Celebrating the fine and fabulous sistah's
BMH UK celebrates International Women's day with a 'shout out' to the sisters who are already 'making it happen' doing incredible work in the community, nationally and international, all of which in one way or another assists in helping the stakeholder groups that BMH UK has been set up to serve.
This list of 30 fine and fabulous women is in no particular order, because every sister listed here is brilliant and beautiful in their own right, we give a massive 'shout out' to:
Mother in the struggle
Alicia Spence 'a mother in the struggle' and services director of the African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) she has dedicated her whole career to serving one of society's most excluded and vulnerable groups .
She has ensured that dignity and respect underpin the services she leads making this services an example of excellence statutory services across the country would do well to follow.
Elizabeth Pears editor of The Voice, Britain's leading black newspaper's support of BMH UK's work has ensured that every campaign and initiative we have worked on over the years has been featured to this weekly publication so that our messages always reach the heart of the community that we have been set up to serve.
Rt Hon Theresa May MP Home Secretary, has done more to raise the profile of the disproportionate numbers of people from the UK's African Caribbean communities who are subject to detention under the Mental Health Act, than any other politician in Government.
While mental health is not part of the Home Office's remit, her commitment to see the inappropriate reliance of mental heath providers on the police to plug a care gap for those in distress either in the community or even more disturbingly on hospital words has ensured the key campaigning issues BMH UK have been speaking out about for years can no longer be ignored by the establishment.
Senior figure in the Diaspora
Prof Verne Shepherd, one of the most senior figures of the Diaspora in the international human rights arena and previous chair of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
Her leadership of this group was a key driving force behind the newly announced launch of the UN Decade on People of African Descent. She has made time to give her support to the work of BMH UK and ensured our key concerns are prioritised on this UNWG agenda.
This sister is a walking example of a woman who will not allow any obstacle to get in her way in her fight for justice for the Diaspora around the world.
Maureen Lewis, Wassal Black Sisters Collective (WBSC), her heart for the community and her commitment to serve has ensured that there is support and a safe place for those from the UK's African Caribbean communities who use mental health services who would otherwise be on the street or worse, her leadership of this organisation has offers a lifeline for many adults and children who benefit from the ranges of support services that WBSC provide.
Jenny Martin, chair and international officer at UNISON Staffordshire West Midlands Probation, a unionists with a sterling track record for fighting for the rights of the stakeholder groups BMH UK has been set up to serve, long before the bandwagon assembled itself around these issues. This woman of integrity continues to use her office and contacts to ensure that BMH UK's key messages on the many grave human rights concerns of those that BMH UK advocated for reach the right networks.
BMH UK's concerns on international human rights agenda
Matilda MacAttram, director BMH UK continues to lead the only black led community based human rights campaigns agency set up to advocate for the rights of those from the UK's African Caribbean communities that come in to contact with mental health services.
She has singlehandedly brought this issue to the international human rights community and ensured that is it now firmly on their agenda and continues to overcome often quite vehement opposition to keeping this on the political agenda in the UK.
Amina Ofosu editor of Diss Nation, her passion for justice and commitment to share the truth has made this multi talented sisters work through her multi-media, campaigns a source of inspiration and information that the community cannot do without. This is a sister we are proud to have in our corner - nuff respect.
Sonia Meggie founder of Inspirational You has used her brains and beauty to educate and inspire a generation of young men and women to aspire to achieve everything they ever dreamed they could be. You lead by example, we are proud to call you our sister.
Esther Stamford a leading light in the reparations movement, her expert knowledge of the history, legal frameworks and rights and dues to the survivors of the Maafa is unparallelled. Her indomitable spirit is assurance that what has become her life's work will bear abundant fruit in this generation.
Fierce sense of fashion and heart for the people
Cllr Sandra Samuels, a sister with fierce fashion sense and a politician with a heart for the people. Her relentless dedication and efforts to ensure that the interest of societies most marginalised groups are not sidelined in what can become a political fracas is to be commended.
Dr Vivienne Lyfar Cisse founder and chair of the national NHS BME health network in the UK is by far one of the most intelligent women of our generation. A scientist by background has set up the only network of it's kind in the country to influence change and ensure black and minority ethnic health service staff to operate on an equal basis to other workers.
Rachel Barclay founder and director of the Two Way Street The Two Way Street (TWS) runs the only black African and Caribbean Mental Health Social Firm in Bristol supporting people who have used mental health services or who have been through the criminal justice system. Rachel has proved that she can do the impossible by providing much needed culturally appropriate community based support for the growing numbers of black in the West of England subject to detention under the Mental Health Act in the face of innumerable challenges.
