It is no secret that over at gal-dem HQ we spend our days fan-girling over women of colour making waves here in the UK. International Women’s Day has given us the opportunity to share with you some of the women we just can’t get enough of. From humanitarians to female MC’s, the UK is home to some of the most formidable women about – we don’t need to look to the US for inspiration, and this list proves why.
Shami Chakrabati CBE
The Daily Mail describes Shami as the most dangerous woman in Britain, but she is one of the best things to come out of it. Shami runs Liberty (also known as the National Council for Civil Liberties), an organisation committed to equality and the protection of human rights. Shami has been heavily involved in anti-War on Terror Campaigns and frequently supports young people, particularly women of colour through Campaign Bootcamp. She’ll be speaking in Bristol this month: it is not one to be missed!
Simz has been taking the world by storm; she wowed us with her album A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons and the interactive exhibition and free gig that launched it. She’s constantly dropping big tunes and mix tapes (Age 101 drop) and to top it all off, runs her own record label Age 101 music. She is a king.
When Michaela Coel dropped E4’s Chewing Gum it did all sorts of things to our hearts. Michaela is talented writer, actress and poet and we’ve enjoyed watching her at The National Theatre, in Top Boy and more. Chewing Gum offered us a refreshingly funny insight into the experiences of one young London based WoC; something which we never see on TV. It had us in stitches and we can’t wait for season 2, which is currently in the works and will hopefully be coming soon.
This south London singer has had all of us mesmerised; every time gal-dem meet to tun-up, Ray BLK’s tunes are the first to play. There is something refreshing about her honey-like tones and smooth instrumentals; her ‘50/50’ video represents the ultimate in squad goals. With a Tom Misch collaboration under her belt, we cannot wait to hear her future tunes. For now though, we have ‘Not Your Girl’ and ‘5o/50’ stuck on repeat.
One of our own, Vanessa is absolutely killing the poetry scene. Vanessa has won a host of slam titles including the 2014 Roundhouse competition and this year she’s been giving Ted Talks throughout Europe. Watching Vanessa perform is an absolute delight: she will leave your sides splitting with laughter, her energy is infectious, and we are so happy to have her on the team. Do not miss Vanessa’s up and coming performance at the Bristol SU; tickets are only a fiver for students.
gal-dem caught up with Leshurr last year in Bristol, and she freestyled on the spot for us over some of our favourite tunes. Leshurr broke the internet with her series of Queen Speech freestyles; she’s got the whole of the UK uttering “brush your teeth”. She’s bringing something fresh and playful to the UK and for that, we thank her.
Doreen Lawrence OBE
Doreen Lawrence has been campaigning for reform within the UK’s criminal justice system since the murder of her son in 1994. Doreen set up the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust which offers opportunity to disadvantaged young people living in the UK, including an apprenticeship at the BBC. Her unwavering determination to improve race relations and police hostility in the UK has rendered powerful results; we hope to join Doreen in advocating for further change.
White Teeth and On Beauty are just a few of the gems Zadie has graced us with over the years. Aside from her writing, she’s supported campaigns such as #SetHerFree to end the detention of refugee and asylum seeking women here in the UK. Although currently teaching in the states Zadie will always remain one of our British faves.
Malorie Blackman OBE
Shanice recently wrote an article declaring why Malorie Blackman instilled a love of books within her. For most of us, the Noughts and Crosses series were staple components to our teen years. Blackman explored themes which many of us had yet to consider or find in other books we were reading at the time. Thank you Malorie Blackman!
Meltem is a campaigner for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Aged just 13, Meltem was held in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre. She recently won Liberty’s campaigner of the year award and continues to be an inspiration to young women and asylum seekers world-wide.
Grace Wales Bonner
Grace is a young fashion designer taking the world by storm – she won Emerging Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards last year. Her pieces are a beautiful expressions of the diaspora – using fashion to examine spaces between black identity and European luxury. Grace’s work is influenced by literature, historical sources and critical theory. Unfortunately for us, all of Grace’s incredible creations are for men; but who know what the future has in store!
