Celebrating and honouring the incredible achievements of Black individuals who have left an indelible mark on society should be an everyday thing. While we often hear about prominent figures on a national or global scale, it’s equally crucial to recognise and applaud the contributions of unsung heroes and heroines within our local communities. Today, I embark on the now expected yearly list to celebrate 11 other remarkable Black women hailing from the North East and Cumbria. Women who have not only shattered glass ceilings but also paving the way for future generations. You read it right – in this third year of listing, I have decided to include Cumbria and this is to be the case going forward too.
It’s important to mention that my selections of highlighting exceptional women is usually guided by women whose paths I’ve crossed or whom I’ve come across in conversations. Each of these women have in their unique way, enriched the cultural, social, and professional landscape of the North East and Cumbria. Their stories inspire me, demonstrating the power of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to making a positive impact. Their legacies continue to influence and inspire generations, proving that the strength of their characters transcends time and place. Here is to ‘saluting our sisters‘!
Ritah Pasirayi is the proud owner of Cuisine Queen Catering and Great Purpose CIC. Food has always been her passion, nurtured in the heart of a large family where she frequently prepared delicious meals for many. To further enhance her knowledge and skills in the world of food, she took the step to enrol in a culinary arts program at Middlesbrough College. This educational journey deepened her understanding and expertise in the culinary arts. In her pursuit of sharing her culinary talents with the world, she leveraged platforms like Facebook, Taste of Africa, and actively participates in community events for effective marketing and connecting with people. Her entrepreneurial journey has been driven by her aspirations, a deep love for the art of cooking, and a commitment to bringing the joy of exquisite cuisine to all those she serves.
Vaina Lumbiwa is a beauty therapist based in Teesside. Vaina has a passion for beauty and also promotes that beauty comes from within. She is one of the organisers of Miss Black History North East, a pageant that empowers young women in the north east to think beyond their looks with the theme, ‘more than the face’. She has a vision of inspiring as many young women as she is able to, discover and develop their purpose in life and maximise their skills and potential for their benefit. Vaina is also one of the moderators of the Black Creatives and Arts Network in Teesside. This is a network created for black creatives to network and connect, giving them a platform to express themselves and to enable them to get recognised. She is also a member of Taste of Africa, a Middlesborough based charity that promotes cohesion and inclusion within the Black community.
Dolapo Olaniyan is a Nigerian equity advocate, with over eight years of experience implementing health, livelihoods and gender projects focused on bridging inequalities. She currently works with the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS FT, where she supports the delivery of high-level projects focused on improving and providing the quality of care for patients, maximising staff productivity, and transforming services. She’s also worked on transformation projects with the North Middlesex University Hospital in London. As a microbiologist turned inclusion expert, Dolapo has been actively involved in policy, processes and practices, and researching cross-cutting social issues through civil service, non-profit organisations and the private sector. Her contributions in the development space have earned her some laudable awards and recognitions including top 40 Youth Champions of the SDGs by UNFPA and American Consulate, Finalist, Global Citizen Youth Leadership Award, Winner, British Council Future Leaders to mention but a few.
Dr Claire Ogah is an artist, ethnographer, women’s rights advocate and anti food poverty evangelist. Claire channels her passion into promoting gender equality and raising awareness about issues like gender-based violence. Her interests span across social marketing, with a focus on celebrating and preserving black culture and identity. With a heart dedicated to making a difference, Claire’s journey in the non-profit sector began as a volunteer with a child abuse prevention charity and her local Rotary club. Her dedication led her to co-found the Olive-Branch Foundation, offering after-school activities to nurture young minds. While her primary career revolves around public health, Claire is committed to eradicating food poverty, especially among marginalised communities. She currently spearheads an anti-food poverty project in the vibrant city of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Loveness Scott is a positive action lead at the North East Ambulance Service. She leads the projects that aim to raise awareness of the ambulance service to ethnic minority and disabled communities. Since she came into post two years ago, Loveness has delivered training sessions and workshops to over 5,000 people; improved links with ethnic minority and disabled community stakeholders and improved the profile of ethnic minority staff, highlighting NEAS as an inclusive employer and also ecruiting over 100 volunteer community ambassadors.
