Death of key Leeds community campaigner

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A campaigner who devoted her life to challenging racism has died.

Maureen Baker MBE, who died in St James’s Hospital aged 79 after a short illness, was a community activist who was still fighting for the rights of others a few months before her death.

Mrs Baker was born in Dublin and came to Leeds as a young woman.

She lived first in Chapeltown where she became a community activist.

She was instrumental in establishing the United Caribbean Association’s home for the elderly which was opened by the Queen.

She was also a dynamic political campaigner, one of a group of anti-apartheid activists which succeeded in preventing the South African cricket team visiting Leeds at the height of the apartheid era in 1970.

She met her husband Paul when “they were at either end of a CND banner” according to her family.

In the 1960s and 1970s she worked as an Immigration Counsellor. At the time male immigrants could be joined by their future wives from their country of origin. But women already in Britain could not be joined by their future husbands.

As a result of Mrs Baker’s campaign the law was changed.

In 1972 the Ugandan-Asian crisis occurred, when tyrant Idi Amin ejected Uganda’s Asian residents. Many were given refuge in Britain. Mrs Baker played a key role in their re-settlement.

In 1976 her husband took a job in Africa, working as a pharmacist for the Zambian Government. The couple became friends with the country’s leader Kenneth Kaunda.

Mrs Baker taught African history at Lusaka University in the country’s capital.

Returning to Britain they moved back to Leeds, living at Woodhouse and Mrs Baker resumed her activities. With others she was instrumental in establishing the Stephen Lawrence Educational Standard in Leeds.

Mrs Baker became a respected friend of many of Leeds’ immigrant communities, including the Sikh community. She worked with gypsies and travelling people. In 2004 she was awarded the MBE for services to the community.

Her husband Paul died 14 years ago. Mrs Baker leaves a son, two daughters and four grandchildren.

Photo: Neil Cross

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