Andrea Enisuoh: Tributes to community activist and journalist who worked to ‘tip the scales towards equality’

Andrea Enisuoh. Picture: Family of Andrea Enisuoh

Andrea Enisuoh. Picture: Family of Andrea Enisuoh - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to much-loved community activist and journalist Andrea Enisuoh, who has died aged 49.

Andrea Enisuoh. Picture: Family of Andrea Enisuoh

Andrea Enisuoh. Picture: Family of Andrea Enisuoh - Credit: Archant

Andrea worked for Hackney Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) for more than 10 years and was also a political activist, trade unionist, human rights campaigner and mother.

While still in her hometown of Manchester she became the first Black woman to join the National Union of Students, and later worked as a grassroots organiser for social justice group Hackney Unites. She was also instrumental in the 2010 campaign to save the name of Dalston's CLR James Library ahead of its redevelopment.

Andrea, who lived in Holly Street, Dalston, died on February 13. She is survived by her 13-year-old son Kofi, who is the youngest member of the Hackney Youth Parliament.

Speaking on behalf of her family, Andrea's cousin Mandla Mbandaka told the Gazette: "We are devastated at the moment. We have lost one of the most thoughtful human beings you could come across. She was caring, concerned, kind hearted and giving, and she gave a great deal of service and commitment to the community.

"We have been blessed to attend a couple of community gatherings in her memory and they have really been uplifting.

"We met a lot of people who had a lot of very positive and profound things to say about her in terms of the impact she had through her political activism but also people who had personal experiences of her being very supportive, a confidant and a friend. It has been really touching."

Andrea was a champion of Black writers and her love of literature led her to set up Hackney Lit Fest, which brought together poets, spoken word artists and authors.

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She also campaigned against racism and supported women's rights and LGBT+ communities.

"She was a woman of culture," Mandla added. "She was profoundly proud of her identity as an African woman and valued her culture and her people. She was committed to the liberation fight against racial injustice and had a deep sense of commitment to her own people's liberation."

Andrea's family said they were also very grateful to Hackney CVS for setting up a £6,000 fundraiser to pay for her funeral.

Hackney CVS communications chief Matt Bray said: "Andrea was a respected and loved member of the team - both within our organisation and more widely among Hackney's voluntary and community groups.

"She worked at Hackney CVS in a number of roles. As our community empowerment network coordinator she championed the value of community groups and the work they do.

"Andrea was a great lover of literature and was our coordinator for the Black and Ethnic Minority Arts Network (BEMA). She also supported adults with learning disabilities as part of the Real Opportunities employment programme.

"In all these roles Andrea was committed to making a positive difference and to tipping the scales towards fairness and equality.

"Andrea was committed to Hackney and to fighting injustice and discrimination in all its forms. A committed socialist, she combined political passion and conviction with kindness and a great sense of humour."

Head of safeguarding, children and families Kristine Wellington added: "I would like to honour Andrea for being a leading light with the ability to champion multiple causes. She inspired many to put pen to paper, had a passion for challenging inequality, inspired creativity and knew why cultural pride was important.

"She always stood up and stood by people creating change. This is evident in her son Kofi, the youngest member of Hackney Youth Parliament."

Ngoma Bishop, a fellow community activist and friend, said the CLR James Library would now be named Dalston Library and Archives were it not for Andrea.

"If it wasn't for her we wouldn't have known to put the petition online!" he said. "The campaign would not have been successful without her.

"She was very politically astute and she had strong opinions on virtually everything. She was very passionate about the rights of groups who are oppressed. She was the definition of an activist."

Award-winning author Diana Evans also paid tribute to Andrea. She wrote on Facebook: "Very upsetting and shocking to hear about the passing of our friend, journalist and activist Andrea Enisuoh.

"She was always a warm and fervent supporter of black writers, one of those people who made you feel spurred and motivated to keep on going. Sending love and strength to her cherished son of whom she was so proud. I will miss seeing your warm face at book readings."

To donate to the fundraiser, click here.