After a particularly challenging and draining day on Tuesday, my mood and spirit soon went back to normal when I arrived at the William Morris Community Centre in Walthamstow, to take part in the Waltham Forest African Caribbean Elders Group’s beautiful International Women’s Month celebration.
I joined Waltham Forest’s Greater London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold (pictured seated, front row left), Councillors Milton Martin (pictured above, back row, centre), Elizabeth Davies (pictured above, back row, second from right, in blue) and Afzal Akram (standing back row, far left), for an uplifting evening of food, song, poetry and raw positivity.
After poetry and a speech from Cllr Milton Martin, Jennette Arnold AM (pictured above), the evening’s Guest of Honour, rose to speak. Jennette talked to the audience about her experiences of moving to England as a child from the Caribbean island of Monserrat, back in the 1950s.
The audience chuckled as Jennette informed them that as one of only a few children who had moved to England alongside the adults of the (Empire) Windrush generation, she was in constant demand, as a bridesmaid, at every Caribbean wedding in town. Jennette told the audience that those experiences made her feel like a truly Caribbean person, as opposed to merely a Monserratian.
Before Jennette spoke, I had the honour of formally introducing her. I had no hesitation whatsoever in sharing with the audience how important Jennette is to me. Since before my election and over the last year as a local councillor, Jennette has been a regular source of advice, strength and sisterly solidarity. Jennette is like a second mother to me. I will be campaigning like mad to make sure she is successfully re-elected to the London Assembly next year, when the Mayoral and London Assembly elections take place.
After Jennette, it was on to the main business of the evening, which was to celebrate the role of Black women during International Women’s Month. The ladies you see pictured above each read out a short biography of an inspiring Black woman who has left their mark in history.
The women discussed included Harriet Tubman (one of my heroines, see the ‘About Me’ section of this website), who smuggled Black slaves to freedom in 19th century America; Nanny of the Maroons, who led Jamaican freedom fighters against the British colonialists and slave owners early in the 1700s; and modern day Black heroines such as Oprah Winfrey and Rosa Parks, whose civil disobedience, during the era of US Segregation (1950s), sparked the protests that led to the rise of Martin Luther King and Black people in America gaining the right to vote.
I was delighted that my excellent colleague, Cllr Afzal Akram, local councillor for neighbouring Lea Bridge ward and Cabinet Member for Community Safety (pictured above), was able to join Jennette, Councillors Milton Martin, Elizabeth Davies and myself at the Elders’ celebration.
Afzal has been working incredibly hard to help the Elders negotiate the council bureacracy and advise them of their options. The Elders were delighted to see him and thanked him for the work he has been doing for them.
After Afzal, and two wonderful and uplifting hours, the Waltham Forest African Caribbean Elders celebration of International Women’s Month drew to a happy close.
Thanks so much again to Jennette (pictured seated front left) and Afzal (pictured seated front right) for coming along to show their support, and a huge well done to the Elders’ hard working project co-ordinator Monica Watkins (pictured seated front centre) for organising such a lovely evening.