Hot on the heels of Women’s History Month, London Feminista is dedicating Black her_stories monthly* to Sistah Space, the grassroots feminist organisation dedicated to supporting African heritage women in Hackney.
I first came across Sistah Space on twitter, during their ongoing and bitter dispute with Hackney Council over premises. Having been forced to relocate several times, the council were now forcing them to move again. Why a council would take such drastic action against a domestic abuse service – in the middle of a pandemic! - is as nonsensical as it is spiteful. But in a society where misogyny, racism and discrimination are endemic, Black women and women of colour aren’t exactly surprised – it is part of their everyday experience. And they’ve understandably had enough!
In memory of Valerie Forde
Ngozi Fulani had been running an African dance school in Hackney for 30 years when she established Sistah Space. The prevalence of gender-based violence in her community was not new to her, but the murder of Valerie Forde and her 22-month -old daughter, 7 years ago, on 31.03.2014, galvanised her into founding what has become London’s ONLY specialist domestic violence service for women of African and Caribbean heritage.
The organisation runs on a shoestring and mainly with the help of volunteers. Like many support services, Sistah Space has been struggling in the last year. Demand is up, exponentially – by up to 300% - but funding remains largely non-existent, an issue that particularly affects support organisations for racialised and minoritised women. Not only do they struggle to access most income streams, they are also side-lined from policy discussion, such as the domestic abuse bill currently going through Parliament. Their specific needs forever ignored, because in mainstream feminism, women are mostly represented and treated as a monolithic group, with white middle class cis able bodied women as the common denominator.
Over the past 12 months of zoom events and panel discussions, I have heard Ngozi Fulani speak on a number of occasions about their work and struggle to keep afloat. It is painful to hear that organisations like Sistah Space, working on the front line to provide a life line to women who have nowhere left to go, are forced to rely on small donations.
Last month, a mighty £500K was raised in the aftermath of Sarah Everard’s murder, the funds were transferred to Rosa, the UK charitable funder dedicated to supporting women’s and girls’ organisations in the UK. I wonder whether Sistah Space will see any of this money – and if so, how much?
As a mark of solidarity for their amazing_ness and because black women rarely make the headlines when they are killed, I am donating to them directly and I’d like to encourage all of you reading this to donate too and spread the word: Sistah Space crowdfunder
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence and need support, you can call the 24-hour Domestic Abuse Hotline on 0808 2000 247.
You can call the national sexual abuse helpline on 0808802 9999 every day from 12 – 2.30 pm and 7.00 – 9.30 pm.
For more information about minoritised women and sexual violence, please check out Imkaan's report, Reclaiming Voice.
Both images are from Sistah Space's website.
*Black her_stories monthly is regular London Feminista feature which seeks to move beyond the narrow timespan Black History Month to give racialised and minoritised people from Black, Asian, Ethnic Minorities or Indigenous backgrounds prominence in feminist writing and storytelling. London Feminista is an intersectional feminist blog and shared space – a space for recognition, celebration and appreciation of racialised, minoritised and marginalised womxn – and feminist brothers - in our everyday lives.