Janett Walker is the CEO & Co-Founder of Anti Racist Cumbria. Having co-founded ARC in 2020, Janett has overseen the growth of the organisation from an online group of activists to a strategic and influential registered charity whose mission is to make Cumbria the UK’s first actively anti-racist county. Ever the activist and disruptor from a young age, change has never frightened Janett; her career has taken her from youth worker to lawyer to events and PR business owner. At each turn Janett’s been a force for good, challenging the status quo and uplifting those around her.
Faty Kane is a fashion entrepreneur and social justice campaigner passionate about women’s empowerment and slow fashion. She is the founder of Tarunah, a newly launched womenswear label based in the North-East of England that works with artisans in Senegal to make beautiful, high-quality clothing and accessories made with handwoven fabric. Tarunah showcases African elegance, champions women and celebrates craftsmanship. She also works professionally to promote women’s and girls’ rights with ActionAid, building on a career working for international organisations in Senegal and the UK to end child marriage and promote girls’ education. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Angelou Centre, a Black and women-led feminist organisation in the North-East of England. The centre specialises in providing services and support to black and minoritised women who are victims or at risk of domestic abuse.
Nassima Mmanga is a mother, social entrepreneur, student, pit master, interpreter, full time social butterfly and the Outreach and Engagement Lead at Teakisi. Being the lucky mother of three girls who inspire her to become the hard-working woman she is today. She always strive to become the best version of herself and take pride in the journey of learning in all walks of life. If not with people, her next best place you could find her is in her garden over hot coals turning anything from meat on a stick to tasty charred veggies for her business Choma Grills – a Tanzanian BBQ street food business. Nassima hopes to one day be fluent in French and Arabic. Working with people, cultures and bringing positive change into our communities and especially empowering ethnic minorities is her calling. She feels collectively our differences can create cohesion and make positive impacts and change in our communities.
Chanttelle Gilies is passionate entrepreneur from Zimbabwe who currently resides in Newcastle. With a family of four, she has always had a deep love for sewing, always finding joy in the art of transforming fabrics into beautiful creations. Her business, Lexelina Designs is a labour of love where she specialises in embroidery, occasion dresses, hoodies, t-shirts, backpacks, and various accessories. It also sells up-cycled clothes, all infused with a distinct African flair. Chanttelle takes pride in making people feel beautiful through her craftsmanship. Beyond crafting, she also hosts sewing parties and classes, sharing her skills and creativity with others.
Oluwapelumi Amanda Adeola is an award winning and ranked Partner/Solicitor-Advocate specialising in private Family Law with a particular interest in financial remedy matters. Amanda is a skilled lawyer and was ranked as a next generation partner in the Legal500 the leading directory for lawyers for three consecutive years. Amanda is also an advocate for change and works tirelessly to change the face of the legal profession in the region and beyond by raising issues around equality, diversity, inclusion, and equity. Amanda was listed in the Northern Powerhouse Future list in 2019 and won the Tees Valley BME achievement awards – Woman of the Year the same year. She has been nominated and shortlisted as a finalist for a host of awards including the Lexis Nexis Family Law Awards, First 100 Years inspirational Women in Law Awards, Resolution’s Awards in the Equality and Diversity category, Regional Champion Category and more.
Tina Simbo is a community and youth worker, social prescriber, trainer, facilitator, speaker and creative. She is a graduate of Durham University, a fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and a 2-time UnLtd (the foundation for social entrepreneurs) award recipient. Tina founded Adorn Community Interest Company – a social enterprise that promotes the circular economy and wellbeing, using jewellery up-cycling and informal education. Adorn CIC makes and sells a range of new and up-cycled handmade fashion jewellery, and offers jewellery up-cycling workshops, as well as services and resources for personal, professional and community development. Throughout her 20 year plus career, Tina has worked with children, young people and adults, including parents and professionals, as an employee of well-established charities such as Healthworks, the former Scotswood Area Strategy, Streetwise Young People’s Project, Show Racism the Red Card and the Angelou Centre.
Let’s celebrate their legacies and continue to honour their contributions, not just during Black History Month but throughout the year.