MENTION the name Belle Black to anyone in the Grosvenor area and you’ll get a smile of recognition and hear nothing but praise for the late community activist.
Now her daughter Christina Black hopes with all her heart to continue that legacy and make her mum and her area proud. For after much soul searching and deliberating, Christina has decided to take her love for her community on to the next level by becoming a Sinn Féin City Hall rep. Christina has been co-opted on to Belfast City Council in place of the outgoing Councillor Mary McConville, who has stepped down for health reasons.
“I’ve been involved in community work for twenty-three years now. One of my earliest memories is of me at five years old walking down the Grosvenor holding a sign that said, ‘We want heat not cold feet’ – my mummy had me involved in community work from no age, it’s in my blood,” Christina told the Andersonstown News, smiling at the memory.
“I attended my first Belfast City Council meeting at the beginning of December. I was a bit nervous speaking, but I got through it. It was very interesting watching the dynamics of the Council.”
Christina identified some of the issues that pushed her over the line when it came to making the decision to enter City Hall.
“There are local issues that I want to make an impact on. I have given this a lot of thought and I discussed it with my husband before I made my decision, we both agreed that it’s the right path for me, I feel that it is a natural progression.
“I want to make a difference and I want to carry on the good work of Mary McConville. I live in this area so I am well aware of the local issues and I find them as much a challenge as everyone else.
“I believe you should feel safe in your area, you should feel happy, you should benefit from generated investment. There are huge developments happening in the city centre, these should be impacting the areas around it to a greater extent, and I feel I can represent people fully in that respect.”
Christina’s much-missed mother Belle was a renowned voluntary community worker – chairperson of the Roden Street Development Group at Grosvenor Community Centre.
“My mother taught me that community is everything, she also taught me that a community worker is never off duty. She never feared going the extra mile to ensure that people got what they deserved.
“I have been described as being parochial, which I don’t think is true, I am very open minded in my thinking. But I would agree I am there to represent local voters, so to a certain extent I must be parochial to genuinely bring that local voice forward.”
Christina continued: “I’m the kind of person who works hard, but my mother, well, she worked tirelessly. Her door never stopped, people always turned to her. She gave everything and if I can be half the woman she was I will be happy. I’m going to have to learn to manage my work-life balance, though.
“Since my mummy passed away I have tried to continue her good work, she showed me the ropes and I think she would be delighted to see me take on this role. At the end of the day I work for this community and I promise to do all I can to ensure the people get what they are entitled to.
“There’s a gap between the Grosvenor Road and the city centre that is crying out for investment. The Belfast Transport Hub is going in, which I believe will generate employment. I would love for our young people to be in a position to become engineers and the like. I would love to find a way to get them that training to elevate them to those amazing employment opportunities.
“I really want better for our people, I am so proud of being from Roden Street and I will never leave the Grosvenor Community Centre, it’s been too many people’s life’s work. I want to do my Council work to the best of my abilities in my own time.
“I’m going to try my hardest to do the best job possible for the people of this area and beyond.”