This beautiful summation below, republished with permission, is from Zahra Alijah, a Councillor for Fallowfield Ward, Manchester.
Deyika Nzeribe taken too soon
When I last saw Deyika, whose passing I still cannot believe or process, it was in great spirits, just before Christmas at that period when ‘work do’s’ are about to begin. We sat around the table, as we had throughout the year, fellow board members at the charity he chaired with a flair, diligence, terrific humour and a graciousness belied by the authority, challenge and assertiveness he exercised as the great public servant he was: his head shaking, eyebrow raised, fist occasionally thumping the table, the odd chuckle passing his lips whilst he ensured each item was scrutinised critically for the organisation he championed. He had a tremendous physical presence that is likely to be a void around so many other tables too, and which I cannot begin to imagine.
To Commonword, as he had with the diverse organisations and great causes to which he contributed, he dedicated himself with integrity and energy for social, political and cultural equality. Typically, he never mentioned his candidature in the coming Greater Manchester Mayoral elections, and not because we served different political parties, rather he focused on what was important for Commonword, enthusiastically arguing in a critical animated debate on what current arts agendas could mean to an organisation that had nurtured and promoted writers larger publishing houses consign to specialist categories.
It was a flair and dedication I admired from our first encounters, appropriately enough at meetings in and around Moss Side and Hulme – places we both loved – in the cause of social equality and anti-racism and later, for his other passion, environmentalism, as a board member of Manchester Environment Education Network, a charity educating children and young people on environmental issues. That, to me was Deyika, a man who knew that social justice and equality is a complex of causes and solidarities, including Black Lives Matters, for whom we marched together.
I remember, early on in our acquaintanceship, at an event he had co-organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the killing of Malcolm X, his swan-like cheerfulness as he greeted me warmly – and with so much to think about, still remembering to remind me of an upcoming meeting. The panel he had co-convened had been typically well-pitched offering a current as well as historical perspective, like Deyika – pulling back the curtains to reveal the present very much is part of a road into the past paved with injustice and activism, and that our tiny psychogeographical space as individuals in Manchester, is part of global events and history.
As is ‘dinner party’ etiquette we rarely spoke about our political party affiliations and when we did it was with respect and humour. I was – still am – proud to say Deyika was a comrade of mine. I’m also immensely privileged to have known and worked with him.
Deyika leaves a lasting personal legacy and I can only imagine his loss to his family and close friends. I am still in disbelief and shock at his passing – such a vibrant vital presence and lovely man. I can’t imagine Manchester’s campaigning and activist scene without him. What a loss.