GPI Tribute to Albertina Sylvester 1930-2017

GPI TRIBUTE TO ALBERTINA SYLVESTER 1930-2017
 
 
The George Padmore Institute has received the sad news of the passing of Albertina “Tina” Sylvester (86 yrs) in Grenada a few days ago. Tina Sylvester was a leader, activist and warrior for social justice and education of children in Britain with the Black Parents Movement (BPM), George Padmore and Albertina Sylvester Supplementary Schools and the Lion Youth Carnival Band.
 
Born in Grenville Vale, New Hampshire, St George’s  Grenada in 1930 Tina, then known as Tina Redhead ran small grocery shops in her youth before leaving for London in 1957. She married Albert Sylvester who was from an adjacent village in Grenada at Hackney Town hall London in 1957. 
 
Tina Sylvester was the matriarch of a large family and extended family in Finsbury Park North London. Albert and Tina’s children were Merle, Claude, Victor, Shirley, Sonia, and Janet. They lived at 57 Victoria Road, Finsbury Park London; Tina’s home was always full of children, family and young people including Roy Renwick and Keith La Rose. Tina looked after and provided care for children with dedication love and attention. The children she cared for grew up as adults never to forget her. She had worked in factory jobs when she first came to London. But after standing up to racism in the workplace she walked off the job. Tina decided to stay home and look after her children and provide child care for young families in the area. 
 
Tina fiercely believed in social justice and for decent education for children especially black children. She was soon involved with activist John La Rose who lived a stone’s throw away in Albert Road and ran the New Beacon Bookshop on Stroud Green Road. When John started the George Padmore Supplementary School in his house the first students were Tina’s children and family, John discovered that Tina was operating a similar group at her house with younger children. The supplementary school ran from 2 sites in Albert Road and Victoria Road. Tina also supported the George Washington Carver School run by two brothers with PhDs, Julian and Adolf King   in Ferme Park Road. Hornsey. Tina mobilised parents and young people to attend the supplementary schools through her enthusiasm, leadership and convincing arguments. John La Rose proposed naming the younger children’s school in tribute to Tina. The merged schools were called the George Padmore and Albertina Sylvester Supplementary Schools.
 
Tina was passionately against racism and injustice she was also very serious about children getting a good education. The police beating and arrest of school boy Cliff McDaniel outside the Stationer’s Company school in Hornsey was witnessed by his friends Keith La Rose and Victor Sylvester  John La Rose founded the Black Parents Movement BPM and Black students Movement (renamed Black Youth Movement ) BYM in organised response to these events. Tina ensured that she, her children and family were founding members of both organisations. The BPM and BYM went on to organise many campaigns against police brutality and fit ups along with many campaigns for improved education. Tina was at the forefront of the Cliff McDaniel campaign in 1975and the campaign against racist head teacher Miss Curtis at the Hornsey High girls’ school. Tina’s leadership courage and fearlessness was crucial to the work of the BPM and BYM.
 
When family friend Leslee Wills proposed forming a carnival masquerade band for Notting Hill carnival in the mid 1970s. The mas band was called Lion Youth. Tina was in full support of the project and mobilised friends and family to join the band. The music section was provided by Peoples War Sound System. The masquerade band and the sound system joined the carnival organisation the Carnival Development Committee (CDC) in its struggle for Notting Hill Carnival against the authorities. The CDC was lead by Selwyn Baptiste (Director) and Darcus Howe (Chair). Keith La Rose, Victor Sylvester attended meetings along with Claude Sylvester (elected secretary) and Michael La Rose (elected vice-chair). Tina always encouraged everyone around her to get involved with organised struggle and resistance. Merle Sylvester had been a member of the Black Panther Movement. 
 
With the formation of the International Book fair of Radical Black And Third World Books in London (from 1982 to 1995), Tina again gave her full support to the ideas behind the  Book fair and the accompanying panels of the Book fair festival. She mobilised the volunteers needed for the Book fair organisation and she was also important in getting accommodation for visiting international artists to the Book fair in the houses of people in the community. 
 
Tina was always very committed to education for young people and encouraged the struggle for proper education for black people in Britain. 
 
We pay tribute to Albertina Sylvester, 12th October 1930 to 4th September 2017.
 
She will not be forgotten. 
 
 
Michael La Rose