Changemakers Exhibition

CHANGEMAKERS is a visual record of black changemakers in the borough which started in October 2019. This is a series of photographic portraits taken by local visual artist Agenda Brown of Visual Marvelry (external link), which brings together CHANGEMAKERS from different generations influential in culture, education, sport and community activism in the UK.

Each CHANGEMAKER was asked to bring along an object which has inspired, or continues to inspire them, to be photographed with. 

These local Changemakers are making history every day.

Pastor Alex Gyasi, MBE

Senior Pastor of Highway of Holiness Church in Tottenham

Image of Changemaker - A Gyasi

About Pastor Alex:

Pastor Alex is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Highway of Holiness Church in Tottenham, and its branch in South Sudan. He is committed to working to bring about positive and significant transformation in individuals, communities and society as a whole. He works especially with young people and the homeless.

Pastor Alex ran a supplementary school for underprivileged young people on the Broadwater Farm Estate and the surrounding area for 14 years, resulting in improved academic performance. He currently runs the Highway Youth Club, providing recreation, education and personal development for the young people of Tottenham. He is also the executive producer of the popular youth TV talk show, Keep It Real. 

He is the director of the Highway House (homeless shelter) in Tottenham, which provides food and shelter for 50 homeless people from all spheres of life all year round. 

In March 2019, he was awarded an MBE for his services to British society. 

About the inspirational item:

Pastor Alex's chosen object is his Bible.

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Alex Pascall, OBE

Broadcaster, journalist, musician and historian

Image of Changemaker - A Pascall

About Alex:

Originally from Grenada, Alex has lived in Haringey for over 50 years. He is a pioneering broadcaster, cultural strategist, playwright, singer/composer, musician and oral historian. 

Alex is well-known as a pioneer of Black Radio and British media on BBC local radio. He served as Chairman of the Notting Hill Carnival & Founding Vice President for the Foundation for European Carnival Cities (FECC), Co-founder of 'The Voice' newspaper, presenter and producer of Britain's first Black and daily magazine radio programme "Black Londoner". A radio and TV personality, he has played a pivotal role as advisor to the BBC on the West Indian Affairs, as well as being the writer and advisor for BBC'S pre-school landmark series - 'Teletubbies'. 

In 1996 Alex was awarded the OBE by Her Majesty "For services to Community Relations". He is a 'Member of Honour' of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). 

About the inspirational item: 

Alex holds the British Local Radio Award 1980, awarded by the Manpower Services Commission. It is one of the many awards he has received for the impact of his radio programme 'Black Londoners' had on community affairs, the contributions made by Black and Caribbean doctors, nurses and health carers in the Health Service.

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Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Award winning composer, singer, songwriter and cellist.

Image of Changemaker - A Witter-Johnson

About Ayanna:

It was in Year 8 of secondary school that Ayanna Witter-Johnson received her cello Reuben and they have been inseparable ever since. Her contemporary classical music has a hint of jazz and soul, as well as inspiration from her Jamaican heritage. Ayanna's notable performances include venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and The Jazz Cafe. 

Ayanna began playing the piano when she was four years old and the cello at 13. She received a first-class degree in Classical Composition at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in the UK and won the Trinity Laban Silver Award in 2008, subsequently earning a Master's of Music (MMus) in Composition at the Manhattan School of Music. It was whilst studying in America, that she became the first non-American to win first place at the Apollo Theatre's famous Amateur Night At The Apollo.

Performing both classical and contemporary music - she sings while accompanying herself on the cello and has described her song-writing style as "a bit of soul, r&b and reggae infused with classical undertones".

About the inspirational item:

Ayanna holds Reuben, her beloved cello.

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Herman Robinson

Community leader, activist & volunteer

Changemaker - H Robinson

About Herman:

Herman is renowned for his endless commitment to supporting the African Caribbean community in North London. He is a co-founder of the North London West Indian Association (1962), Paul Bogle Youth Club, the African Caribbean Leadership Company (ACLC) and the West Indian Cultural Centre. 

Being a businessman before he left Jamaica, he has been a great advocate for the black community to get involved in running their own businesses and many more would cite him as having given their families hugely beneficial and sometimes life changing economic, employment and financial advice. 

His knowledge of history and politics in general and specific to the African Diaspora is astounding and fascinating to those who take time to linger and listen. He has an enduring passion for the steam, diesel and electric locomotives he learned to drive and repair when he first came to the UK in the 50s - this formed his lifelong career.

About the inspirational item: 

Herman holds a picture of Maude Lovell, his grandmother and source of inspiration. He spent most of his childhood with her.

