Liverpool charity Mandela8 have announced two esteemed community leaders and activists as their newest patrons.
Maria O’Reilly and Wally Brown will both join the organisation ahead of the Mandela family’s visit to Liverpool later this year. Nelson Mandela’s daughter Dr Maki Mandela and his granddaughter, Tukwini Mandela will be back in Liverpool to officially open the bridge and memorial dedicated to the iconic South African leader this July as part of a week-long visit.
Born into a catholic Black family in Liverpool, Maria O’Reilly has always been committed to racial justice and equality, and still maintains an active interest and involvement in social justice, human rights and politics. Being an activist from a young age, Maria has stood on many a picket line and led many demonstrations tackling racism, police brutality and fighting for social justice.
From 1979 to 1989 Maria worked for the Commission for Racial Equality, and became a Senior Community Relations Officer, and from 1989 to 2002 she was a Coordinator in the L8 Law Centre, engaged in the provision of legal and quasi-legal services. This role came on the back of her tireless fight as a member of the Liverpool 8 Defence Committee for the rights of people of all ages arrested as part of the 1981 Uprisings. The Liverpool 8 Law Centre was a pinnacle resource in the community providing much needed legal and social justice services to the marginalised community of Liverpool 8.
Maria O’Reilly said: “I can think of no higher honour than to be a patron of a legacy left by Nelson Mandela and built on by Mandela8, supported by his daughters to educate young people with the skills to uphold racial justice and equality”.
Wally Brown is well known for his revered work locally and nationally. His life as a youth leader worker at the Methodist Centre established Wally as one of the most respected men in Liverpool 8 by young people. Wally was born in Liverpool 8 and went on to become the liaison between the Liverpool 8 community and the authorities during the 1981 Uprisings as part of the Lord Gifford Enquiry.
Wally also became the first Black person to chair the Merseyside Community Relations Council and was appointed principal at the city’s Community College, transforming its portfolio and access for people from diverse backgrounds. Later, in 2002, he was awarded the honour of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to education. In 2012, Wally was given the ultimate honour in Liverpool by receiving the Freedom of the City, an honour he accepted as a figurehead for all the people he has worked with and the community of Liverpool 8.
Wally Brown, CBE said: “It is a great honour to be invited to become a Patron of Mandela8. I have long admired how Sonia and her Board have nurtured the seed of Mandela8 to become what it is today. I look forward to working with Sonia her board, patrons and all those involved, to help Mandela8 continue to grow, influence and educate”.
Chair of Mandela8, Sonia Bassey MBE said: “It is an honour beyond words to have both Maria and Wally join us as patrons. They are people Mandela8 holds in high regard and are an example of what good Black role models look like. We are truly grateful for leaders like Maria and Wally. Growing up they were my role models, and they paved the way to show me and others, that as young people, we could aspire, and in a community that is oppressed that is so important. Whilst they have not always been visible in the work of Mandela8, they have both guided and supported the organisation behind the scenes from the beginning, so we are extremely excited to now to see them at the fore”.
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