DPP Yvonne Mosquito, one of the community's most respected politicians and deputy of the country largest police commission her leadership in the area of mental health has ensured that police interaction with vulnerable people, particularly those from the UK's African Caribbean communities in the West Mindlands is an example of good practice for the rest of the country.
Malia Bouattia NUS Black Students Campaign represents a new generation of activists not afraid to speak truth to power. This beautiful young women's drive and commitment is assurance that the next generation of activists are already hard at work create a better world for tomorrow, through her post she has ensured that BMH UK's campaigns work has reached black students networks around the country.
Baroness Jenny Jones deputy chair of the Police and Crime Committee at the Greater London Authority. Her leadership around the call for tighter restrictions on the use of Taser across London particularly in light of the high number of people from the capital's African Caribbean communities and mental health services users who have been subject to this 'non lethal' weapon is welcomed. Her persistent efforts to see more transparency over the disturbing practices of police presence in riot gear on mental health wards by brining this to the attention of both Health Minister Norman Lamb MP, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe and Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Crime at the Met Mark Rowley is a mark of a politician committed to serve society's most vulnerable .
Commitment to see change
Jennette Arnold OBE ME GLA, has consistently spoken out against the injustices faced by people from the community who are subject to detention under the Mental Health Act, and continues to lend her support in improving the treatment of this group.
Her support in hosting the launch of BMH UK and Cancer Black Care report entitled: 'Improving Cancer Screening Access for London's African Caribbean Communities Living with a diagnosis of Mental Illness', is part of her commitment to see a change in the reduced life expectancy of this group.
June Ray former chief of the Civil Society Section in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Headquarters in Geneva her commitment to empowering civil society agencies like BMH UK navigate the international human rights arena and sharing her personal insights and experience with BMH UK's director, has ensured that we have now become a recognised player in this field.
Dr Michelle Funk Coordinator, Mental Health Policy and Service Development, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO (World Health Organisation) this world leader in the health fields' support of BMH U's work giving both her personal time and ensuring that our online magazine is disseminated through her global networks is an example of sisterhood across borders working at its best.
Estella Western's leadership of Family Health Isis, London's oldest and almost only surviving black led community based mental health services offering culturally appropriate support, in the face of intense pressures to close down this provision, while demands of this increase, is an outstanding example of selfless service for our community's most vulnerable groups. Her efforts and that of her team urgently need to be rewarded.
Amina Taylor, Press TV, a tenacious journalist ever ready with her mike and camera, no matter where in the country that story may be breaking, Amina is a sister of integrity with a heart of compassion, who consistently works to get cover news of critical importance to the community, particularly in relation to mental health and black Briton, that is all too often sidelined in the mainstream press.
Fanny Grâce Azanya a Swiss Fellow of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Using her skills and networks to address the discrimination faced by the Diaspora in Europe, she is part of a new generation of international human rights activists dedicated to addressing the historical and current injustices faced by black people around the world.
Educate and inform
Shantrelle Patrice Lewis Brooklyn-based curator, writer, and multimedia artist this UN Fellow of the 2014 cohort uses her creative skills to document and record key aspect of the Diaspora's experience through the creative arts.
Sis Levi Impudum, a stalwart grass roots activist at the heart of the African community, works hard to address many of the ongoing inequalities and injustices that continue to be felt hardest by black Britons.
Sis Kai Ouagadou-Mbandaka of Voice of
African Radio is a community political activist who has consistently used her platform and networks to educate and inform the community about the latest issues as they happen.
This fighter for justice continues to do us proud and we salute you.
Angella Corinna, a poet, singer and songwriter. Her musical talent and creativity are used to expresses some of the deepest human emotions. With first hand experience of the services, she gives voice to the normally silenced experience of a generation of black women that have been forced to used the services.
Barbara Lewis headed up - Amaani Talawaa Nottingham's only black led services until it was forced to close due to funding cuts last year in spite of the increasing numbers of people from the community being subject to detention under the Mental Health Act. Epitomising Maya Angelou's poem 'Still I Rise'' Barbara continue to support those she can while putting in plans to set up a new service.
Caronline Honour, is an inspirational sister and survivor of the services. Rather than being silenced by her experiences, she is outspoken activist in the struggle for humane and compassionate treatment for those from the UK's African Caribbean communities who come in contact with mental health services.
Halima Sayed, Black Women's Forum UK, this dignified and posed young woman is an inspiration to all who have the pleasure to meet her. Not only does she speak out against injustice wherever she sees it, but she is also among the very active group of young black women who are already taking their place among the new leaders of their generation.
Marcia Jarrett the head of Tamarind, the only BME Mental Health and Wellbeing Support Service specialising in providing support to African, Asian British, Caribbean British, Mixed Race communities in Coventry. This unsung hero continues to fight for often the most basic rights of one of the most marginalised groups in this city.