Black British (and American) talent has been on an all-time high this year with so many talented people opening doors and ensuring presentation of our experience is documented using OUR narratives and voices. This Black History Month, we’ll be commemorating Black people (NOT BAME or POC) that we believe have made exceptional advances for Black people both in the diaspora and in Africa/Caribbean in a variety of sectors from fashion, podcasting, film, charity and many more!
1, AKYAABA ADDAI SEBO
We’ll kick off our Black History Month by honouring the architect behind Black History Month in the UK: Akyaaba Addai Sebo.
Ghanaian born Akyaaba Addai Sebo studied and later regularly visited America in the 1970s however was forced to seek refuge in the UK from political persecution in Ghana. Here he settled with his wife and soon became the Operations Manager of the Notting Hill carnival and the team were leading campaigns against institutional racism in the UK and the apartheid regimes in southern Africa. After a conversation with a colleague, Akyaaba realised that African children in the UK we’re experiencing an identity crisis and didn’t like being called African but rather reacted felt more comfortable mimicking being Afro-Caribbean. He then considered an annual celebration of the contributions of Africa, Africans and the people of African descent to world civilization from the ancient times to present and in the process, he received worldwide support from prestigious leaders, ministers and governing bodies.
Why October? – “We settled on the propitious month of October when the weather was not cold and children were fresh after the long summer vacation and had less to worry about exams and tests. We believed that they would absorb more if their living environment buzzed with positive vibes, instructions and images about themselves and their origins, thus celebrating who they are as ‘Africans’ – Akyaaba Addai Sebo
And there you have it! The story of the origins of Black History Month in the UK
2, TYLER PERRY
Our 2nd honoree is none other than actor, director, writer & producer: Tyler Perry. He is best known for his role as Black America’s tough, crazy grand mother Madea who was introduced to our screens in 2004. Tyler was in fact born Emmitt Perry but later changed his name due to the strenuous and abusive relationship with his dad whose mantra to everything was “beat it out of you”. Tyler later found that writing can be used as a therapeutic way of solving your problems which inspired him to pursue a career in writing. The actor appeared on our TV screens as ‘tough but loving’ grand mother Madea in Tyler’s first movie Diary of Mad Black Woman which earned him a whopping $50.6 million. He later made his directorial debut working on Madea’s Family Reunion making $65million and later went on to make Why Did I Get Married and Why Did I Get Married Too grossing $80million together. Tyler’s latest addition is his latest innovation the Tyler Perry Studios.
Tyler has recently opened the world to his latest project: the Tyler Perry Studios making him THE FIRST Black actor to own a major film studio. And get this: it’s DOUBLE the size of Warner Bros studio! The 330 acre piece of land houses 12 studios (named after highly accomplished African Americans), the set of the Walking Dead, replica of the White House and much more! (When we scream ‘Black’ you say ‘Excellence’. BLACK….)
We are honouring Tyler Perry because his career is based on re-telling the Black experience from OUR narrative with positive messages in his productions on Black culture, family love & faith. The Tyler Perry Studios are going to employ over 400 employees with majority confirmed to be Black people who live within the vicinity. Tyler’s relentless efforts to document the Black experience whilst inspiring change is exactly why we couldnt resist honoring him.
3, DINA ASHER-SMITH
Our next honoree is the first Briton to win three medals at a World Championships, the first British woman to win a sprint world title and THE fastest in history Olympic: Dina Asher-Smith
Geraldina Rachel Asher-Smith is of Jamaican descent and was born an only child whose love for sport started at a age. Dina revelled in hockey, swimming but her passion for athletics/running didn’t start till she was around the age of 8 where she was spotted by coach John Blackie whose stayed by her side since. Dina also made an appearance at the London 201/ games but she was a carrier who helped senior athletes like Jessica Ennis-Hill & Mo Farah and having seen crowds’ reactions to the athletes’ wins, Dina was inspired to work hard in hopes of being just like them. •
Fast forward 7 years later to Doha 2019 and Dina has made history by becoming Britain’s fastest sprinter, the ONLY British female athlete to win a sprinting title and THE world’s fastest woman beating the likes of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Dina is a national treasure and for that we’re very proud to honor her efforts this Black History Month and we look forward to supporting her during Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics ✊🏾
4, MO GILLIGAN aka Mo the Comedian
The next honoree for BHM 19 is none other than everyone’s favourite comedian and impersonator Mo Gilligan aka Mo the Comedian.
