After cutting his political teeth in the Caribbean, Winston Pinder became a pioneering youth worker who left a legacy in more ways than one

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Barbados-born Winston Pinder was 19 years old when the Communist Party Caribbean Committee asked him to be part of the official group to welcome Claudia Jones on her arrival at London following her deportation from the USA in 1955.

He regarded her as his political mentor and in 1984, twenty years after her death, he led a fundraising campaign to raise money for a stone to be laid on her unmarked grave next to Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery.

He said: “For years it was just a mound of grass and I knew I had to do something to honour someone who’d made such an important contribution to the fight for social and racial justice”.

The campaign was run from the Afro Caribbean Organisation, a youth club Winston had started in Camden in the late 1970s. At the time he was a local youth worker who had been at the forefront of efforts to improve the lives of black youngsters, a task he had taken on since moving into the borough in the 1950s, and which began with him using his home as an informal drop-in centre.

He explained: “There were only two youth clubs in the area and black kids were not welcome in them”.

He left his job at the Post Office to become a full-time youth worker, becoming a familiar figure on the streets as he engaged with youngsters coping with all manner of problems, particularly the notorious police stop and search laws known as ‘sus’.

Like many of his generation, he had become politicised by the anti-colonial struggle in the Caribbean and had gone to Guyana to campaign for Cheddi Jagan, leader of a Marxist party there.

One of Winston’s heroes was the activist and singer Paul Robeson and in 1976 the Afro Caribbean Organisation opened a black youth hostel named after him. It had once been a derelict house that members occupied by squatting, until the council agreed to hand it over. The MP Tony Benn was the main speaker at the Paul Robeson House launch.

After clashing with the authorities in Camden over what he regarded as their lack of commitment to fighting racism, Winston was appointed deputy senior youth officer for Islington before becoming Hackney’s youth chief.
Winston currently helps run a luncheon club for Caribbean elders.

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