A Huddersfield University professor has co-written a new book celebrating the work of black women in a troubled Manchester suburb in the 1980s.
The Abasindi Co-operative toiled to alleviate problems blighting Moss Side at the time.
And Prof Adele Jones, who lived in Moss Side, says the work which went on mirrors some social issues of today.
Confronted by a raft of social, political, educational and economic challenges, a group of black women in late 1970s Manchester decided to meet them head-on.
They formed a collective that made a huge impact in the community. An early member of the Abasindi Co-operative was Adele Jones, a young social worker whose career would take her into the academic world for research in fields such as child protection.
Now a professor in Huddersfield, she helps tell the story of Abasindi in Catching Hell and Doing Well – Black Women in the UK: Abasindi Co-operative.
The co-operative ran a wide range of educational, cultural and political activities during the 1980s, but never sought or accepted public funding.
“We covered serious issues and were a thoughtful group. But Abasindi was enjoyable on many levels. We were all strong personalities – feisty and opinionated!” said Prof Jones.
In 1981, Moss Side was the scene of civil disturbances, but tension had been brewing for some time, said Prof Jones, who was then living in the district. Abasindi tackled educational under-achievement in an area of high youth unemployment by running Saturday classes in subjects such as science, maths, English and black history.
It had a strong focus on women’s education and issues, but drew support from men. Political campaigning covered topics such as immigration laws.
The collective has never formally been wound up, but it lost momentum in the 1990s. “A lot of people didn’t have the same sense of political engagement as we had because their lives are different,” said Prof Jones. “They are fighting for different things.”
Catching Hell and Doing Well was co-authored with Abasindi founder member Diana Watt – also an academic – and the pair interviewed many ex-members of the collective.
“Abasindi was hugely influential and a case study in how such a venture can work in terms of improving communities. But although, in the book, we are looking through the lens of Abasindi, we have also examined some contemporary issues, such as schools, domestic violence and immigration policy,” said Prof Jones.
“So we are writing about black women’s lives contemporaneously as well as historically.”