Celebrate our Sisters in Black History Month

    October brings with it a chance to reflect on the diverse histories of our citizens of African or Caribbean decent and celebrate the achievements of black members of the community here in the UK.
    The month has been marked here for over three decades and, this year, the theme is: ‘Celebrating our Sisters, Saluting our Sisters and Honouring Matriarchs of Movements.’ Organisers say that ‘black women have been at the heart of social justice movements throughout our history, but their achievements have frequently been neglected or forgotten.’
    So here at the Housing Diversity Network we have picked out four great black women to celebrate; two iconic historical figures and two inspirational characters from the present.

    Mary Seacole 1805 to 1881
    A statue of Mary Seacole outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London was not erected until 2016, but she has been well known by health workers for over a century. Mary was born and raised in Jamaica before travelling to England in 1854 where she trained as a nurse and applied to the War Office to help her new country’s soldiers who were fighting in the Crimean War. Her request was denied but that didn’t deter Mary, who raised the money herself to travel to the Ukraine region where she cared for wounded British soldiers.

    While Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, has been fêted for over a century for the wonderful work she did during the war, only recently has Mary been elevated as a heroine of Crimea.

    Lilian Bader 1918 to 2015

    Another great black woman who worked in the British Military was Lilian Bader, one of the very first black women to join the Armed Forces, starting as a canteen worker at an army base n Yorkshire. Lilian had a thirst for knowledge and a pride in her work, as the representative third generation of her family to work in the British Army. She trained as an instrument repairer before being elevated to the role of leading aircraftwoman, earning herself the rank of Corporal.

    Lilian’s constant drive to improve herself led her to retrain after she left the army, earning a degree from London University to become a much loved teacher.

    Jessica  Inaba

    In 2022 Jessica Inaba made history when she became the first black, blind and female barrister, and we’re so proud to have her here in the UK. She completed her university degree by Braille before joining the bar last year; and she said her biggest challenge was to overcome people’s assumptions: “People either assume too much or too little,” she said, adding: “Mt support network, however, is amazing. My parents, my older sister and my younger brothers have always been there.”

    The 23 year old history maker from Camden is an inspiration for anybody facing undeserved difficulties: “There’s a triple-glazed glass ceiling,” she said. “I’m not the most common gender or colour, and I have a disability, but by pushing through I’m easing the burden on the next person like me.”

    Yvette Williams

    A prominent campaigner on the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign, Yvette witnessed the fire at Grenfell Tower and she has played a huge role in the campaign for accountability and justice for Grenfell victims. Yvette has used her voice and passion to promote equality and opportunity for the black community as a founding member of Operation Black Vote, a campaign to encourage black people to have their voices heard in a democracy. Featured in the British Vogue’s Remarkable Activists list, Yvette was awarded the MBE in 2012 for her services to criminal justice after her tireless work as part of the prosecution team to convict two murderers in the case of Stephen Lawrence.

    So let’s celebrate our sisters this month; and next month…and the month after.

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