Black History Month offers us a meaningful opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contributions of Black people to our society. This year’s theme, ‘Saluting our Sisters’, honours the Black women who have left a permanent mark on history, paving the way for progress and empowerment for Black people in the UK and beyond.
In this blog, Rebecca and Beverly salute some inspirational black women, past and present, who have made significant contributions to history and continue to inspire positive change.
Sharon and Afiya Amesu
Sharon and Afiya Amesu are a mother-daughter duo based in Manchester. Both are barristers, TEDx speakers, and co-founders of She Leads for Legacy, a phenomenal initiative championing the acceleration of Black female professionals to reach senior leadership roles.
Each year, She Leads for Legacy host their Empowered to Lead conference which features keynote speeches, musical performances, and panels of inspirational Black female professionals and allies discussing their career journeys and how to advance the equalities agenda. A few of our staff recently attended the conference for the second year running and had a plethora of takeaways.
Dorothy Kuya (1933 – 2013)
Dorothy Kuya was born in Toxteth, Liverpool to a West African father and English mother in the height of extreme institutional and societal racism. She became involved in activism at an early age, attending her first Young Communist League (YCL) meeting at the age of thirteen.
Eventually, Dorothy became Merseyside’s first Community Relations Officer in the 1960s. She was a key figure in the community, campaigning relentlessly as a race-equality educator and establishing what is now the International Slavery Museum.
National Museums Liverpool have recently commissioned Writing on the Wall to develop a Dorothy Kuya Archive. Read more about it here.
Gee Walker is the founder of the Anthony Walker Foundation, a charity established after the racially motivated murder of 18-year-old Anthony Walker in Huyton, Liverpool in 2005.
Rather than allowing her pain to fester into bitterness, Gee chose the path of forgiveness and now tirelessly advocates for unity, understanding, and racial harmony through the foundation. Anthony’s name lives on through the work of the charity, which aims to tackle racism and hate crime through education and victim support services.
Gee’s journey of forgiveness, resilience, and activism is completely admirable.
The Anthony Walker Foundation is currently offering 10 bursaries for Black, Asian, and ethnic minority undergraduate and postgraduate law students. Find out more here.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda is a Nigerian best-selling author whose work explores a myriad of themes such as feminism, grief, and Nigerian identity. Her novels are critically acclaimed and have garnered readers from all over the world, including Beyoncé, who featured an excerpt of Chimamanda’s book ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ (which originated as a TEDx Talk) in her smash-hit, ‘***Flawless’.
A personal favourite is ‘Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’, a heartfelt letter from Chimamanda to her friend, a new mother, providing her with practical tips on how to raise her baby girl to become an empowered, independent woman in today’s political climate.
Liverpool-based Hayli has performed nationally and internationally since the age of 12.
Hayli’s passion for working with communities and using music as a tool to improve mental health, well-being, and confidence has led to her becoming an award-winning choir director and vocal coach.
Currently, Hayli is a Fellow Music Lecturer at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). She is also the lead vocal coach for Wavertree Community Gospel Choir, which includes people from different ages, backgrounds, and faiths coming together to spread positivity through song and praise. The choir is held every Thursday 6pm-7pm in the Church hall on Earlsfield Road in Wavertree, Liverpool.
In honour of her work, Hayli was shortlisted for Merseyside Women of the Year 2023. She was also involved in the production of the UK’s first gospel festival, Liverpool Gospel Music Festival 2023.
You can visit Hayli’s Instagram page for performance and vocal lesson inquires.
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883)
Isabella Baumfree, who later changed her name to Sojourner Truth, was born into slavery in 1797. She was sold and bought four times, and was subjected to horrific violence and physical labour, as other enslaved people were.
Sojourner became involved in the growing anti-slavery movement and the women’s rights movement in the 1840s and 50s. At the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, she delivered her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, which is now regarded as one of the most famous speeches in American history.
In the debates surrounding suffrage and abolition, Black women were not considered worthy of the same respect as white women or Black men. Sojourner’s speech highlighted the intersection of blackness and womanhood, emphasising the need for equal rights for all women, regardless of colour.
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”
Sojourner continued to fight for women and African Americans until she died in 1883.