Tributes paid to ‘true force of nature’ Grenfell campaigner
'My sister was not one to take no for an answer or suffer fools gladly'
10 December, 2020 — By Angela Cobbinah
Clarrie Mendy lost two relatives in the fire tragedy
TRIBUTES have been paid to leading Grenfell campaigner Clarrie Mendy – who lost two relatives in the fire disaster – after she died on Saturday aged 61.
Described as a “true force of nature” by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and “indomitable” by David Lammy MP, Clarrie was at the forefront of the campaign to secure justice for victims of the blaze that claimed the lives of 72 people in 2017.
Diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease two years ago, she often said she was its 73rd victim following the discovery of dangerously high levels of toxins around the site of the tower by government scientists in 2019.
A lifelong Camden resident, Clarrie became involved in the Grenfell campaign after her two cousins, mother and daughter Mary Mendy and Khadija Saye, perished in the fire at their home on the 20th floor.
She set up Relative Justice for Grenfell and Humanity For Grenfell to bring together survivors, the bereaved and anyone else affected, taking their plight to the very top of government.
A month after the fire she organised an ecumenical service for her cousins and three other victims addressed by the then Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, followed by a multi-faith remembrance of Grenfell to mark the beginning of the Notting Hill Carnival. Clarrie secured an even bigger stage when 1,500 people, including Prince Charles and his sons, attended a national memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral later that year.
“My sister was not one to take no for an answer or suffer fools gladly,” said her younger sister Nelissa. “She was a formidable fighter for truth and rights and we will never know how many people she rescued from dark places.”
Clarrie Mendy was born in Hackney to a Gambian father and mixed-race mother, the seventh of 13 children.
The family moved to Mornington Terrace, Camden Town, and she attended St Michael’s CoE primary and St Marylebone secondary schools.
Displaying an entrepreneurial spirit early on, she won a place at the prestigious London Business School, going on to launch the Roots Homecoming tours and festivals that saw hundreds of people travel to The Gambia to experience African life and culture.
Later, she chartered the first ever direct flight from the Caribbean to Africa. In another first, she teamed up 1970s reggae icon John Holt with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra for a sell-out event at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2000.
Despite the debilitating nature of her illness, she gave evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry, last attending it in June.
In 2019 she witnessed the start and finish of a 500-mile sponsored bike ride from Portobello near Edinburgh to Portobello Road, west London. At the closing ceremony she raised the issue of air pollution and soil contamination around Grenfell, which she said was being ignored by the authorities.
She died peacefully in her sleep on December 5 at her home in Belsize Road, Kilburn.
Nina, her only child and mother of her two grandchildren, Alexander, two, and Aida, four, said: “Mum fought for justice all her life and down to her last breath. Her legacy will be to never give up the fight.”
Funeral arrangements are to be announced.