Mo Gilligan is born to St. Lucian and Jamaican parents who split up when the comedian was 5years old however continued to co-parent and both parents are very influential in Mo’s skits. He can be seen drawing on past experiences of growing up with Caribbean parents in his skits & stand up which earned him major exposure and popularity with the Black British audience. Unknown to many people, Mo has been a stand-up comic on the British scene for around six years but he has recently blown 2017 thanks to a series of hilarious characters and sketches that he started sharing on social media at the end of last year. His most popular character is “The Geezer” which is a parody of a middle aged white guy from east London who thinks “it’s like Jamaica” every time the sun is shining and shouting to his partner Julie to “get a coupla cans in.”
Fast forward to 2019 and Mo has sold over 50,000 tickets for his Copla Cans tour since 2017, landed his own prime time TV show on Channel 4 ‘The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan’. The greatest achievement [so far] is that Mo is THE FIRST EVER British comedian to land a deal with Netflix for his stand-up show ‘Momentum’ surpassing household British comedians like Russell Howard, John Bishop, Jimmy Carr, Ricky Gervais, Lee Evans to mention afew! Mo has achieved so much in the space of 2 years and has unknowingly opened doors for so many other Black British comedians to be accepted by the mainstream comedy industry. Be sure to stream the comedy special on Netflix!
5, TOBI OREDEIN & BOLA AWONIYI
Our next honoree is journalist and founder of platform Black Ballad.
Tobi Oredein started her career in the creative industry by working for popular media publications as a journalist however she soon noticed an undisputed lack of presentation of Black women in these publications. The lack of presentation inspired Tobi and co-founder Bola Awoniyi to create a platform (which would later be termed Black Ballad) allowing Black women to talk about issues that matter to them.
Black Ballad is now a digital lifestyle subscription for Black women which seeks to elevate the voices of black British women through content, community and commerce.
Tobi noticed that White publications weren’t giving Black women a seat at the table and she created a table for us which is why we’re honouring her and her efforts! We can’t wait too see where Black Ballad becoming a household name! Get on the mailinglist for more information on www.blackballad.co.uk
6, WILLIAM ADOASI
William Adoasi is the founder of Vitae London: a premium watch shop and one that directly transforms the lives of children who have either been orphaned or live in poverty.
William Adoasi was born in South London and is the eldest of 7 children. He studied at a prestigious boarding school after winning a scholarship and felt like a ‘minority’ due to being one of the other only Black people in the school.
William started his career in the business industry at 19 when he won a grant at the Mini Mogul Awards and went on to start Starlight Sports Academy: a sports academy supplying sports coaches to local schools. The UK government had recently assigned funding to schools so they could tackle an obesity crisis. William realised he had many friends who were qualified to teach physical education an idea which would later earn him £160k but this business plan halted as the government scrapped the funding which affected his bookings. Following a trip to South Africa with this wife, William was inspired to support a local charity (House of Wells) and his long term goals were to support the charity in a sustainable way. William initially toyed with the idea of starting a T-shirt brand however soon realised that market was over saturated and instead turned to his passion for watches to attain his goals. Vitae’s charitable ethos came from him reflecting on importance of education and the prospect of using Vitae to fund education was something he wanted to turn into reality.
William ended up being one of 2 people who won a prize to interview Richard Branson and be mentored by him and Branson was so touched by William’s idea he decided to buy a watch from him on the spot! 5 years later, and profits from Vitae’s classic range mean that an African child is supplied with two sets of school uniform, a bag and footwear to see them through the year! William has also secured cover £750k to further his plans for Vitae and the charity & we’re proud to honor such an inspirational business man! Add to your watch collection by visiting them on www.vitaelondon.co.uk
7, ADE HASSAN
Driven by a determination to celebrate diversity, our next honoree decided to create Nubian Skin: a lingerie and hosiery product brand designed to embrace colour representation for darker skin tones.
Ade Hassan was born in the UK but also grew up in the US and Nigeria where both of her parents come from. Ade had always wanted to become an entrepreneur, emulating her business-minded parents who had a big impact on her resolute mindset and motivation but wasn’t too sure where to start. Before working on Nubian Skin, Ade worked in the finance sector but took a year off to live in Paris following the 2009 recession where she learnt to sew before heading back to London to commence work on Nubian Skin. Nubian Skin was created out of frustration and lack of undergarments for women of darker complexion. Inspired by trail blazing women like Iman (founder of Iman Cosmetics), Ade initially created 4 shades catering to women of colour in bras, hoisery & lingerie but soon expanded the range to include clothing and later footwear. Following a successful photoshoot, a viral photo shared on social media elevated Nubian Skin’s brand gaining over 20,000 followers! Fast forward 2 years later and Ade’s pieces were featured on Beyoncé’s World Tour in 2016.
