Black History Month 2023 'Saluting our sisters' by Joselyn King

When I read the theme for this year’s Black History Month, ‘Saluting our sisters’, I immediately thought about the most influential sisters in my life. Those who have nurtured me, inspired me and shaped my way of thinking, and I didn’t have to look further than the females in my family.

Pioneers who challenged the barriers society put in their way to become the shoulders I stood on to be the black woman I am today. Who had the strength and tenacity to choose their own destinies despite the obstacles of their era in being both black and female.

I salute my maternal grandmother, who followed her heart and married for love, despite being cut off and disowned by her wealthy family at the beginning of the 20th century, when women had to be subservient.

I salute my Aunty FW, who nearly 7 decades ago sailed alone on a ship as a young black woman, leaving everything and everyone she knew behind to travel to a country that provided opportunities but also racism and hostility.

I salute my Aunty JC, who embarked on an acting career in the 60s, against the wishes of her father who deemed it a promiscuous and demeaning career, to become the first African woman on British television.

I salute my mother, an accountant and the only black person in her organisation for over fifteen years, fighting the daily prejudice of colleagues and clients alike, and who after separating from my dad in the early 80s, overcame the barrier of not being able to acquire property as a single woman.

I don’t think the current generation of black millennials and generation Z fully appreciate the shoulders on which we stand, the sisters who came before us and took the brunt, so we didn’t have to. Because while there are still immense challenges being a black female in a world where people see race first, without them, there would be no us.

My ethos has always been to leave the ladder down for those coming behind me, so that I can become that shoulder for them to stand on as I have stood on the shoulders of those who came before. To maintain the sisterhood.

So, this Black History Month and for the Black History Months to come, irrespective of the theme, let’s continue saluting our black sisters across the globe, whether contemporaries continuing to break through glass ceilings or our younger sisters carving spaces in industries previously devoid of blackness.

And to always remember those who came before, like my grandmother, my mother and my aunties, who faced every challenge and overcame them; the very epitome of black womanhood. I salute us all.