Black History Month: Celebrating inspirational Black women from The National Lottery Community Fund
Black History Month 2023 offers a significant opportunity to celebrate inspirational Black women, their achievements and the contributions they’ve made to communities. In this blog, we showcase Black women from across The National Lottery Community Fund, the vital role they have played in the voluntary and charity sector, and what Black History Month means to them.
Kianna Leader, Funding Manager
“To me, Black History Month is a celebration that not only recognises the incredible contributions and remarkable achievements of Black people, which are often overlooked, but also highlights the magnitude of inequalities and barriers that we continue to confront and overcome on a daily basis.
“It provides a dedicated space and unique opportunity to listen and learn about the experiences of Black people from various backgrounds, going beyond the confines of the Black British experience and creates a platform for greater understanding and solidarity.
“I’m proud to work for an organisation that has openly recognised there are areas it can and should do better in. It is such a crucial first step to making meaningful change. The Phoenix Way, which I am privileged to be a part of, is an opportunity to ensure that we reach new organisations led by and for Black and ethnic minority communities. In turn, this will create a great legacy and improve our learning and relationships between funders and organisations, that may have faced huge barriers to accessing funds.
“One of my key achievements at the Fund has been working with our Youth Voice teams to ensure they were empowered and given opportunities to challenge and influence, particularly during our strategy renewal process – read my previous blog about this work.
“To advocate for ourselves as Black women and uplift each other, we should be vocal about our achievements, ensuring that our successes are recognised and acknowledged, leaving no room to discredit our contributions.
“A small action all communities can do today to make a big difference is look up ‘misogynoir’ - a term coined by Moya Bailey, which explains the intersectionality between racism and misogyny and highlights the distinct barriers that Black women encounter.”
Kalema White, Business Manager
“Black History Month for me is an opportunity to celebrate my culture and what it means to be Black and British. It’s important for us to showcase our history and who we are, because so much has been done to paint Black people in a negative light and to erase us from history altogether.
“Just like Black History Month, celebrating Windrush pioneers serves to highlight a part of history that has been swept under the carpet. A generation of people were invited to come to a country a million miles from their own, not just in distance but culture and climate. They experienced many things that they shouldn’t have and in spite of all of this, they still contributed to this country. They didn’t withhold their skills, their wisdom or intellect, so why shouldn’t we commemorate them?
“I am everything I am because of what my grandparents did when they came to the UK, the sacrifices they made and the incredible job they did at shielding us from the hostilities of the outside world. They never used it as an excuse not to get on in life and they taught us to do the same.
“I am proud I can show up at the Fund as me, that my colour and culture has never been an issue whilst working here. I feel valued, listened to and have had opportunities for growth and development. I am also proud to see the Fund evolving and working collaboratively with and listening to staff to address any inequalities we have.
“Being part of the Fund’s B.A.M.E. Network Main Committee has been one of my key achievements here – it’s helped me to find my voice. The B.A.M.E. Network is not just a space where we meet to discuss issues that are affecting us, but also where we collaborate and come up with ideas on how things can be different and what we can do to implement change.
“I encourage all communities to listen to Black women’s voices, acknowledge their contributions, make no assumptions - in fact challenge your assumptions - look for them ‘in the room or at the table’ and bring them in if they are not there already. Get involved in the Black History Month celebrations, read the stories that are told and then share them with someone you know.”
Fiona Joseph, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Manager
“As a former history teacher and author of historical books, I believe it’s vitally important that we study Black history in all its breadth and diversity. Black History Month is a valuable opportunity for learning and it’s worth celebrating the individual stories and the collective contribution made by the Windrush generation. It’s such an important part of UK history and shapes what the UK is today.
“I’m proud to work here because the Fund has an amazing purpose and an ambitious new equity-based funding strategy – read about this in a previous blog. To me, this means having people who are equipped and empowered to do their best work; confident and inspirational leadership; culture, policies and processes that are inclusive and equitable; a bold EDI strategic vision; and creating the most effective organisational structure for us to harness and release this wonderful collective energy.
“Working in the EDI field means dealing with the consequences of structural and systemic inequities in society, whilst at the same time trying to drive organisational and societal change. It’s full of complexity and requires a lot of deep thinking. In my role, I am pleased to have brought together different people and groups to engage with EDI issues through healthy and respectful dialogue. It's also great to see the Fund’s EDI Colleague Forum working with energy and commitment to make recommendations to improve our organisation.
“There are times when Black women are not automatically ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ in the way that non-Black people are. There’s a lot of academic research on Black women’s agency (or lack of) in the workplace to back this up - such studies are frustrating, if not depressing, to read. Happily, self-advocacy is within your control, and the best form of advocacy comes from within. Have confidence in who you are, the values you hold, and know what attributes you bring to the table, whether that’s at work or in personal relationships. So, how I choose to show up in this world – with positivity, enthusiasm and a degree of fearlessness – is within my sphere of control.
“I would like to share some general principles for kind and inclusive behaviours that can be applied to Black women and to everyone… Offer words of encouragement and appreciation or a sincere compliment – it could make all the difference to someone’s morale and motivation. Give credit for a person’s ideas, knowledge and wisdom – especially when it’s come from lived experience or learning. Listen first, with empathy and in a non-judgemental way - being truly heard can make a person feel more empowered.”