The British town of Old Trafford celebrated the life and achievements of its first black Lord Mayor, Whit Stennett MBE. The celebration included tributes to the former mayor, who was honored for his contributions to the community. Among the friends, family, and constituents of Stennett was Tony Reaves, the coordinator at First Cut Media, who was the organizer of the event. Reaves noted that Stennett was one of the “founding fathers” of Manchester’s African Caribbean community. Stennett, who has served as councilor since 1993, represents the Labor Party in Trafford’s Clifford ward. He has been active in the community since he arrived in the United Kingdom in 1959, taking an instrumental role in many local organizations, including the Jamaica Society.
According to Stennett, his commitment to communities began in Discovery Bay, St. Ann, in Jamaica, where he helped at a Sunday School and read scales for local fishermen who could not read for themselves. This is what prepared him for the community roles he would take on in the future, he said. Stennett is a fighter that has obtained considerable admiration and respect from community members. Tributes at the celebration called him a “great stalwart,” “God-fearing,” “humble,” and someone who is “quietly blazing the trail.”
Stennett self-published a book in 2008, which told the story of his life. The book, “A Bittersweet Journey,” describes the challenges he has faced and his personal highs and lows, including an incident as a teen in which he was struck by lightning and survived. The book covers the racism he encountered from his fellow churchgoers, his territorial army service, and becoming the borough’s first black councilor and eventually its first black mayor.