Ade was awarded an MBE (Member Order of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace for services to fashion in recognition of her commitment to mission to redefine nude and acknowledging her impact on the fashion industry. Nubian Skin is available for purchase on several online platforms so please make sure you grab yourself a pair! Try on a pair at www.nubianskin.co.uk
We’re down to our last 3 honorees for our Black History Month celebrations and we couldn’t forget this incredible man whose work has surpassed any other charity organisations in Africa. We’re talking about none other than Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Bongo Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam or as we know him the superstar, producer, singer and activist: Akon.
Akon was born in Missouri and moved to Senegal with his family but they later moved back to the US at the age 7 and he recalls the lack of electricity in the town he grew up in (a common occurrence in a lot of African cities). After retiring from music as an artist, Akon concentrated on becoming a producer but also turned to Islam and he was inspired by the religions peace doctrine which encourages people to donate to the needy amongst some things. There on Akon decided to not only help his nation Senegal but other African nations to become independent and self-sustaining.
4 years ago Akon launched a Solar Academy which would (later called Akon Lighting Africa) with the aim bringing electricity to rural communities in Africa in the hopes of empowering local businesses and giving back to the people. The continent averages 320 days of sunshine a year so it was no doubt that the installation of solar panels would be the best way to deliver electricity. Fast forward 4 years later and this initiative has provided electricity to over 600million people across 14 countries including Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Benin, Niger and Sierra Leone to mention afew.
9, JAMELIA DONALDSON
Our next honoree is the innovative creator of Europe and the Middle East’s first monthly hair subscription box service for naturalistas called Treasure Tress.
By 2015 the natural hair movement (which originated in America) was taking over the UK and thousands of women were ditching the creamy crack (relaxers) and slick back hairstyles in exchange for more natural based products catering to their natural curly/kinky textures. Jamelia was one of the enthusiasts and soon became her family and friends’ go to for information on what products to use, hairstyles, and general information on curly/kinky hair maintenance. However, she soon noticed that the typical shopping experience was uninspiring, boring and substandard compared to mainstream beauty shopping experiences and wanted to change that to make the experience more exciting.
At the time Jamelia worked in asset management but soon dropped out of the graduate program to focus on launching TreasureTress: a monthly subscription box helping women with curly/kinky hair to discover new products. Jamelia got the inspiration having visited New York during her uni placement and witnessed how popular subscription boxes were out there and she wanted to create a similar service for Black women. 2.5 years into the placement and Jamelia decided to dedicate her work career to building Treasure Tress into a recognisable brand which later gained popularity in over 16 countries across mainland Europe and the Middle East!
Treasure Tress has grown steadily and has become known as Europe and Middle East’s FIRST & largest subscription of for kinky/curly hair types! We can’t wait to see Treasure Tress becoming a global subscription service and becoming a super power in the hair shopping experience of Black women. Find them at www.treasuretress.co.uk
10, THE RECEIPTS PODCAST
Our second last honoree for this years Black History Month is the first all female podcast that debuted on BBC1Xtra 1 year into their podcasting journey.
The Receipts Podcast is one of the most carefree, genuine and honest podcasts coming out of the UK and it all started in 2017 when Tazer Black (1/3 of 3shots of Tequila podcast) tweeted that women couldn’t do a show like theirs that was authentic and straight to the point. The other soon-to-be Receipts girls responded to the tweet and soon started a group chat comprising of Phoebe Parkes, Tolly T, Audrey and Milena Sanchez (however Phoebe later left the podcast to focus on her endeavours). Since then The Receipts Podcast has grown to become one of the most loved podcasts solving some of the most scandalous dilemmas with their brutal honesty and hilarious comebacks whilst shining a spotlight on important issues facing women of colour. They’ve sold-out multiple live shows in London and Birmingham and have become a platform for the many different perspectives of British women of colour, with guest appearances from TV and radio presenter Maya Jama, YouTuber Jackie Aina, singer Ray BLK and many more.
The Receipts Podcast has opened so many doors for Black and Brown female podcasters and we’re delighted to honor their efforts. Be sure to tune into the podcast!
10, 3 SHOTS OF TEQUILA
Our final honorees this Black History Month is a podcasting trio that has opened doors for many podcasters in the Black community.
Having been friends for years, Marv Abbey (known for hosting #OnTopicTalkShow), Keith Dube (mental health advocate) and Tazer Black (event manager) decided to band together in 2016 to form 3Shots of Tequila: a podcast which would change the nature of the urban entertainment scene in the UK. The trio discuss everything where nothing is off limits: from popular culture, music, relationships, sex and more and have subsequently become the UK’s first Black Independent podcast to become national recognised podcast racking up 10m listens since their launch April 2016. 3 Shots of Tequila is also the first Black British podcast to be signed to distribution platform Spotify where they exclusively release their content.
The success of 3 Shots of Tequila podcast has inspired multiple Black Brits to kick start their careers in podcasting and it’s great to see the variety of podcasters out there!