We have always believed that in telling our own stories, we can finally see Black women in all of their fullness. We have to take it upon ourselves to document our own lives in order for our stories to stay alive and live on. This means we have to share and advocate our stories from our diverse communities into the mainstream more.
Historian Jade Bentil shared with Refinery29 that “Black women’s historical narratives are either rendered completely visible under the gaze of whiteness, or an extremely sanitised version that flattens the complexities of our lives is authored by non-black gatekeepers, both within and outside the academy,"
Black women have been successful visionaries and pioneers in many white and male-dominated industries, and as the world evolves, Black women continue to create and contribute to sectors such as tech, finance, education, entrepreneurship, wellness, and many others. This article serves to recognise and celebrate Black British women who are presently building legacies and changing the narrative of what it means to be a Black woman. Please note, this order is in no way or form of any importance.
Mariam (Biomedical Sciences 2015) is the founder and CEO of Oja, a one-stop shop for ethnic groceries and cultural foods. Oja’s mission is to radically reshape groceries and make foods from all cultures accessible from anywhere in the world. Recently recognised in the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 Technology list, we caught up with Mariam to hear about her career story and memories from UCL.
Oja now has 5,000 daily users, of whom the majority are from London’s African and Caribbean communities, though Jimoh is keen to expand into Indian, Arabic, and Greek products as well. It’s catching the eye of industry veterans too. In November, Oja’s first seed funding round bagged $3.4m from a stellar lineup of angel investors, including Darren Shapland, ex-CFO of Sainsbury’s; Anton Soulier, CEO of Taster and one of Deliveroo’s earliest employees; and Ricardo Weder, CEO of Justo, Mexico’s online grocery giant.
Reni is an award-winning journalist, author, and podcaster. Born and raised in London, she has always been a writer & reader; with her writing primarily focusing on feminism and exposing structural racism. In June 2020, Reni’s book Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race topped the British Book Charts – becoming the first Black woman to do so. Along with Malorie Blackman and Bernardine Evaristo, Reni has formed The Black Writers Guild to try and change the racial inequalities in the publishing industry.
Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson, known professionally as Michaela Coel, is a British actress, screenwriter, director, producer, singer, songwriter, poet and playwright.
She is best known for creating and starring in the E4 sitcom Chewing Gum (2015–2017), for which she won the BAFTA Award for Best Female Comedy Performance, and the BBC One/HBO comedy-drama series I May Destroy You (2020).
Michela was praised for her depiction of her experience as a black female and bringing it to mainstream comedy through Chewing Gum.
Izzy Obeng is an entrepreneur and business coach. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Foundervine and sits as a Non-Executive Director for Traverse (Office for Public Management) and as a Non-Executive Director for Capital Enterprise.
At Foundervine, Izzy leads a consultancy for creating systemic change in entrepreneurship. Foundervine has launched accelerators in the UK that support early-stage companies, providing entrepreneurs from under-represented communities with mentorship, training, and access to capital.
By 2022, Foundervine had helped over 5,000 leaders build new skills, and supported over 300 businesses to scale and raise new capital. 7 out of 10 businesses are led by women.
In 2021, Izzy joined the Hamilton Commission, a commission appointed by seven-time world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton to increase the representation of Black people in U.K. motorsport. She currently acts as an Advisor to Lloyds Banking Group and is a member of the Race Equality Commission. Izzy has been featured in the BBC, The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, and in 2020 was named by Forbes as one of 25 leading Black British business people to watch.
Yvonne Bajela is an experienced venture capital investment professional and board member with over 10 years of experience in strategy consulting, deal origination, portfolio management, and board management across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She set up her company in 2019 and in 2020 was named by Forbes as one of 30 entrepreneurs under 30 in finance after investing more than $200m in various startups across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Yvonne is currently a Partner at LocalGlobe and Latitude. She is also a founding member of Impact X, a £100m UK-based venture capital fund focused on underrepresented entrepreneurs. During her time as an investor at Impact X, she led an investment in insurtech unicorn, Marshmallow. Prior to Impact X, she was an investment manager at Mitsui, where she led investments in transformative companies including Wise (formerly TransferWise).
Whilst her career began at the multinational investment bank, Goldman Sachs, Yvonne has brought her expertise around the globe, having lived and worked in countries spanning from Israel to Japan, advising companies to scale internationally. She currently sits on the board of Innovate Finance and is also a member of the London Hub of Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum, a community of young people driving change.
Lashana Lynch is a British actress best known for playing the role of Rosaline Capulet in the ABC period drama series Still Star-Crossed, Maria Rambeau in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and MI6 agent Nomi in the James Bond film No Time to Die and as of this year Izogie in The Woman King.
In 2021, Lashana Lynch was named the first Black, first Female 007. Many James Bond fans were not happy with the change in race and gender, but her performance won everyone over. As well as being a well-established actor, Lashana also works with the NGO Action Aid UK, which helps women in precarious situations.
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