Dear Black Women,
Thank you for paving the way for me to be able to sit at this university and write this letter to you all.
Our mothers, grandmothers and aunties are the very backbones of revolutions that look for equality for all.
To our aunties and mothers who are still fighting for change, thank you. To Baroness Lawrence, whose son Stephen was taken away too soon, and who used that to fuel a movement exposing the systemic racism of the police force.
To Diane Abbott, who fought her own party to get elected. She paved the way for black women in politics by showing it was possible to win an election despite every party, including her own, working to stop her. I thank you for showing us perseverance and strength.
To Claudia Jones, who didn’t let political persecution stop her and continued to raise the consciousness of the black British community. She made Notting Hill a place of culture and fun.
This is something black women have been doing for years – turning their lemons into lemonade. Turning trauma into progress. Society has the expectation that black women are strong, fearless, frontline soldiers in every battle there is. And they’ve answered that call, paying a heavy price.
To Olive Morris, who died too young, sowing the seeds of a movement which told Britain that black women matter. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the fruits of your labour.
But as much as I would like to thank black women and the women who inspire me, to say thank you without an apology ignores the pain we all go through.
To the sisters that died unnecessarily so that people could learn the phrase Black Lives Matter, please rest knowing that we will not forget the names of Sarah Reed, Breonna Taylor, and Sandra Bland and so many others.
To the mothers that have died unnecessarily in the throes of childbirth, becoming martyrs for movement that should never have been needed, but is here, nonetheless. The pain that we go through doesn’t make front page news, because we aren’t seen as newsworthy
To Simone Biles, Meghan Markle and Naomi Osaka, I’m sorry that when you said, ‘enough was enough’, you were met with hatred and scorn because society doesn’t know how to give us a time out and so goes to war against black women who break the mould it tried to place us in.
I know these words can never repay the debt that is owed to so many, but I can only hope but it provides comfort to know that there are countless of us still fighting a fight that was started long ago; when our ancestors were kidnapped, their lands were invaded and others oppressed for centuries in a place they called home.
We haven’t stopped fighting since then and I doubt we will, not for a while. This won’t fix anything; this is the bare minimum I can do. A show of gratitude is long overdue.
A young black girl doing her best with the tools you have given me.
Illustration by Anna Kuptsova