Helen Levy, International Entrepreneur

This is me on my way to an adventure in the Big Apple

on my way to an adventure in the Big Apple sometime in the 1980s

Hear of God’s mighty deeds and wonders

When I had to leave my marriage in 1980 I went to live in New York City to rebuild my life with my children. I got a job in Manhattan and I was going into work every day by train.

One day I looked at the other people in the carriage and I thought, you know, if you’re not careful, it’s just ‘money, money, money’ and then you retire and die. I wanted to enjoy my young children while I still had the energy.

I left my job and I decided to try my hand at something I was interested in. I loved clothes. What about retail, I thought? I met a young Indian couple in New York and I went and bought some stuff off of them – men’s clothes, suits, jeans, casual wear, dress wear  – and then I took it home and sold it to people I knew in London.  It was the American style in the 1980s and the black guys back in Hackney liked the look – the ‘click’ suit, cotton with leather bits, loud and outrageous. I couldn’t believe how excited people got about this stuff that I had brought over.

So I invested the money I got and went back got some more.

Do you remember when they had “the frontline” in Hackney, those guys in Sandringham Road selling the drugs, hiding behind the shop fronts? They had the money and they wanted the latest gear: smart suits, rayon suits, Travel Fox shoes, the whole look. They knew I’d be there every Friday.

Truth is, I made a lot of money selling my stuff down at “the frontline”. Quite soon I was importing it all in boxes, paying my duty, and they was giving me credit in New York. What I’d do was take the money that I owed to the Indian couple to a family member who was living in Shepherd’s Bush.

Then one Christmas they shot the Indian man in his shop. They shot him dead. It was really really sad. Heartbreaking. His wife, she was carrying his first child. She had to shut the shop down and move to Long Island.

Thing is I had some money that I owed for the clothes. So I went over to see the widow and take her the money. When I got there and met the wife, she said that since he had died she had all these people coming to her and saying that she owed them money. Money money money!

She said that I was the only person who had come and said that I’ve got money for her.  That meant a lot to her.

Through my hard work I’d managed to turn the money around. The money that had gone to pay for the drugs went to help the widow on Long Island. I often think of her and wonder how she got on. You see, with a bit of effort and a bit of luck, what my preacher calls grace, you can make a difference.

And this is my righteous testimony.



My Dad came over from St Vincent in 1957 – here’s the photo from his passport when he came to London

Billy Ocean would come and visit my dad lots - he was really into the pans


Billy Ocean would come and visit my dad lots – he was really into the pans. That’s me on the left in the glassesHere's my dad at the Notting Hill CarnivalHere’s my dad at the Notting Hill Carnival in the 1970s  – he’s the one in the suit playing the pans

Big hair in the 1980s


Big hair in the 1980s – checking out my Duran Duran look

My last photo of me and my mum before she died


My last photo of me and my mum before she died. I looked after her and my dad in the last years of their life.