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Sharing the stories of Black women who have made an impact in Britain

Winnie Imara is the founder of 'Seven Black Women' a collective of Black women aiming to create work for film, TV and theatre.

Winnie has recently started a new project called ‘The Heritage & Honour Collection’ a creative social enterprise documenting and sharing Black women from 1500 – 1999 who have made a significant impact in Britain during this time.

The project holds creative female empowerment workshops for young women at schools.

Here, Winnie tells us more about Seven Black Women and The Heritage & Honour Collection.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and who you are today? How did you get to where you are now? 

If I’m very honest I’ve still got some time to get to where I need to get to. I was born and raised in London, studied in the arts/film and TV and found a passion in various areas like writing and producing. If you’ve ever organized an event you’re basically a producer and I fell into that as most would say, and it’s been a lovely journey so far.

I got to where I am today based on faith, not giving up and being open and honest with my journey of wanting to succeed as a creative/creative entrepreneur and looking forward to what’s ahead of me. 

Why did you decide to start Seven Black Women? What’s the ethos behind the organisation?

Seven Black Women started from prayer, a sense of frustration and an urge for more. One day I was at home during the pandemic and I said to myself ‘Who are we waiting for?’ I felt like as a creative I had been waiting for someone to make things happen for me, waiting for someone’s approval and validation before I moved forward and this kept me stagnant. Then ‘Seven Black Women’ fell into my heart and I messaged a few of my creative friends, told them about the idea and it started from then. We started with 7 Black Women in the project and grew to about 30 in less than two months. We realized the urge and importance of seeing more Black Women represented on screen and stage and behind screen and stage too. 

Our ethos is ‘striving to see more Black women on screen and behind screen and stage’. We’re also massive on collaborating and working with other organisations who have the same values as us. 

What inspired you to create The Heritage & Honour Collection? Can you explain how it works and what you do day to day with this project? 

I remember being 17/18 years old and researching ‘Did Black people exist in England in the 1600’ and seeing that of course they did. I always loved period dramas but didn’t see myself as a Black person and woman represented in them. This led me to research more into Black history. 

Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to have been accepted in various female founders programmes. I recently did one with ‘Hatch Enterprise’ which was fantastic! In these programmes I was able to share my ideas on ‘The Heritage & Honour Collection’ and get it to where it is today. 

We provide creative workshops, talks on Black Women in history and presentations for schools, colleges, universities and corporate companies. 

When previously going into schools providing ‘Female Empowerment workshops in Black history’ we asked the students whether they knew about some of the significant Black figures in history and only a very small few raised thier hands. This made me realize that there is a high importance for us to continuously share and provide content on Black history. Thankfully there are various organizations that have risen up and continue to share educational content on Black history like us at ‘The Heritage & Honour Collection’.

Can you tell us about just a few of the inspiring women you feature in The Heritage and Honour Collection? 

Beryl Gilroy 

Born in Guyana, she then moved to the UK around the early 1950s, part of the Windrush generation. 

She is the first known Black headteacher in the UK, her experiences as a Black teacher in the UK are shared in her autobiographical book ‘Black Teacher’.

Kofoworola Abeni 

Born in Nigeria in 1915. Later moved to the UK. Around 1946 she began studying nursing at the Nightingale school at St Thomas Hospital, qualifying as a state registered nurse in the 1950s and became the first known qualified Black woman to work for the NHS. 

Pauline Henriques 

Born in Jamaica in 1914. She then moved to London at a later age, when she was 18 she enrolled at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts to study Drama. Around 1946 Pauline became the first Black woman to appear on British TV. 

We share a bit more about these amazing women on our Instagram page, feel free to check it out. 

Why is it so important to tell these stories? 

It shouldn’t be a WHY but compulsory for all to know the contribution, inspiration and historical impact made by Black men and women in the UK and beyond. 

What impact are you having by taking these stories into schools and teaching young women about them? What reaction do you get from young people? 

Through our creative workshops, we’re able to encourage and uplift the young women through sharing the stories of these phenomenal Black women in history, to be confident in their own voices and know that their voice matters in the room and most importantly providing them with the space to share with each other and uplift each other. Once this is represented consistently they take that with them wherever they go, that they are always welcome in the room to speak confidently and uplift those around them. 

Being given the opportunity to share not just to young women but all women is also raising the importance of why representation matters. 

The response to the workshops has been nothing but positive, the young women have left with educational knowledge and content they were unaware of but also a sense of confidence and bond with the other young women in their classes. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What’s next for The Heritage & Honour Collection?

I hope to do exhibitions with artists and galleries showcasing the Black women I talk about. I also hope to continue doing workshops and presentations in schools, colleges, universities and with corporate companies 

If you could go back and give your teenage self some advice, what would you say?

There is no such thing as being behind. Go at your own pace. Focus on your own lane. Do the things you love and enjoy every moment. 

To find out more about Seven Black Women, follow the Instagram and Twitter pages.

You can also find The Heritage & Honour Collection on Instagram or visit the website.

 

Bex Bastable
Bex Bastablehttp://bexbastable.co.uk
Bex is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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