This year, we’re giving some of our favourite Londoners the chance to put one big question to London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Paula Akpan and Nicole Crentsil are the co-founders of Black Girl Festival, the UK’s dedicated arts and culture celebration of black British women and girls. The 2019 edition will host talks, workshops, exhibitions, live performances, screenings, and loads more. But what is City Hall doing to support London’s half a million black women?
Nicole ‘Oi, Sadiq! What are you doing to support, encourage and develop the skills of black British women and girls?’
Sadiq ‘If you’re a black woman, you suffer double discrimination – as a woman and as someone of Afro-Caribbean descent. I’ve set up a scheme called Our Time, using City Hall channels to sponsor women with contacts, networking, and courses to help them fulfil their potential. And we’re looking at allocation of funds helping black women: for instance, we’ve got a scheme with a Radio 1 DJ to help women in grime, and schemes to teach young black women coding.’
Paula ‘Studies have shown that when black girls speak up at school, it’s often seen as aggressive because of stereotypes about blackness. We definitely both experienced this when we were growing up. What are you doing to support black girls at this formative age?’
Sadiq ‘We’re doing lots of work in relation to breaking down prejudices. I don’t want to pretend that I have influence over spheres where I don’t: the Department for Education is in charge of schools in London. But we need to have more positive role models in schools, and we’re encouraging more black women to become teachers and headteachers.’
Nicole ‘We find that a lot of voices talking about young black people at risk, from politicians to grime artists, focus on men and boys. How can you help ensure that young black women and girls aren’t missed from this conversation?’
Sadiq ‘Frankly speaking, the police response to violent crime has missed out the experience of black women and girls. There’s no such thing as a hard-to-reach community – it’s us who are hard to reach. We have to flip it around and go out into the community, and that means having people in positions of power in City Hall who look like our city, including black women. They’ve got a feel of our city that others don’t.’
Black Girl Festival takes place at the Business Design Centre on October 12.
Know an amazing Londoner who deserves a chat with the Mayor? Let us know!