Susan Penny: First Director of The Southampton Council for Race Equality

PUBLISHED : December 8, 2022

WORDS : Don John

When I came to Southampton in 1977 what was then called The Southampton Community Relations Council (SCRC) and later became The Southampton Council for Race Equality (SCRE) was located on the corner of Northbrook Rd and Derby Rd. That part of the inner city, at that time, was the place where migrants mainly from the Caribbean and Indian sub-continent chose to live. That area of choice was primarily because of the levels of racism that existed in other parts of the city.

 The Southampton Community Relations Council (SCRC) in the 1970s

Susan Penny was the first real advocate for those who felt that they had been subjected to racism. The city at that time was reluctant to accept that this was not an issue and major organisations such as the local authorities, health services and the police openly refused to accept that there were individuals in their organisations who were openly racist and that such organisations were what we now known as institutionally racist. Some of those who were in the management committee of the SCRC were Edna Gillings, Dr. David Hoadley, R D Sunak ; Rishi Sunak’s grandfather and individuals from church organisations and they started the process of challenging racism in the city.

The office known fondly as “Miss Penny’s Office” became the place where you went to if you felt that Race was a factor in any problem that you had and was the go-to place to have those problems resolved. Sue Penny’s dedication and commitment was a crucial factor in laying the foundation for what later became the Southampton Council for Race Equality and as the Assistant Community Relations Officer I was privileged to be a part of that story. Black History Month South are pleased to recognise Susan Penny’s role in race relations in the city.