Stormzy awarded Freedom of the Borough by Croydon together with 110-year-old community champion

Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo – better known by his stage persona Stormzy – has said he was honoured to accept the Freedom of the Borough from Croydon Council.

The inspirational rapper and singer-songwriter was born and raised in the South London borough and was given the award in recognition of his dedication to music, philanthropy, youth empowerment, mental health issues and services to the borough’s diverse communities.

The other recipient was community stalwart Merah Louise Smith, known locally as Mumma, who was awarded in recognition of her lifelong service to others working in the NHS and for her achievement as one of the borough’s oldest residents.

Stormzy was unable to attend the Town Hall Council meeting to collect the award but sent a video message of thanks. He said: “I just want to say how much of an honour it is to be awarded with the Freedom of the Borough award. I know that this is the highest accolade, is so prestigious and is the highest honours from the borough of Croydon, so I am so grateful.

“It feels like a full circle moment. I think anyone who knows me knows that I was born in Croydon, was raised in Croydon, went to school in Croydon, all of my friends and family are in Croydon, so to be awarded with the Freedom of the Borough means a lot to me. I thank the whole community and the people at the Council who made this possible.”

Mumma is a great, great-grandmother who was part of the Windrush generation when she arrived in Croydon from Jamaica in the 1960s. She’s lived in Croydon Old Town for more than 40 years and worked in mental health until retiring.

She’s a member of Thornton Heath Evangelical Church and credits her faith for her longevity, as well her commitment to keeping fit and healthy through dancing, going to the gym and kickboxing at the YMCA – all of which she only gave up when she was 105 years old.

She’s also dedicated her time to her family in her senior years, looking after her great-great-grandchildren so her grand-daughter could follow in her footsteps to train to be a mental health nurse.

Mumma was presented with the citation of her award surrounded by friends and five generations of family at a special ceremony at Croydon Town Hall, where she also received Stormzy’s certificate on his behalf.

Stormzy sent a message to Mumma in his video message. He said: “I send a massive shout out to Mumma because you are amazing, you are phenomenal. You love your exercise, so we have a few things in common, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as legendary as you are so congratulations to you Mumma, and thank you Croydon.”

Former Civic Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Alisa Flemming, who nominated Stormzy and Mumma for the awards during her tenure, said: “As the daughter of parents who came from Jamaica, to have our oldest resident at 110 years old in Croydon come from the same place makes me very proud. I’m proud of who she is and the sacrifices that her generation made.

“Mumma worked for many years in service to others in the NHS, which really speaks about the measure of the woman that she is. When I asked her what the secret to long life was, she said, she always tries her best to go to church on a Sunday and took up kick-boxing when she retired.”

She added: “Stormzy’s commitment to empowering others speaks to the measure of him as a man and we celebrate his successes.”

Jason Perry

“Mumma is clearly an amazing lady who has done so much for her family, but also for Croydon, in the service of others. We all aspire to serve others and I think Mumma is the epitome of someone who has served her community and her family. A huge congratulations to Mumma for this well-deserved award.

“Stormzy is well known as a son of Croydon and, while he’s a national and international star, he has never forgotten where he is from and always gives back to the borough. He’s an enormous inspiration to our young people and is proud of his hometown, as we are proud of his continued success. We’re delighted to award him this highest civic honour.”

Jason Perry, Executive Mayor of Croydon

2024-01-22T11:27:47+00:00 May 19th, 2023|Recent news|