Sybil Theodora Phoenix was born in British-Guyana (today: Guyana) in 1927. Since 1956 she has been living in England where she, as a Black person, experienced racism from the very beginning. This motivated her to actively work against the kind of discrimination that people suffer solely because of the colour of their skin. She is cofounder of MELRAW (Methodist and Ecumenical Leadership Racism Awareness Workshops), an organisation that carries out Anti-Racism-Trainings.
Sybil Phoenix’ work is remarkable in other fields also. In 1977 she founded a youth centre for black and white teenagers. However, the centre was burned down by members of the right-wing extremist “National Front”. “My name is Phoenix”, she said, “and with the help of God I will built a new centre from the ashes.” The Prince of Wales was present during the inauguration of the new centre. Together with her husband Joseph, she built the Marsha Phoenix House, a shelter for homeless girls.
Her work became accepted and renowned throughout the country. As the first Black woman she was made an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. She also received an award in her native country Guyana for her dedication for Guyanese people inside and outside of the country. From 1998 to 1999 she was mayor of Lewisham/London. Afterwards she was named honorary citizen of Lewisham and London.
Her work is still highly appreciated throughout Great Britain. She is considered a person who stands up against all types of discrimination.