LONDON — Dorothy “Cherry” Groce, best known as the Jamaican whose accidental shooting by the police sparked the 1985 race riots in Brixton, south London, was laid to rest Tuesday (May 24) in an emotional funeral in Brixton.
The 63-year-old Portlander and mother of eight, who was paralysed from the waist down by the shooting, passed away on April 24 at King’s College Hospital, after a brief illness.
Hundreds of mourners packed the Brixton Seventh Day Adventist Church, after a lively procession down Brixton High Street from the family home, complete with brass band and horse-drawn hearse.
Members of Mrs. Groce's large family were on hand to give tearful remembrances of the woman they all acknowledged to be the backbone of the family.
One after the other, they approached the podium to share their memories of “Miss Cherry”; painting a vivid portrait of a woman with a generous spirit, a curious mind and a sharp tongue who, despite a horrific twist of fate, still managed to live a full life without hate or bitterness.
Mrs. Groce, who moved to England in 1961, was shot in her bedroom on September 28, 1985, during a police raid targeting her son, Michael. Her son Lee, speaking at the funeral, remembered that doctors told her that they would have to amputate her legs to save her life, which she refused to allow.
The doctors also predicted a life expectancy of 10 years, which she bettered by sixteen years and went on to raise her eight children and many grandchildren, despite being confined to a wheelchair.
Her shooting outraged the community and kicked off two days of rioting and looting.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Anthony Johnson, who attended the funeral, said he was well aware of her stature and status in the community which, although she was a victim of circumstance, she carried with dignity.
Renowned Jamaican-born poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson, also gave a reading. Johnson, whose work has famously chronicled many of the social challenges and struggles of the African-Caribbean community in England, including the Brixton riots, chose instead to read the poem, “Jamaica Oman”, by theHonLouise Bennett-Coverley, as a tribute to the strength of women like Groce and Cynthia Jarrett, another African-Caribbean woman,who died in 1985 during a police raid meant for her son.
Mrs. Groce is survived by her mother, Euphemia Hamilton, eight brothers and sisters, eight children, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She was interred in Lambeth Cemetery.