Barry had the first ever Black Female Councillor in Wales.
Read that again.
Yes, I know, who knew. It’s totally true, totally ahead of its time, and totally tragic that this great ground-breaking moment has never been locked into our local life with a lasting, visible tribute.
Well, until now that is, with the carrion cry to name the new community centre at Cemetery Approach after Elvira Gwenllian Payne (nee Hinds).
Councillor Payne was the 1979 Barry Town Council Deputy Mayor, and the Vale of Glamorgan Mayoress from 1974 to 1976.
Born in Morgan Street in 1917, Gwen Payne was at the heart of her community for most of her adulthood, and is still well-known today for the contribution she consistently made to our civic life.
Despite this total commitment to our town, Councillor Payne, who passed away in 2007, has never been fittingly recognised – not even by the Councils she so selflessly served.
She has never been actively honoured for the work she did in her lifetime, the lasting legacy she left, or for the role model she was, and remains, to our young people today.
Her local, political, activism sent a clear message that enabled Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority people living and working in the area to believe that they had a voice.
It was a crystal sign in the racist, and sexist, Seventies, and still is today, that they too could play a role in shaping their community for the benefit of all.
And of course, it is a tangible test for the Town Council to show that Black Lives really do matter in our often terrific but sometimes turbulent town.
I am certain that other names being put forward are all deserving, but they now have the opportunity to recognise Gwen’s contribution with a permanent memorial that will endure.
Since that pivotal moment in May when George Floyd was killed by that cop across the water, the #BlackLivesMatter momentum has moved to make the world finally recognise those decades of casual, blatant, and institutional racism, suffered globally.
And, make no mistake, here in the Vale, we have been seriously, and shockingly, exposed too.
I’ve already written of the powerful point in the Barry Black Lives Matter Protest when residents hit by racism strode towards the stage – it was all of them.
In fact, the protest only came about initially against the Vale Council’s reluctance to light the Western Shelter for the cause – they then backed down against the backlash.
And if you say so what to that, “there’s no racists or racism on our watch,” I just gently suggest you log onto any local authority, town council, or even community council, Socials and pop on a #BlackLivesMatter post – you will be shocked to the core by some of the crass comments that come spewing out.
For me, Black Lives Matter is a movement against just this, and a way towards real action and real change. Hit back at the hype too please, you don’t have to be far left, or extreme in your views, to agree that ending racism is basic human decency and should never be a debate anyway.
We can all make the move towards positive change through petitioning, by having the heart to take two minutes of our time to sign – and send that message of solidarity.
We still need to Speak Up Barry.
And we all know that sometimes the pen can sure be mightier than the sword.
Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.
As a founding member of Stand Up To Racism (Vale) she, promotes the Black-led Campaign Group who, with the strong support of Allies, aim to unite our communities. And also acts as Communications Advisor for the voluntary collective.