Dream girls or Amazons?

By Thomas L Blair, 4 April 2013 © http://chronicleworld.wordpress.com

Rihanna in ELLE
Rihanna in ELLE
Rihanna in Black face
Rihanna in Black face
Rhianna in UK Vogue
Rhianna in UK Vogue

In hard-hit Black Britain, the tinted flesh and fluffy fantasies of US-branded dream girls never fails to appeal. Dollars and scents, fame and fortune make celebrities  like Caribbean-born Rihanna seem instantly available, especially  if you can “shake your booty” in expensive lingerie.

Despite the dream girls allure, the cultural markers in our digital memories may be of a different hue. The empowering “Amazons” or warrior queens can extend the strengths of Black women into the realms of culture, politics and consciousness at all levels of society.

 This will raise the confidence of many that work hard and do the best for their families. Among them the low-wage workers and job-seekers, and degree-holding women that languish in the lowest temporary jobs.

 Bonnie Greer – Playwright, author and university chancellor

African American and a Brit by choice, Bonnie Greer, age 64, promotes gender and race equality in her new role as Chancellor of Kingston University, near London.  The first Black

University Chancellor Bonnie Greer
University Chancellor Bonnie Greer

woman to achieve this honorary post calls on universities to encourage women to study mathematics and sciences, reports the university press.

Ms Greer, a well-known media commentator, warns that historically women have been kept out of these professions, so who knows what genius has been lost”? Furthermore, the playwright and author told the press “When you think of all the big problems that are out there waiting to be solved, every ounce of human intelligence is needed.

As for the more ceremonial and unpaid duties, Greer told reporters she asked Kingston to “forgo the Pope-mobile, but I can come in a Rolls and give out the diplomas”.

Zita Holbourne –  For working class and hard-hit Black families

Zita Holbourne
Zita Holbourne, equality campaigner

If ever there was an award for racking up national honours for tackling racism, Zita Holbourne would win it by a mile. With the poetic slogan, Resist and Rise, she co-founded Black Activist Rising Against [budget] Cuts-BARAC. With colleagues, she reversed the 2012 London Olympic Committee decision that barred The Voice, Black newspaper from the Games.

Holbourne campaigns for “Equality, Freedom, Justice and Democracy through activism, art and poetry”. On winning a role model award, she said: “We have a duty not just to defend the hard earned gains made by those who went before us but to achieve equality in our lifetime and create a legacy for future generations”.

University Professor Joan Anim-Addo
University Professor Joan Anim-Addo

Joan Anim-Addo – Caribbean Studies professor and writer

Prof Anim-Addo, from Grenada, heads the Black-centred Caribbean Studies program at Goldsmiths College, London, the only one with this unique focus. Called a rare  tenured female scholar, she recently co-authored the nation’s first Black British Writing, Drama and Performance graduate course.

Anim-Addo aims to produce “young people who can contribute fresh and stimulating ideas towards a more inclusive cultural experience at all levels: locally, nationally and internationally.” Couple this with a decades-long literary career and you have one of the most distinguished records in the UK professoriate.

A remarkable achievement when out of 15,000 professors only 50 are Black. Furthermore, “of approximately 10 black female professors in the UK, at least five are in nursing. “We have yet to discover one in the Humanities,” she said in the Higher Education Academy Newsletter, Issue 15 – October 2008.

Baroness Patricia Scotland –peer and women’s rights campaigner

Originally from Dominica, Scotland reminds people of the sort of woman who grows stronger in the battle for gender and race 

Baroness Scotland - Women's rights campaigner
Baroness Scotland – Women’s rights campaigner

equality. Her Global Foundation to Eliminate Domestic Violence helps the violated women that society often forgets.

Something of a trailblazer, lawyer Scotland, 58, is the first Black woman to reach the legal and political heights. Notably, she became the nation’s Attorney General, the first Black female to do so in the post’s 700-year history. 

Her commitment has ranged from promoting a fair and equal news media at a Chronicleworld.org meeting in 1997, to recently raising awareness of issues of world peace. 

Talking to law students and lay persons is her interest, Scotland says, and “there is no greater satisfaction than in knowing that you have made a change in someone’s life for the better”. What she does clearly works.  A commentator recalls, “It was truly encouraging to hear such a point and a fantastic reminder to all young people embarking on their career paths that they can strike a good balance in achieving a lot whilst giving to other people”.

Amazons take control of their careers in literature, politics, culture and education

Of course, warrior women are not yet a sisterhood of faith and action. They make no claim to foster a Black Britain Women’s Movement. However, they are admired across gender, racial, cultural – and political – lines.

Crucially, they carry a message of community building and shared responsibility. Together and in concert with Black communities, they can design high-quality policies for women at work, in the home, in education or on the dole. Instead of making up in the mirrors of illusion, warrior queens can paint another picture. They can set out the freedomways that Black British women need to escape from crippling disadvantage and shape their lives to a different, higher purpose. 


To find out more about the trials and triumphs of  postcolonial generations of Black women,  scholars and communities, see my E-book, Thomas L Blair, Decolonising Knowledge – Expanding the Black Experience in Britain’s heritage. Copyright Editions Blair© 2013.

Contents: Why Decolonising Knowledge?; The Black Public intellectual; Black Britain — crucible of transformation and change; Black scholars – mind of the Diaspora; Upgrading Black heritage in national collections; Time for a Decolonising Knowledge agenda; The Thomas L Blair Collection, with Appendices. 134 pages. Complimentary pdf copies are available for useful commentaries, by e-mail to Prof Thomas L Blair at tb@thechronicle.demon.co.uk