Russell Profitt MBE
Continuing our celebration of the lives & work of some extraordinary #Southwark community activists, this month we’re showcasing the amazing Russell Profitt, Chair of @walworthgoldenoldies
Originally from Georgetown, Guyana, Russell travelled alone when he was just 13 to join his mother in London, she was part of the #Windrush generation. Life was tough & the move traumatic. Living in a multi-occupancy house, with several other families, Russell’s mother worked all hours of the day in her 2 jobs & Russell was often asked to help out.
Encouraged by his mother who believed strongly in education & self-development, Russell did really well at school, & against the odds, became one of the first ever Black students at Goldsmiths University. There he hung out with ‘many colourful people’ including the likes of Malcolm McClaren & when he became the first Black Vice-President of the National Student Union, Jack Straw. This was the start of an extraordinary life characterized by engagement with (touchpoints to some of) some of the most significant and tragic events affecting the Black community in the UK – The Lewisham riots (1977), the New Cross fire (1981), and the murder of Damilola Taylor (2000).
In his various positions as teacher, deputy-head, Lewisham councillor, & Deputy Director of Education in Southwark, Russell has championed the right of people to speak up for equality and justice. He was honored with an MBE (2009) for services to the community.
Russell considers one of his greatest achievements to be the role he has played in improving Black representation in politics and challenging racial discrimination and disadvantage ‘which still stains the character of our society’.
His lessons to the younger generation are “From humble origins you can make a difference and in order to do this, you have to be consistent and bloody minded – don’t take the easy route!”