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Hesketh Benoit

Community activist, senior F.E. lecturer, teacher, youth worker, HBA sports head coach, and founder member of HISSMG; Haringey Independent Stop and Search Monitoring Group and Community Against Violence Group

Changemaker - H Benoit

About Hesketh: 

Hesketh is a community youth worker and sports head coach and mentor. Having recently retired as a CoNEL college lecturer, Hesketh has been active in community work in Haringey for over 40 years - including mentoring youths aged 14-25 with challenging behaviour. He set up the first Sports Academy in the borough and is currently head basketball coach for Haringey. A recent profile of Hesketh was published in The Evening Standard in October 2019, showcasing his work with young people who are most at risk from violence and knife-crime. His programme of 'midnight' evening basketball tournaments and coaching at Ducketts Common is modelled on similar sessions that were popular in the 1990s and in present times to help curb inner-city crime.

Hesketh is a founding member of Haringey Independent Stop & Search Monitoring Group (HISSMG) and Community Against Violence Group. A grass roots community organisation, run by volunteers, it provides the local community with a way of passing on their views and experiences on stop and search. Also linking with Local Haringey Metropolitan police probationers to give them insight in policing the local Tottenham area. His mission is to ensure that all young people in Haringey know their rights in relation to stop and search. He regularly liaises with local schools, colleges and youth clubs to arrange free talks and seminars by the group and is responsible for organising several community consultation exercises of young people - including at the College of North East London (CoNEL) and students at Gladesmore School and Parkview School. 

About the inspirational item: 

Hesketh is pictured wearing traditional African clothes which connect him to his African heritage. He is also holding an African drum which when played 'makes him feel peaceful and spiritual'.

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Jessie Stevens, MBE

Community leader and volunteer

Changemaker - J Stevens

About Jessie: 

Jessie Stevens is an active member of the West Indian Cultural Centre, serves on a number of committees in the community and volunteers every day. 

For her community work during the 1970s and 1980s, she was awarded the MBE. Her work involved being on the Police Liaison Committee. 

"I got involved in the 1970s when we were having all the problems with the youth and the police. So, it was decided we form this Police Liaison Committee. The trouble first started at dances in clubs. Whenever the kids left the club at night there would be trouble between the police and the boys. So, you find most of us - whatever time we knew the club ended - we used to go up there and see that they were not harassed and arrested by the police. Through the liaison group it was our young people we were trying to safeguard from being arrested."

About the inspirational item: 

Jessie holds a photograph of the late Bernie Grant, who was MP for Tottenham from 1987-2000.

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John McAnuff

Musician and Educator 

Changemaker - J McAnuff

About John: 

John is passionate about education - 'During slavery, our ancestors were denied literacy and one of the things, once slavery ended, that they wanted for their descendents was education because they saw at first hand the grave effect which lack of literacy had on their lives. Their determination to get education was so great that sending their children away to school - sometimes 5 miles away - daily, became their number one priority.'

John's father was the first literate person in the family and following in his footsteps, John worked hard to educate himself. After obtaining all the education that was possible for poor citizens in Jamaica, he came to the UK in 1958 to further his studies and find work to support his other siblings.

The pressure of survival forced John to work in several jobs - as a railway guard, stock keeper, musician and hairdresser - whilst getting qualified as an electronic engineer. As a musician, John formed and played in 5 bands in London which toured the continent, turning to song writing mainly for his reggae musician brothers Winston and Dave McAnuff.

After taking part in the BBC documentary 'England is the Place for Me' in 1982, John researched his family history and Jamaican heritage and joined a Jumiekan Langwij course, studied the Langwij and created a song to help it's development, titled 'Jumiekan Langwij Alfabet Song and Project'. In recognition, NIACE awarded him the 2008 National Senior Learner Award and he was appointed NIACE Ambassador. 'All members of my family through their works, aim for the same make the human race better and the world a better place to live in'.

About the inspirational item: 

John is pictured with his guitar.

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Joyce Rennie-Pascall, BA

Publisher and artist

Image of Changemaker - J Rennie- Pascall

About Joyce:

Born in Grenada, Joyce has lived with her family in Haringey for over 50 years. Joyce is a qualified State Registered Nurse (SRN), with a BA degree in Social Anthropology. She is a painter, publisher and Curator of the Black Audio Media Archive - Alex Pascall Collection (BAMAAPC).

Common Threads, The Musical was brought together by Joyce, and performed in schools. It tells the story of two commodities - sugar and coal - and two communities. It tells the life that her husband Alex Pascall lived and his observations of these two vital communities and commodities in the Caribbean and in South Wales - areas that he was fully acquainted with. 

About the inspirational item: 

Joyce's chosen object is Common Threads, The Musical.

