Black History Month launched with hundreds of events across the country this October, amid a new campaign encouraging people of all ages to share what they are proud to be on social media and other means of communication. In this blog, I would like to go ahead and share with you the names of those less well-known individuals right here in my community in the North East of England, whom I think you should know about. Why is that? Simply because time and time again, the contributions of black people continues to be overlooked. This goes double for black women; we have to navigate a patriarchal world that I can only say is undoubtedly the foundation of our lives and culture. I strongly believe that our contributions, both seen and unseen, to our families, communities, and the entire world, deserve more recognition. So, here I am paying tribute to the hard work and dedication of the black women in the community who have and continue to strive to make their families and the North East of England what it is today.
Sade Sangowawa is the founder and chief executive of Cultures a community interest company based at 66 Dovecot Street, Stockton which aims to advance the economic, social and cultural integration practices for disadvantaged BME, Refugee and migrant communities in the Northeast. She is also co-founder founder of YFT Consult a Health and Cultural awareness consultancy. She has designed various projects for schools and communities aimed at promoting social and economic inclusion of new communities. She is a strategic thinker with a passion to increase cultural awareness and entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities through collaborative work. One of such project is Cultures Homes aimed at providing affordable housing for Migrants while helping to develop skills needed in a new environment. She is the founder of the A Taste of Africa events and The Black History Youths awards.
Beverley Prevatt Goldstein was the first person from her school to attend Oxford University (B.A. Hons History, 1968-1971) and one of the first Black women to enrol at Oxford from a mainstream British school. Born in Trinidad in 1950 Beverley worked as a generic social worker (child care and mental health) with Berkshire and Oxfordshire, after qualifying in social work at New Barnet House. In Newcastle, Beverley combined a social work lectureship at Durham University with training and consultancy on equal opportunities and anti-racism. During this time, 1992-2000, as well as training foster carers nationally with the Fostering Network, training all the social work departments, probation services and large voluntary child care organisations in the North East, she published most of her 26 papers largely on anti-racism, feminism, the voluntary sector and, above all, on good practice with black children, including those with one white parent. She became the first CEO of BECON (Black Ethnic Community Organisations Network) and was chair of the North East of England African Community Association.
Degna Stone is originally from the Midlands and is now based in Tyne and Wear. She is a co-founder and former Managing Editor of Butcher’s Dog poetry magazine, a Contributing Editor at The Rialto, and an associate artist with The Poetry Exchange. She is a fellow of The Complete Works and was the recipient of a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2019. Magazine and online publications include: The Black Light Engine Room, DiamondTwig, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Ofi Press and The Rialto. Appearances include: Durham Book Festival, Newcastle Poetry Festival, StAnza International Poetry Festival, Stoke Literary Festival, Leeds Lit Festival and BBC Radio 3s The Verb. Her third pamphlet Handling Stolen Goods (Peepal Tree) explores issues of race and class, and her latest Weighing of the Heart (Blueprint) explores illness and love in the early years of a marriage.
Georgia May is a lo-fi soulful vocalist born and raised in Newcastle, with Nigerian roots. Her sound is defined by soothing timbres, exposing contrasting emotions of lust and heartache with a poetic lyrical narrative. Underneath Georgia’s stunning vocals lies palpable emotion; on each track the listener can sense an underlying thread of stories about friendships and people. Georgia is inspired by musicians such as Erykah Badu, India Arie, Ray BLK and Mahalia, and her album is reminiscent of the power and weight of releases like Lauryn Hill’s critically acclaimed debut. It’s clear that talking about her heritage is important in her music, and Georgia is actively engaged in curating gigs which celebrate African artists in her work with Newfro Music in Newcastle.
Lynne Sesinye Samwinga is a children’s author on a mission to teach kids about racial equality through the use of diverse characters in her books and resources. While bringing up four children of her own, she started to notice a lack of representation of all races in children’s literature. In 2016, Lynne launched her educational business, Mini Stewards, with the aim of publishing children’s books that promote being a responsible citizen. Her books include six diverse characters of all races, including white, African, and Asian, so children can see themselves in her books. After moving to the UK from Botswana aged 22 to study sports and exercise at Wolverhampton University, Lynne has experienced first hand the racial challenges that her community face and has since decided to take a different career path.
