Written by Sasha Wiltshire
The theme for Black History Month 2023 is 'Saluting our Sisters'. It highlights the crucial role Black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change and building communities. This month, Medway Culture Club has highlighted those who have come before and inspired us, including Sarah Forbes-Bonetta, Claudia Jones, Dame Kelly Holmes and Zoe Bennett BEM.
For Black History Month 2023 we are also saluting our MCC sisters! While this important month focuses on celebrating all Black contributions to society, we cannot forget to honour the achievements of Black women. Saluting our sisters does not mean we disregard the hard work of Black men, but means we make sure to acknowledge Black women and the women who uplift them as well!
At Medway Culture Club we are saluting Athena, Ebanie, Mandi, Marie, Michelle, Charlene and Camealia along with our female allies Kelly, Jenny, Heidi, Heyam and Sarah.
Each woman in the Medway Culture Club dedicates their personal time and skills, into educating the next generation about various cultures. Alongside this, these women are also mothers, wives and have jobs outside of the charity. These women are resilient, combating the struggles of daily life while delivering an exceptional addition to children’s education.
They understand the importance of enriching these children’s knowledge, by exposing them to the positive contributions that have helped shape our society. While juggling their personal and work lives, they address the educational gap in history. These women bring their passion and warm nature, and put it into creating resources and sessions to close this gap.
We asked our volunteers to describe their motivations for volunteering with Medway Culture Club in their own words and here are some of the responses we received.
Ebanie - Secretary & Lead Teacher
"Back in 2020, I started volunteering for MCC as an experienced teacher who truly believes that children need to learn about diverse histories and not just the topics taught in schools. MCC teaches these topics in fun and creative ways, making it enjoyable and memorable for the children. School curriculums are not diverse enough. Young people, and people in general, need to see that there's more to the history that is being taught. Medway Culture Club is doing its part to help with that".
Charlene - Events Co-ordinator & Lead Teacher
“I originally contacted Camealia after hearing an interview she did to promote MCC on the radio. I started volunteering when MCC had their first face to face session, in July 2021. I wanted to open the worlds and hearts of our young people by highlighting the contributions different races in our world have made. This is important because knowing more about different people and the society around them helps to encourage an appreciation of others”.
Marie - Class Assistant
“The reason I started volunteering with MCC is because as a young child growing up in Medway, there was nothing like this to encourage self esteem and a better understanding of history. I think it’s an opportunity for young people to build a strong sense of self and raise their aspirations. I am proud to be a part of Medway Culture Club, make a difference to the children growing up in Medway who have different backgrounds and hardships. I'm happy we offer an outlet for them".
Mandi - Teaching Assistant
“I initially became involved with MCC through another charity, Medway African and Caribbean Association. Once I found out what work MCC would be doing, I became interested and decided to volunteer my time to actually take part in the club’s monthly sessions. I would have loved it if there was something like this in the community when my children are growing up. To help them and others to understand their heritage, so that there wasn’t such a divide and lack of understanding between different ethnic communities. I see it as a valuable service to help the community we live in more cohesive and as the old saying goes, ‘each one, teach one’”.
Michelle - Teaching Assistant
“I started volunteering for MCC in February 2022, when I was invited by a colleague. I enjoyed the recommendations I heard. It was very clear from what was presented to me that the message delivered by MCC is passion and dedication towards uplifting its local community. I continue to feel the important impact that MCC is having on young lives through their continuous smiling faces and enthusiasm they show during the amazing events organised by MCC. I am happy to be a part of MCC's journey and I know that all the people it has reached so far will never forget the experiences and life-long memories being made by MCC. I know MCC is a very needed cause, building community cohesion and community spirit like I experienced when growing up in West London. Unfortunately, we older generations now see how communities and their support networks have withered away, therefore, I feel thankful that MCC is able to give hope, community friendship and support for generations now and those to come. May MCC continue to enhance young people's minds about their history as well as bring so much pleasure to the community".
Camealia - Chairperson & Co-founder
“Medway Culture Club has given me a sense of purpose and belonging.
I am grateful for every single person who has volunteered their time and expertise to improve the lived experiences of the people in our community. For every business who has supported our community-led cause. And this month especially, we salute our sisters, allies and phenomenal female leaders working hard to make a difference and develop a better understanding of ourselves and the wider world”.
In a recent article by Ruth-Anne Eghan, an Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, reporting on the prejudices felt by Black women, 50% of Black women in the UK quit their jobs due to racial inequalities, and 92% want to see change within their workplace. Statistics like this show the intersectional difficulties that Black women still face in 2023. By spotlighting the contributions of and supporting the work of our sisters, we continue to strive for equity and the disparities between counterparts to diminished. It is important that we recognise the lack of progress, but highlight the safe places where diversity and inclusion is welcomed, like at the Medway Culture Club.