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Sahara Longe (b. 1994)

Portrait of Jessie Stephens, MBE, SLPM

b. 28 July 1927, St Lucia | Came to Britain in 1955 | Oil on linen |

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Having trained as a stenographer in St Lucia, Jessie travelled to Britain in 1955 and lived in Finsbury Park with her then husband and two children. Jessie was the first Black woman to work at Companies House and had an active role in the St Lucian Association. She was part of the Haringey Police Liaison Group which worked to improve relationships between officers and the community, and in 1982, received an MBE for services to the St Lucian community, and later, the Saint Lucia Piton Gold Medal.

Artist Sahara Longe’s reflection

I was struck by [Jessie’s] wonderful sense of humour and no-nonsense attitude … I painted her looking straight at the viewer, because that’s how Jessie speaks to you when she talks … I feel very honoured to have been asked to paint Jessie and very lucky to have met her. I hope the painting captures what an incredible woman Jessie is and her legacy to Britain.