Heather Nelson was the chief executive of Black Health Initiative, a community engagement organisation working towards equality of access to health and social care within Leeds and the surrounding areas for disadvantaged communities.
The organisation works alongside the NHS, Leeds City Council, schools and other voluntary sector organisations across the city.
A joint statement was issued on Friday (July 14) by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Al Garthwaite, the Leader of Leeds City Council, Coun James Lewis and the council’s CEO Tom Riordan that read: “We have been shocked to hear this incredibly sad news.
“Heather was a wonderful person who worked tirelessly to make a positive difference to people’s lives, her community and the wider city. We send our deepest condolences to her family and community, and at the appropriate time we will work with Heather’s family to celebrate her remarkable life.”
A tweet was also issued by Inspire North, a parent organisation of various charities, that read: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Heather Nelson. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
“Heather made a massive positive difference to the local community and city of Leeds. A true community warrior!”
Ms Nelson was also praised for her work within the arts, having helped develop the Black Music Festival into being “Europe’s biggest free open air reggae concert” and also being CEO of the Legacy Awards, which celebrated the contribution made by the Black British communities in Leeds.
The CEO & creative director of Leeds 2023, Kully Thiarai said: “She was such a cultural powerhouse and did so much for the city of Leeds. Her loss will be keenly felt by so many. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very sad time.”
Ms Nelson had also recently worked with Power Up, which helps to support black people in the UK music industry. A spokesperson said: “As an unrelenting force for good, Heather played a key role in the network, championing fellow participants and supporting others into the network.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Heather’s family and the many friends she made among the music community and the black community in Leeds and beyond.”
A statement was also issued on the page of the popular Leeds music venue the Brudenell Social Club that read: “A genuine individual who broke down cultural barriers. Forging real projects that impacted so many in Leeds.
“Some get awarded honours. Heather deserved all them & much more!”
A statement from the Race Equality Network read: “We are very sad to hear about the passing of Heather Nelson, she was a phenomenal member of the black community who always fought for equality and equity. We have lost a great colleague.”
Nik Peasgoog, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “I spoke to her only recently about our plans to grow our diversity & inclusion within the Women and Girls Alliance Leeds.
“She was larger than life, didn’t suffer fools and will be sorely missed.”