By Youna Kabongo
The Black Women Conference brings together women of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent living in the UK. Now in its fifth year, the conference is a mix of debates and workshops surrounding issues of life away from the motherland.
This year, the theme was all about “Celebrating the Achievements of Women of Colour”, hosted at the prestigious University College of London on Saturday May 6th.
The Programme was divided into two discussion panels. The first was a heated debate on women of colour in the creative industries and education, followed by a debate about women of colour excelling in sports and business.
On the topic of lack of black lecturers in education, Dr Nicola Rollock, Deputy Director of the Centre of Research in Race and Education at the University of Birmingham said, “Around 4.5% of black academics are professors, so if you are black you are least likely to be a professor. These appalling figures needs to change. We need more people going into higher education and choosing this field as a career.”
Answering a question on the constraint from the system to allow a black-only community. Imriel Morgan, Chief Executive of the ShoutOut Network, brought the whole room into tears announcing that she is on antidepressants trying to keep it together.
“When we are trying to make a change, the system will come at us, the instrument of state fights against our solidarity,” she said.
“Giant like Apple iTunes tried to swallow us up for setting up a black British podcast, she added. It is really hard when you picture who are going against you. You just have to be resilient.”
UK LGBT Black Pride Co-founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah shared that white LGBT communities came against her for trying to set up a Black LGBT organisation.
“You will think that people who went through discrimination will be more understanding, but no!” she said, later receiving a standing ovation after announcing that she politely declined her Majesty the Queen’s offer of an MBE title for her service to black people.
“I could not accept a reward from the very people who have persecuted us and continue to refuse to acknowledge colonialism as a bad thing,” she said. “I should not be made to feel greater because the Queen recognised what I am doing for my people.”
West End Harry Potter and the Cursed Child actress Cherelle Skettee shared her feelings of loneliness as a “blactress”, being the only black person in most of her movie casts.
“My reading list is a bunch of dead white guys so I feel the need to create a network which differ from my working environment to keep sane. I reach out to other black actresses for advice and I have a group of friends, I meet regularly just to talk and laugh,” she said.
Actress and personal pole and Twerk trainer Kelechi Okafor stole the show of the second debate with her introductory dance move. She brought a more relaxing mood to rest of the evening, urging everyone to exercise in order to release adrenaline and stress. According to her, exercising is 20% physical and 80% inner soul.
“It was a really amazing day! So many things made sense when you realise that other people are experiencing the same as you,” said Relationship Coach and Author Ivona Gordon.
“This is what we need to revive solidarity between us, it was a positive atmosphere very enriching,” said Family Psychotherapist Liz Mensah.