Celebrating Black History Month
By Shazma Ahmed, Shape Talent Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant
It is Black History Month, a time to celebrate Black history, heritage and culture. The historical and ongoing contribution of Black communities and diaspora to British society and the valuable contributions to change are apparent in every day. The theme of Black History Month 2022 is ‘Time for Change: Actions not Words’.
In spirit of celebrating Black contribution, success and breakthroughs, here are some of my inspirational Black women changemakers who have or are making strides in equity, justice and representation of Black women:
- Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was an American suffragette, journalist, feminist and activist. She was one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in the US. Her social activism began in 1884 and continued from then on, an even more hostile time for Black people in the United States, making her contribution all the more valuable and courageous. She faced racism from within the suffrage movement but resisted and persevered in her pursuit of rights for all women, including Black women.
- Tarana Burke
Everyone knows about the #MeToo movement, but how many know it was started by a Black woman? Tarana Burke started the movement in 2006 to create a space for women and girls to share their stories of sexual trauma. The impact of this global movement was and continues to be far-reaching and it accelerated the much-needed cultural change across professional spaces and society at large to address sexual misconduct, discrimination and holding perpetrators to account whilst establishing safer spaces for women and girls. The positive impact of Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement has undoubtedly contributed to the social consciousness around treatment of women and girls and encouraged global collective efforts along the way.
- Charlene Hunter MBE
Black women make up just 0.7% of the UK tech workforce. Well, it seems Charlene Hunter, founder of Coding Black Females, is looking to change that.Founded in 2017, the aim of the community is to bring together Black women developers and help them in their career progression and development and it is the largest community of Black women in tech in the UK. Charlene Hunter wrote her first line of code at just 10 years old and was recognised as one of the Most Influential Women in UK Tech 2021.
- Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks was an African American author and social activist. Her career started in the 1970’s and her courageous work explores the interconnectedness of social classifications of class, gender, sexual identity and race. She theorised that ignoring that interconnectedness would lead to the oppression of women as the overlap of sexism, racism and other forms of oppression shape the everyday experiences of women and the issues they face including economic insecurity and gender based-violence. She authored several books and other publications including ‘All About Love’ (my favourite of her works), ‘Ain’t I A Woman’, ‘Communion’ and ‘Feminism is for Everybody’.
- Nicola Pollock
Dr. Nicola Pollock is an acclaimed British academic and writer, her academic research and works include the exploration of race, gender and class intersections in the educational experiences of Black people in the UK. In 2018 there were just 25 Black British female Professors in UK universities – the smallest group of Professors in terms of both race and gender. Dr Nicola Pollock’s recent research report ‘Staying Power’explores the career experiences and strategies of UK Black female professors and the barriers they face in progressing their careers and the impact of this on their wellbeing. She has received several awards for her contributions and was recognised on the Powerlist of Britain’s most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage 2019. Dr Nicola Pollock is shining a much-needed light on the gross underrepresentation of Black women professors in the UK.
It is widely recognised and these examples demonstrate that Black people often experience the double burden of being subjected to racism while also bearing the expectation of responsibility of fixing it. In reality, the responsibility to dismantle the inequities of our societies sits with all of us, in putting our allyship into meaningful action. So, while we celebrate Black heritage, culture and contribution, we should also be thinking carefully about the personal part we play and the actions we can and should take to make a change for the better.
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