African Conference at the old Chorlton on Medlock town hall at All Saints in Manchester. Participants included Kwame Nkrumah, Amy Garvey, Ras Makonnen, Jomo Kenyatta, W.E. Du Bois, George Padmore and many others. Decisions taken at this Conference led to the liberation of African Countries.
Edwards was the regional secretary for CARD (Campaign Against Racial Discrimination), which helped make the Government bring in the 1976 Race Relations Act. He was printer and also a trade unionist. He fought his employers in the High Court for his right to work after he was made a victim of closed shop agreements.
Beresford was a firm believer in nurturing our children educationally and holistically for the future, often saying, "You can only know where you're going, if you know and respect where you come from." For nearly 40 years Beresford was a leading member of the WIOCC (West Indian Organisations Coordinating Committee) and with his guidance and support, the WIOCC organised many youth projects, Saturday Schools, training seminars and Culture Week. He was Chairman of the Guyanese Association and also involved with many other organisations.
Manchester's inner city communities were deeply saddened and shocked by his death on Saturday morning, 15 March 2003. Beresford fought tirelessly for equality and respect for his community, history and culture. Anthony Brown WIOCC Chairman said, "Berry was a great community leader. He was like a great oak tree and we all sheltered within his shadow. Now he has passed on to meet with the ancestors many of the people he inspired over the years will continue his community work.
Academic, community activist and co-founder of the Black Cultural Archives
Len Garrison successfully combined academic pursuit with community activism. His search for a black identity emerged through his poetry, photography, essays and political activism in the black community. His work embraced all aspects inherent in the African-Caribbean experience of the new black presence in Britain. Born in Jamaica, he migrated to England to further his schooling and pursue an academic career, graduating from Sussex University in African and Caribbean History. He also went to Ruskin College, Oxford, where he gained a diploma in Development Studies and Leicester University where he acquired an MA in Local History.
Len Garrison's achievements were many; they included being a founder member in the mid sixties of the International Social Group whose work led to the establishment of the Wandsworth Council for Community Relations. In 1977 he founded The Afro-Caribbean Resource Project (ACRP) to publish and produce learning materials drawn from the black British experience for use in the school curriculum. This project was the cornerstone for ILEA's multi-ethnic and anti-racist policy in practice. Through this work he also established the Black Young Writers Award scheme, which encouraged and exposed the talents of hundreds of young black writers in the 1970s and 80s.
Len Garrison represented Britain at the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture in Nigeria. He also lectured extensively on his work, in this country and abroad. Later as Director, he set up the ACFF Education and Culture Centre in Nottingham in the East Midlands, also establishing a number of community initiatives during his ten years' tenureship.
Len Garrison also co-founded the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in 1981. It houses documentary evidence of the black presence and struggle, paying homage to the thousands who fought or those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. BCA also works in partnership with Middlesex University and created the charitable organisation the Archives and Museum of Black Heritage (AMBH).
More recently he had been selected to take part in a remarkable project tracing Black people's DNA, which was carried out by Dr Mark Jobling of Leicester University shown on the BBC2 documentary Motherland. The Observer newspaper also took the opportunity to interview him on his personal perspective of the project.
His achievements will also be published, in a book celebrating the successes and achievements of people of African heritage called Black Success Stories. Len's challenge was to continue to create an ever-expanding awareness, perhaps daunting to some, but an exciting challenge for Len, as he believed with certainty that a positive, sustainable future could be achieved by African Diaspora people in Britain.
Len Garrison died in February.