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Valentino. A Jones

Worked in education and is now an author

Image of Changemaker - V. Jones

About Valentino: 

Valentino has been a champion of change in the British educational system that was failing children of colour. He pioneered supplementary education schools in this country, and was the founding Principal and Director of the 'Josina Machael Supplementary School', established in 1976. A former youth worker, Valentino used to work and live in Haringey. Now retired, he is a novelist. His publications include: We Are Our Own Educators and the novel Love Under the Mango Tree.

About the inspirational item: 

Valentino holds his novel 'The Long Enduring Road To Success', published in 2018.

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Vernon Vanriel

Internationally acclaimed boxer, exiled during the Windrush scandal, returned in 2018

Image of Changemaker - V Vanriel

About Vernon: 

Vernon came to live in Tottenham in April 1962 and trained as an electrician and set up his own business, VJ Electrics, when he was in his early 20s. At the same time, his boxing career was flourishing and he turned professional in 1976, trained by Terry Lawless, the same coach who worked with Frank Bruce. He became known as Vernon "The Entertainer" Vanriel. 

"I was number two in Britain in 1983-4; number nine in Commonwealth and 14 in Europe. Looking back in hindsight, I did tremendously well. At the time, I didn't think much about it, but now I know I did well."

Vernon's most recent biggest fight was not in boxing. In September 2018, Vernon touched down on British soil, marking the end of a long and harsh battle to return to the UK from Jamaica. He was one of the Windrush generation scandal victims, wrongly stopped from coming home. Finally arriving into the arms of his family, Vernon's brother said: " I didn't think this day would come. So many people have been in Vernon's position, of the Windrush generation and unable to come back, and haven't lived to see the day that they return. This is a miracle."

About the inspirational item:

Vernon holds a treasured picture of a boxing match he took part in at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Veronica McKenzie 

Award winning filmmaker and LGBTQ+ activist

Image of Changemaker - V McKenzie

About Veronica:

Writer turned filmmaker Veronica McKenzie was the winner of the 2019 Pan African Film Festival & Arts Festival (PAFF), Narrative Feature Award for her recent debut film Nine Nights, which she had produced and directed. Her film was also nominated for an African Academy Movie Award.

Veronica's career in TV and film began with writing comedy sketches. She has been shortlisted for the 2009 Disney ABC Writing Fellowship Program and was a quarter finalist for the Nicholls Fellowship (2010). Her wide experiences takes in TV as a storyliner for 'Coronation Street', and theatre, 'A Woman on Fire' - her tribute to Nina Simone. Veronica set up Reel Brit Productions in 2011, co-producing shorts 'The Last Supper' (2011), and ITSY (2017). Feature documentary 'Under Your Nose' (2016) was screened at the V&A, Tate Modern, and universities in the UK and abroad. Veronica also leads the National Lottery Heritage Funded, Haringey Vanguard BAME LGBTQ+ heritage project with partners Bruce Castle Museum and the London Metropolitan Archives. 

About the inspirational item:

Veronica is pictured with her award from the 2019 Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles.

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Yvonne Lawson, MBE

Anti-knife crime and gang campaigner

Image of Changemaker - Y Lawson

About Yvonne:

Yvonne Lawson is founder and CEO of the Godwin Lawson Foundation (GLF). Born to Ghanaian family in North London, her education saw her become a primary teacher for 16 years. 

Yvonne was devastated by the tragic loss of her oldest son Godwin in March 2011. Popular, kind and ambitious, Godwin was a talented sportsman who was attending Oxford United Football Academy on a scholarship. Godwin was stabbed in the street in Stamford Hill, trying to stop two old school friends being attacked by four young men. He was just 17. 

GLF was founded in 2012 in his memory, inspired by Godwin's life. Following his death, Yvonne began researching gangs and knife crime. Shocked by its scale and impact, she was determined Godwin's legacy would help keep young people safe, and prevent other families from going through the same pain and suffering. To date, GLF has delivered early intervention programmes to over 5,000 young people at risk of knife and gun crime in London.

Memorial Peace Marches held in memory of Godwin and all victims of knife crime, built awareness of the high levels of knife crime and its consequences and appeal for peace. 

GLF aims to advance the education of young people to develop as members of a tolerant society. Yvonne uses Godwin's story to illustrate the terrible and far-reaching consequences that carrying knives have, and to educate young people on how to keep safe, reach their full potential and make a positive contribution by becoming Peace Ambassadors, where around 30 young volunteers provide peer support in their schools and communities.

Recognising that the law did little to deter the carrying of knives, Yvonne campaigned for change. New legislation was introduced in 2015, requiring a mandatory sentence of at least six months for anyone caught carrying a knife for the second time. 

In 2020, Yvonne was awarded an MBE for her services committed to tackling knife and gun crime and working with young people across London. 

About the inspirational item: 

Yvonne holds a picture of her son Godwin.

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Page last updated:

December 7, 2021