Hannabiell Sanders and Yilis del Carmen Suriel are the Ladies of Midnight Blue, an Afro-Latin percussion & brass duet and Founders of Harambee Passadia CIC – a cultural organisation, who create, organise, and manage activities and events showcasing music, dance, arts, theatre, and film of the African and Pan-African Diaspora. Hannabiell Sanders, an African American Jamaican born in New Jersey-USA, is a bass trombonist, an African and Latin hand percussionist, and a composer. She is a progressive music teacher who strives to teach her students different ways of using their voices to build and make unified communities through music. Yilis del Carmen Suriel, born in Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana, and moved to the United States at the age of nine, is a Printmaker, papermaker, a multimedia artist, performer, and musician. She is an educator, artist, and musician who believes in the power of people to make change. Together, they create a powerful and upbeat fusion which reaches deeply into trance drum rhythms to create a melodic sound that inspires dancing and audience participation. Their music consists of powerful and upbeat combinations of percussion, brass, vocal chants, and mbira arrangements.
Maria Nakimuli opened a salon on Shields Road, Byker and became one of the first black hairdressers in Newcastle. Years ago, I would move from salon to salon, feeling a bit peculiar, as people explained that they didn’t know how to do my kind of hair. It took me a few years to land safely with Maria, owner of Bella International Salon in Newcastle now renamed Maris Hair and Beauty Salon. A leader in Afro hair care, the salon serves clients in Newcastle, Gateshead and neighbouring cities. Although such salons are not necessarily rare anymore, they don’t come a dime a dozen like their European competitors. Personally, I’m just hyped that I am witnessing the Afro Hair industry in the North East coming such a long way!
Locardia Chidanyika‘s life changed dramatically when her aunt brought her to live in a bigger city, fought for her to be educated and eventually sent her to live with an uncle in England. When she arrived as a young woman with no English, she encountered an alien culture, where even items such as vacuum cleaners, bathtubs and washing machines came as a surprise. Education and a willingness to integrate unlocked a new world for Locardia, who began her new life by cleaning toilets and went on to obtain a master’s degree and become a successful businesswoman, running a recruitment company in Darlington. Using her experiences to inspire and empower, she set up Women Today, aiming to give African women an understanding of British culture.
Bukie Adebola-Ezeh helps women master their identity by harnessing their inner power to provide clarity on how they can balance their lives to gain freedom and build a path towards their vision of success. She focuses mainly on women as she believes we are the ones who tend to put ourselves at the back burner and forget who we really are as life happens. She adds; “transformation for our women means they get to meet their authentic self and then build their life of choice and freedom. Last year, Bukie was jointly announced as MONAT UK Gratitude Ambassador – a philanthropic movement behind MONAT Global, a worldwide organisation that pride itself on the naturally based products they create.
Mamie Ndaya Kasongo is a beauty therapist with a wide range of skills for treatments and cosmetics. Beauty therapy treatments are much more comprehensive than people often realise. This particular form of care goes beyond simple makeup and nails, although, of course, can include both. Mamie’s beauty therapy treatments include hair removal, tan application, facials, pedicures, oil massages, eyelash extensions, and eyebrow tints to mention but a few. I know, lots of other therapists can do the same too – but she is black and not many of them (if at all any) are available in my community. Myself and my fellow black women feel empowered when we see one of our own using products suited for our skin and filling a gap in the beauty industry that historically underrepresents us.
Isra Mohammed‘s experiences as a young black woman led her to campaign against racism and Islamophobia and earlier this year stood as the Labour candidate for the Gosforth Ward. As a 15 year old girl, Isra gave a speech during assembly to all 1,900 pupils at Kenton School in Newcastle explaining how her religion is one of peace. Since giving her presentation, Isra’s speech has changed some people’s attitudes. In 2016, she became an ambassador for the anti-racism organisation Show Racism the Red Card, which involved working closely with young children within schools and in community settings to help them understand all forms of inequality.
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, my 2021 Black History Month list of local women that I am proud of. At Teakisi, we are committed to supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the community and we’d like to encourage everyone to get involved, join our celebrations and take part in events and festivities to celebrate the achievement of many more others. You can also join us next week for Teakisi’s third annual BHM event that will be held at The Common Room. More details can be found here.