When attending the Black History Month 2019 event hosted by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, I had the chance to interview three black individuals on their perspective on Black History Month, the struggles of being black and the things they are grateful for. 


Pamela Franklin - Representative for the Caribbean Social Forum


“First of all Black History is not a month, Black history is history.” 


These were the first words spoken by Pamela Franklin, the representative for the Caribbean Social Forum. A place for anyone over the age of 50 to meet new friends for a social afternoon. Through an insightful interview, we discussed the need for there to be a space for older Caribbeans to be around those who understand their culture, and in Franklin’s words to “banter with, and to look back on those ‘yesteryears’.” The forum has created an environment to help those with dementia and also educate those in interracial relationships about the culture of their partners. For Pamela herself, she cites the forum as being “a lifeline” as she struggled with a disability later on in life. Lastly, she emphasised that Black History is not just about those who have won awards and are on TV. It’s also about “the little man or the little woman who was a nurse, worked on the buses or cleaned the road.” Franklin accentuated that Black History should remember those ordinary people as well as those in the limelight. 


Councillor Ivis Williams


It’s important to be a black woman with a voice” - Councillor Ivis Williams 


As a Black Female Councillor for Greenwich Council, Cllr Ivis Williams recounted the struggles of being black in the past, mentioning that “people tend to overlook you and misjudge you”. An example she gave was at work “being the only black person, you do get mistaken for the cleaner”. These aspects made it especially challenging to establish herself and fight for what she believed in. In a very optimistic tone, Cllr Williams said: “It’s challenging but we are getting there,”. When asked about the hopes she has for the future, Cllr Williams stressed that she “hoped that employment will represent the community in which they serve.” Her vision is that black people will gain employment in various fields and be able to represent their society. 


John Ibanga - Director of BEP Education 


“Sometimes you feel the sense of isolation, the sense of being alone, you wonder why you’re really here” - John Ibanga


When asked what it’s like being a black professional in this day and age, Ibanga detailed what it is like to be in the education sector. “It is rewarding to be a black person in that field because there are not many black role models in teaching and it allows me to be that role model for young black and ethnic minority children in schools.” For a lot of black and ethnic minority children who live in areas of the city where there is not a high percentage of black and ethnic minority teachers, they can struggle education-wise due to the feeling of isolation. Ibanga runs BEP Education, which is out of school tuition for young people in primary and secondary school.  The message John Ibanga puts out in his classroom is that “Your background cannot withhold you from anything”. A message that he hopes to put out to the wider community. 


Many thanks to Pamela Franklin, Councillor Ivis Williams and Director John Ibanga for taking part in this interview. 


By Jaynelle Osei