Black Female Icons of Lewisham

Brockley Max wants to celebrate some incredible women who have lived or worked in Lewisham. We want to commission three murals of significant Black women, not just those who are famous, but the sometimes less well-known women activists, campaigners or champions of a cause who have had an impact nationally or internationally; and do we have some amazing women from Lewisham!

We want to paint the murals during Brockley Max and film the painting work as a visual record for our website. Each mural will have a QR code so people can find out more about the women and their work.

Our plans are at an early stage and dependant on funding, but we have some incredible women in mind (listed below), who you can find out more about them by clicking on their name. Do let us know what you think about the project, and if you know of other Black women campaigners who have a connection to Lewisham, let us know in the comments box below and tell us why. If you can add a link, even better!


Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah is a grassroots campaigner in Lewisham raising awareness of asthma and the health problems that can be caused by air pollution, following the death of her 9-year old daughter, Ella Roberta, in 2013.

Mavis Best In the 1970s, activist Mavis Best, alongside a group of Black women from Lewisham, and following a series of demonstrations and meetings, played a key role in scrapping the infamous Sus law – based on the 1824 Vagrancy Act – which was manipulated by police officers to stop, search, arrest, detain and assault young Black men and women.

Malorie Blackman is a renowned British children's books writer and was the first Black person to be appointed the Children's Laureate (2013-2015). Blackman grew up in Lewisham and joined other prominent authors in supporting the Let Books Be Books campaign, which seeks to stop children’s books being labelled as "for girls" or "for boys".  She also supports the non-binary and transgender communities.

Barbara Gray  Ex-mayoress of Lewisham and Council Adviser on BME health inequalities, founder of Urban Dandelion; a social enterprise specialising in inspiring change for communities and organisations.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence  Campaigner and the mother of Stephen Lawrence, a black British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in South East London in 1993. In 2003 Doreen was awarded an OBE for her advocacy and in 2008, the Stephen Lawrence Centre was opened in Deptford, giving thousands more young people an opportunity to nurture and use their creativity. In 2013 she was invited to become a Life Peer in the House of Lords where she tries to be the voice for the marginalised.

Rabia Nasimi's family fled Afghanistan after her academic father became a Taliban target for believing women deserved equal rights to an education and settled in New Cross. She has worked for the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) where she was responsible for launching several services and shaping the charities long term strategy.  She’s been nominated for several awards including the Lewisham Mayors Award for contributions to Lewisham.

Dame Erica Pienaar DBE, FRSA Schoolteacher, educationist, Freedom of the Borough of Lewisham. She has been a contributor to local policymaking in Lewisham LA and national policy through the Department of Education's Secondary Headteachers' Review Group. Dame Erica was awarded the status of National Leader of Education and she subsequently led a federation of three schools in Lewisham as the Executive Head Teacher. She was recognised for her service to education by the award of Freedom to the Borough of Lewisham in 2013 and a DBE in 2014.

 Dame Sybil Phoenix  First Black woman to receive an MBE. Leader & activist in the New Cross Fire campaign and the post Brixton negotiations and the famous Black People's Day of Action.  Dame Sybil lived in Lewisham for many years and founded the Marsha Phoenix Memorial Trust in Brockley, a supported housing project for single homeless young women aged from 16 to 24.


  1. Marcia Dixon on 28th December 2021 at 3:07 pm

    You may want to consider Angie Le Mar. She is a native of Lewisham and is the first black woman to experience success as a Stand Up comedienne. She is a pioneer of the Black comedy scene and was featured in a program by Black British and Funny which turned a spotting on the history of the UK Black Comedy Scene. Angie hosted a popular show on Choice FM – which was the leading black radio station in the 80s, 90s and noughties until it was bought by Capital Radio. Angie’s Saturday show was the third most listened to show on the station. She is also a playwright – and has written sell out shows like Funny Black Women, Do You Know Where Your Daughter Is and gospel musical Take Me Back described by Vanessa Feltz as one of Angie’s best dramatic works.

  2. Rosie Hattersley on 31st December 2021 at 12:24 pm

    Fantastic idea! There are so many inspiring women from our area, as the list above shows. It would be brilliant to see some of them honoured in this way, especially as women of colour are underrepresented in plaques and murals

  3. Jeff Roberts on 31st December 2021 at 12:43 pm

    Incredibly excited by this proposal. Surfacing local history and contributing to the areas rich visual legacy of visual art is a cause worth championing! Looking forward to seeing this come to fruition.

  4. Nicola Rossi on 31st December 2021 at 5:35 pm

    What a brilliant way to commemorate the massive contribution these local women have made and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

  5. elisabetta fumagalli on 2nd January 2022 at 3:42 pm

    Great project to have murals of important black women in our community.

  6. Jennifer G Robinson on 4th January 2022 at 10:00 pm
  7. Charlie Hearn on 5th January 2022 at 2:32 pm

    I think this is a fantastic idea and a powerful way to increase representation – I really hope it gets the go ahead.

  8. Will Cenci on 6th January 2022 at 9:00 am

    I’d like to nominate Prof Joan Anim-Addo, a pioneering black female academic who literally wrote the book on Lewisham’s Black history. She also lives and works in the borough:

    • Moira on 7th January 2022 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks Will. A great suggestion.

  9. Geraldine Brennan on 7th January 2022 at 10:20 am

    A great list: everyone I thought of, you already have! These are really great role models for young Black women in Lewisham as their careers are still ongoing.

    • Moira on 7th January 2022 at 1:22 pm

      We’re hoping to connect up with Lewisham’s secondary schools about the project.

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