This year's theme, ‘Saluting our Sisters’ #WEMATTER’

Black History Month: Celebrating Black Women in UK Public Life

By Jun Kit Man, Digital Media Manager

Did you know that Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK since 1987? It all started when Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a Ghanaian analyst, thought it would be a fantastic idea to dedicate a month to celebrating the diverse histories and achievements of Black individuals and communities.

Over the years, it's grown into an annual occasion. It's a time when we delve into the rich stories, applaud the victories, and reflect on the struggles of Black people in the UK and beyond. Through this month, we acknowledge the significant yet often overlooked contributions of Black individuals to the UK's societal and cultural landscape. This Black History Month, not only educates but fosters a greater appreciation and respect among all communities, contributing to a more inclusive society.

This year's theme, ‘Saluting our Sisters’ #WEMATTER’, serves as a vital reminder of the contributions of Black women in various fields. The theme resonates with the ongoing societal dialogues surrounding equality, representation, and diversity. By celebrating and saluting Black women, Black History Month 2023 aims to prompt inclusive dialogues that can contribute to addressing the existing disparities and fostering a more equitable society.

The presence and contributions of Black women in the government, Parliament and the civil service are noteworthy. These individuals have navigated through various roles, marking their impact and establishing a legacy of resilience and accomplishment. Their engagements in these sectors demonstrate a progressive stride towards inclusivity and diversity within our public life.

Baroness Amos:

Baroness Valerie Amos served as the eighth UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Before her UN appointment, she served in a variety of roles within the UK government, including as Secretary of State for International Development and she was the first black woman to serve as a Minister in the British cabinet and in the House of Lords. She also has an extensive career in the public sector, academia, and the diplomatic service. Baroness Amos is known for her commitment to improving the lives of people in need, focusing on the humanitarian impact of conflict and natural disasters.

Baroness Benjamin:

Baroness Floella Benjamin is a well-known actress, author, television presenter, singer, businesswoman, and politician. She's a member of the House of Lords, where she focuses on issues related to children and education. Baroness Benjamin is also known for her advocacy on racial and gender equality issues. In 2010, she was introduced to the House of Lords as a Life Peer, becoming Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham. She has been actively engaged in various charitable causes and has a long-standing career in the entertainment industry before transitioning to public service

Baroness Dambisa Moyo of Knightsbridge:

Baroness Moyo has an extensive background in economics and international relations, which equipped her for her role as the Director of the London Office of the Open Society Foundations. Her expertise also shone through in her advisory role at Chevron and the Executive Directorship at the World Bank. She was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ and is the author of 4 bestselling books. Baroness Moyo's journey exemplifies a blend of academic excellence and practical engagement in global economic and social discourse

Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey:

Baroness Lola Young is a multifaceted individual with a rich background in cultural studies, acting, and literature. Elected to the Royal Society of Literature in 2020, Baroness Young has also served as the Head of Culture at the Greater London Authority. Her political journey began in 2004 when she became an independent Crossbench member of the House of Lords, focusing on modern slavery legislation and co-chairing the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion and Sport, Modern Slavery, and Human Rights.

While Baroness Young has been instrumental in advocating for modern slavery legislation and ethical practices within various sectors, Wendy Williams' profound examination of the Windrush scandal has spotlighted systemic shortcomings within the Home Office, thus propelling the discussion on policy reform to the forefront.

Wendy Williams CBE

The Windrush scandal was one of the notable systemic issues faced by Black communities in the UK. This scandal saw individuals from the Caribbean who were invited to Britain to help rebuild the post-war country being wrongfully detained, denied legal rights, and even deported.

Wendy Williams' role in the ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ highlights the potential for individual impact on systemic issues within governmental institutions. Her detailed review brought to light the injustices faced by the Windrush generation, fostering a crucial dialogue on policy reform.

The Windrush scandal revealed a troubling series of systemic failures, where individuals of the Windrush generation were unjustly treated due to policy errors. This necessitated a thorough examination and reform of existing immigration policies and practices.

Wendy Williams conducted a comprehensive review to extract lessons from this scandal. Her review included thirty recommendations aimed at improving the Home Office's approach towards immigration and its treatment of the Windrush generation. These recommendations spanned various measures including enhancing the understanding of Britain’s colonial history among the Home Office staff, establishing a strategic race advisory board, and reviewing the department’s diversity and inclusion training. The insights and suggestions provided by Williams have the potential to trigger significant policy reforms, aiming for a new era of inclusivity and fairness in the Home Office's operations. Through this review, Williams has contributed to the broader discourse on racial equality and justice within government circles, advocating for a more humane and just immigration system.