The Black Lives Matter movement has travelled the world for the last week for all the right reasons. For too long white privilege and racial inequalities have enabled a world that looks at the human race as ‘me’ and ‘them’ but it’s 2020 it’s time to see the world’s population simply as ‘we’. We are proud supporters of equality, diversity and are ready to see change. This week we did not feel it was right to create another fashion edit so instead have decided to use our platform in order to talk about inspirational black women throughout history.
A talented writer born in Senegambia who was sold as a slave to the Wheatley’s family in Boston USA became the first published African women in Britain and American and second African poet in history to publish a book. In 1773 she travelled along with her master’s son to England where she is said to have become the most famous ‘African woman on Earth’. It was in England that aristocratic patrons supported the publication of her work and she has an audience with the Lord Mayor of London.
It was the quality of her writing, contemporary evidence that an enslaved woman was capable of intellectual originality, that transformed the anti-slavery movement.
Originally from Jamaica Mary Seacole moved to England in 1854; she was an ambitious, patriotic woman who cared greatly for the people of her country. During the Crimean War (1853-1856) Mary asked the War Office if she could help wounded soldiers but they denied her request. Determined to help those who needed it most she decided to raise the money herself and travelled to Ukraine where she was able to fulfil her dream of helping British soldiers who had been injured in the war.
Despite her efforts to care for British soldiers, few knew her name and even less knew of her amazing dedication – however, this women’s legacy is one that should not be left to die and so we are very grateful to be able to honour her. In 2016 she was finally recognised here in London, a statue of her was built outside St Thomas’ Hospital.
An important figure in terms of civil rights. Between 1952 – 1979 Olive worked tirelessly to ensure the black community were given the same rights as others living in the United Kingdom. She is reported to have campaigned in South London and Manchester as part of her efforts to ensure her community were not treated differently due to the colour of their skin.
Before she passed away at just 27 years old she made history by becoming one of the founding members of groups like the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group. During her short life she contributed enormous amounts to black communities across the country.
A sporting legend who in 1984 become the first British black women to win an Olympic gold medal. She had an incredible 17-year career during which she remained at the top of her game in international javelin throwing. She has now retired from athletics, Tessa has continued to be in the public eye as a sports presenter on Sky and runs her own sports management company. In 1998 Tessa was awarded an OBE for her work with sports and charities.
A more recent figure of history is Diane Abbott who achieved a great milestone in the history of British politics after she became the first black women ever to be elected to Parliament in 1987. Diane has had an incredible career in politics which began in 1982 when she was elected to Westminster City Council. Just five years later she was voted into the House of Commons, it made her part of the first group of black and Asian people to sit in Parliament for almost a century, although back then it was only men who got the job. She still serves in Parliament to this day as one of the main politicians in the Labour party.
These milestones have not stopped Diane from wanting to achieve more; she started the London Schools and the Black Child programme, which aims to help black children to do well in school.
These are just a handful of the many black women, past and present, who have been influential in their own right. This week and for the foreseeable future, we are standing behind the human race and the need for equality amongst all people. With education, open-mindedness and determination we can make our society a better place. Please continue to educate yourself, sign petitions, protest and use your own platforms as a tool to changing the way we think about all people.