Blog: Celebrating Black History Month at the HRA

Last updated on 24 Oct 2023

We're delighted to share a blog from our Chief Executive, Matt Westmore, to celebrate Black History Month.

Matt’s blog reflects on how we’ve marked the month and celebrates the Black community.

A headshot of Dr Matt Westmore

Matt Westmore, HRA Chief Executive

Black History Month, an annual celebration, gives us a chance to appreciate the incredible achievements, resilience, and cultural influence of Black people worldwide. It's a time to shine a light on often-overlooked stories and accomplishments that have shaped our society. It also prompts us to reflect on the progress we've made and the work still ahead on the road to equality and justice.

As we near the end of this year's Black History Month, I'm excited to summarise some of the ways the Health Research Authority has marked this important occasion.

The theme for this year, 'Saluting our Sisters,' highlights the essential role Black women have played in history, inspiring change, and building communities.

Our Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Network's blog, Saluting our Sisters, has paid tribute to inspiring Black women in healthcare and science. They began with the remarkable Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse who challenged gender and racial norms during the Crimean War. Then, they focus on Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, the UK's first sickle cell nurse, whose tireless dedication has reduced health disparities among Black and minority ethnic communities. Lastly, they celebrated Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, a British space scientist and science communicator who overcame challenges to inspire generations with her love for science. These incredible women serve as inspirations, embodying the enduring impact of Black women throughout history.

Nicola Gilzeane, Engagement Manager at the HRA, pays heartfelt tribute to the extraordinary achievements of Black women in her own family. She starts by highlighting her grandmother, a member of the Windrush generation, whose journey from Jamaica to the UK and remarkable resilience as the family's matriarch stand as a testament to her strength. Nicola also celebrates her younger sister Ramara, a dedicated doctor who showed remarkable resilience during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Nicola remembers her late aunt Lyn, a multi-talented woman who, alongside her husband, established one of the UK's first West Indian dance clubs and later became a trailblazer in social care and community issues. These stories serve as heartfelt testaments to the strength and contributions of Black women across generations during Black History Month.

The HRA's organisation-wide book club explored the short online book titled 'Caribbean Journeys.' Conducted between 2017 and 2018, Caribbean Journeys was a Nottingham-based community arts project that commemorated the 70th anniversary of the 1948 docking of the Empire Windrush. This project documented previously untold stories of Caribbean migrants living in Nottingham. Members from The Gedling Caribbean Elders group actively participated in a series of travel writing workshops, exploring poetry and prose related to Caribbean migration, with the aim of recording their journeys between the Caribbean and the United Kingdom. A subsequent writing workshop was later held at Nottingham Central Library as part of Black History Month.

In closing, I want to salute the dedicated HRA staff who have helped us salute our sisters and mark this year's Black History Month. Your commitment to celebrating Black history and telling often-overlooked stories about the accomplishments of Black women is to your credit and all our benefit. It has been wonderful to share inspiring stories and highlighted the cultural richness of our diverse community.

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