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  • Writer's pictureanne

Phenomenal Women

Black History Month, like International Women’s Month or any other ‘minority’ commemorative days has a very tokenistic feel to it, and, frankly in 2020, we shouldn’t need it. We should be marking and celebrating the lives, contributions and achievements of women, black and brown people, migrants, disabled people, LGBTIQ+ people – every single day. But we don’t. And the moment we feel we are making some progress towards a more progressive, just and compassionate society – whoosh, a gigantic wave of prejudice throws us off course. The backlash we are currently witnessing and experiencing globally against human rights is chilling. So – Black History Month really does matter a great deal.

Judging by the events, talks and screening going on in London and online this month, there is certainly much to explore and learn to boost our anti-racist feminist selves. And that’s exactly what I did. I went to the Southbank and saw the ‘Phenomenal Women’ photo exhibition. I loved the fact that it was outside – making it safer and more accessible to a wider public; plus, it’s free. A part of me was expecting it to be more prominent, somehow, in keeping with the subject - but, it is nonetheless beautifully curated.

Over the next three weeks, a stroll along the Southbank means an encounter with these 45 trailblazing black academics. The portraits stem from research by Dr Nicola Rollock, an academic who specialises in racial justice in education and the workplace. She examines the career experiences and challenges of Black female Professors in the UK – for the first time.

Together they represent a formidable group, at the heart of the changing face of academia. They encompass a vast range and richness of disciplines – from Law, Architecture, Science, Sociology, Literature, Health or Midwifery - providing new perspectives about the possibilities of a different future. They are truly inspiring.

Here is a little taste of what to expect:

Professor Olivette Otele PhD, FRHistS was appointed at the University of Bristol just a year ago. She is the UK’s first Black female history Professor to explore the city’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

Professor Adele Jones is Professor of Social Work at the University of Huddersfield. She and she is Director of the None in Three Global Centre for the Prevention of Gender-based Violence – which takes its name from the often-cited figure of one in three women and girls, worldwide, who will experience either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetime.

Professor Diamond Ashiagbor PhD is Professor of Law at the University of Kent. She believes that law, and in particular labour law, should be an instrument of social justice; and that paid and unpaid work is central to our understanding of justice, equality, human rights and social change.

And amongst the 42 remaining scholars, you will recognise Professor Bernardine Evaristo MBE, FRSL, FRSA, FEA - Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. She is also an award-winning author and first Black woman to win the Booker Prize - in 2019! There is so much to say about that alone. But let’s wind up with something energising - Bernardine Evaristo on Desert Island Disc.


Practical info

Phenomenal Women (ends on 08 November) is an outdoor exhibition on Queen's Walk, along the river Thames in front of the Southbank Centre.

Getting there

  • By tube - Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines); Embankment (District & Circle lines) or check out multiple bus routes.


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