Bim is our ultimate journo inspo and her twitter gives us life in all sorts of ways. She recently joined Buzzfeed as UK culture editor and pens a weekly column for The Guardian entitled Crush of the Week where she features her faves; most of whom are fabulous women making waves.
Leomie has been taking the modelling world by storm and simultaneously calling out the racism which persists in it. The 22 year old has been vocal on the racial discrimination she’s faced in the fashion world; most recently calling out unprepared make-up artists who don’t know how to work on darker-skinned women. It’s great to see women working on the inside of these industries telling it like it is.
Reni is a journalist whose main focus is feminism and structural racism. She writes for just about every publication under the sun including The Guardian, Dazed and Confused, The Pool and The Independent. It’s no surprised that Reni has picked up a few awards along the way.
Aside from being a word-class model, Adoah is the creator of Gurls Talk, a platform celebrating female friendship, discuss social justice and gender equality.
I’m yet to find a woman who moves like FKA Twigs. Everything about her; her style, dancing and sound are completely unique. After bagging a MOBO for the video for ‘Pendulum’; Twigs told the crowd how not so long ago she was a backing dancer for Wretch 32 at the MOBOs. How glad are we that she is now at the forefront! Twigs has also been vocal on the racial abuse thrust her way as a result of her relationship with Robert Pattinson; the extent to which has been unimaginable, yet many of the themes which have emerged have been all too familiar to members of gal-dem. We will be eternally grateful to Twigs for providing us with musical delights and speaking out on issues which are important to us, and we’re sure she will remain centre stage.
gal-dem spoke with Juliana last year about her photography as explorations of the black British experience. Her images are just beautiful. Juliana’s preferred style is black and white film portraiture; she explores themes including black women and hair, eschewing myths about “good” vs “bad hair” and the use of relaxer. Her most recent project has been photographing for CRWN Magazine – a print magazine for natural hair.
Samantha is the founder of Media Diversified, who just held the UK’s first ever literary festival dedicated to writers of colour. gal-dem caught up with Samantha earlier this year, and she told us why it’s so important for us as people of colour to be in creative control through creating our own platforms instead of waiting for someone else to co-opt our ideas and speak for us. Samantha’s real passion is film and she’s produced some incredible documentaries on a host of issues including black feminism, FGM and immigration.
Leyla is the co-founder of Daughters of Eve and has fought non-stop to raise awareness on FGM. She’s the brilliant mind behind Channel 4’s The Cruel Cut, which provides an honest and harrowing insight into FGM. Leyla was crowned Ultimate Campaigner by Cosmopolitan as a recognition of the unstoppable force she is!
Nimko co-founded the organisation Daughters of Eve and has been working tirelessly to raise awareness around female genital mutiliation. Nimko is an academic, a campaigner and all round advocate for the rights of women. She’s supported campaigns to bring an end to the detention of women asylum seekers; a constant inspiration to us here at gal-dem.
When we heard Hannah’s soulection beats, we instantly fell in love! After a brief interlude, Hannah has returned with some smooth beats – she’s spoken openly with Saint Heron about mental health and the stigma attached (thank you thank you thank you) and now she’s back, we can’t wait for more!
Jama’s career is always on the up; she’s a presenter who has worked for VEVO, MTV, 4Music, Channel 4 and even CBBC. Maya is also a Drive Time host and has interviewed many of our faces – including Craig David and Gekko. Her infectiously bubbly personality always has us smiling and we can’t wait to see her career rocket even further.
Tanya is an actress, political activist, RADA academy associate teacher, Buddhist, Olivier Award nominee and member of the Women’s Equality party. She’s been vocal about the lack of diversity within theatre, slamming the idea of colourblind casting, telling Word of Colour that she doesn’t want the audience to be blind to the fact that she’s black, but to recognise that she’s the best person for the job.
Join our conversation and celebrate WoC this International Women’s Day with the hashtag #WoCIWD on Twitter!