Another year another Black History Month that is once again full of events, conferences and celebrations to mark the awesome and amazing black people we have in our communities. Black people who day in and day out continue to make Britain what is it today, but seldom get a mention. Like in the first blog that was shared this exact date last year, I once again give you another 11 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. You’ve probably guessed that this is now going to be an annual thing… my reason? Because the contributions of black people continue to be overlooked. Our families deserve to see us celebrated and our communities should know us! So, for the second time, here I am paying tribute to the hard work and dedication of the black women in my community right here in the North East of England who have and continue to strive to make our region what it is today.
Chantal Herbert is the founder and director of Sister Shack, feminist led Community Interest Company (CIC) that focuses on working with and promoting women and non-binary entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, musicians and DJs. The CIC also highlights and discusses issues faced by women and non-binary people and aims to provide information and guidance. Chantal’s audio production company Sister Sounds is also a Black-led North East based audio production company that produces radio features, podcasts and immersive audio experiences. Their work has been described as confident, “impressionistic and radiophonically musical”. Chantal notes that there were very few ‘visible’ women in the North East getting DJ work and wanted to change that. “If I’m not visible, how many other women aren’t visible?”
Odeth Richardson is the Chair of BAOT/RCOT Council in the recent ballot. Odeth will become the 21st Chair of the British Association of Occupational Therapists/ The Royal College of Occupational Therapist (BAOT/RCOT) Council. Starting her career at Hillingdon Hospital, Odeth has been an occupational therapist for over 22 years. Currently, she is Head of Occupational Therapy at the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Odeth is also a trustee of the Great North Children’s Hospital Foundation and a Critical Friend to Glasgow Caledonian and Northumbria Universities looking at improving the representation and experiences of underrepresented occupational therapy students.
Dr. Feyi Awotona is a former consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist with over 24 years experience in the NHS, now working as a management consultant. Feyi is passionate about social justice and good governance. She believes that service users’ needs and their experience of using services should be at the heart of health and social care provision. Feyi launched a race discrimination claim against her employers who had sacked her for gross personal misconduct but an employment tribunal accepted her argument that the race discrimination claim she was preparing was the primary reason the disciplinary charges were brought against her. She told the tribunal that the trust’s medical director had remarked that “because I was a woman and black there was a limit to what I could do at South Tyneside.”
Busola Afolabi has been working for Success4All for over 9 years as Operations Manager. Success4All is a small education charity that exists because not all children are given an equal opportunity to succeed. Their aim is to prepare children and young people for a brighter future. Her most proudest achievement is the team environment that she has cultivated. Busola has a Psychology and Drama background. And as strange as that sounds, she says it’s the perfect educational mix for her! What drives her is knowing she has the opportunity to open doors for young people that were closed for her. As a child she never would have described herself as a leader. But each day she strives to embody a leader who is compassionate, open and who is accountable.
Natalie Mona Ibu is artistic director and joint chief executive of Northern Stage. Previously artistic director of tiata fahodzi (Dec 2014- 2020), the only Black-led theatre company in the UK with a sole focus on new work, during her time there Natalie increased the company’s activity levels including seven productions in five years, revived tiata delights in a reimagined format as a talent development festival at Watford Palace Theatre, presented work during the summer festivals, brokered the company’s first international collaboration and opened up talent and career development pathways for African heritage individuals. For her Northern Stage debut, she directed Jim Cartwright’s Road. Previously she was the Creative Producer for In Good Company, launching the regional artist development programme in the East Midlands for Derby Theatre, Embrace Arts Leicester and Create Mansfield.
Afi Dometi is a director of Africawad Recycling, a social enterprise supporting women in finding work and volunteering opportunities in the North East, as well as promoting girls’ education in Africa. Not only does Africawad reduce the number of garments heading straight for landfill, their Women for Recycling Project also provides valuable work experience as well as combatting social isolation and boosting self-esteem. As well as helping the planet through recycling, Africawad teaches women how to sell clothes online and work on their customer service talents to create transferrable skills and move on to full-time jobs. Proceeds from the project also go towards sponsoring the education of girls across the globe, boosting work prospects both here and abroad.
Dr. Louisa Uchum Egbunike is an Associate Professor in African/Caribbean Literature. She is currently spearheading a multifaceted project, which has included an international conference, a touring art exhibition and a documentary film series. Louisa is also collaborating with the Nigeria Arts Society UK (NASUK) in curating the Legacies of Biafra exhibition. In 2016, the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) selected her as one of their ‘New Generation Thinkers’. This has seen her feature on radio programmes and create content for BBC Radio 3, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Arts Online. She recently contributed to the BBC Four documentary film on African Literature, Africa Turns the Page, produced by, David Olusoga.
Maria Baraddas is the owner of Goreti, a vegan Portuguese food service with authentically Portuguese flavours. From traditional dishes to pastries and desserts, Maria uses only the highest quality, organic ingredients. The seeds for her business idea were sown almost 20 years ago when she needed to find and create recipes suitable for her son who has the auto-immune disorder coeliac disease, meaning he can’t digest gluten, as well as severe allergies to other foods including eggs, dried fruit, nuts and dairy. Maria is always coming up with new recipes and with a degree in hotel management gained in the Algarve. At Goreti, they also serve English breakfast, cheese burgers, toasties, sandwiches and more.
Ngozi Lyn Cole is a self-employed coach and leadership catalyst. She is a director of GLT Partners Ltd, which is a support agency for charities, social enterprises, community businesses, public and private companies. In addition, Ngozi holds non-executive positions including deputy chair of the appointments committee of the general pharmaceutical council; South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust; EY Foundation and Millfield House Foundation. Ngozi spent 18 years at the National Lottery Community Fund holding several roles, ending up as England Director until February 2017. In that role, she was responsible for the full range of programmes across England, overseeing over 500 employees and a budget of £450m per annum. Prior to the Big Lottery Fund, Ngozi worked in community development, education, urban regeneration, and housing. Married with three children, Ngozi was named in the 2016 New View 50 list as one of the top 50 most influential Black and Minority Ethnic people working in the public sector.
Professor Donna Chambers is a Professor of Tourism at Sunderland University. Prior to joining Sunderland, She was employed at the University of Surrey and at Edinburgh Napier University. Donna also spent five years in the Ministry responsible for tourism in Jamaica prior to coming to the UK in 2000. She holds a Masters degrees in International Relations and Tourism Management and a PhD in Tourism from Brunel University. She is also a Resource Editor for Annals of Tourism Research, and a Managing Editor for Leisure Studies and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Donna was also an external member of the Central University Research Ethics Committee of the University of Oxford between 2013-2021. She has published numerous journal articles, books, book chapters and presented at many national and international conferences some as a keynote speaker. She a passionate advocate for equity, justice, anti-racism and anti-discrimination not only in terms of research and pedagogical practices, but within the university community and the wider society.
And that concludes this year’s 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 fourth annual Black History Month event that will be held at The Common Room. More details and how to book can be found here