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BHM: Saluting the Black women who paved the way for me

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​On the final day of this year's Black History Month, Shani Newbold, Managing Partner, reflects and salutes the Black women that paved the way for her.

In the rhythm of a Nina Simone ballad or the haunting melodies of Billie Holiday, there is more than just music. There’s a story of resilience, a tale of pushing boundaries and, above all, a testament to the spirit of resistance. As we celebrate the achievements of Black women, I am awash with gratitude. The legacies these women left behind have been instrumental in laying the path for many, including myself.

Nina Simone, often dubbed the “High Priestess of Soul,” wasn’t just a singer; she was a fervent civil rights activist. Her song “Mississippi Goddam” was an anthem against racial segregation. Similarly, Billie Holiday, best known for her soul-stirring jazz, gave us “Strange Fruit,” a song that highlighted the horrors of racism and became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

The tapestry of Black female excellence extends beyond the well-known figures. Audre Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” championed the importance of intersectionality in feminism long before it became a buzzword. Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and author, gave us “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which delves deep into the complexities of racial and gender dynamics.

As I reflect on these trailblazers, I’m also drawn to the heroes closer to home. My grandmother, Pauline Veronica Harris, arrived during the Windrush era with a degree in cartography that wasn’t recognised here in the UK. Undeterred, she transitioned to the NHS, rising to the position of senior midwife. More than her professional achievements, she became an indispensable pillar in the black and Irish communities of Nottingham, offering essential community healthcare when it was most needed. Grandma Johnson’s (nee Harris) story is a beacon of determination, resilience and community service. She’s taught me that with determination and heart, we can overcome challenges and create positive change.

As we celebrate these women, from international icons to personal heroes, my heart swells with gratitude. Because of them, many of us find our voices, embrace our identities, and march forward, standing tall on the shoulders of giants.