Support us

SBQ Palorine

March 22nd, 2024

Introducing Ms Palorine Williams. 

Palorine was born to St Vincentian parents who travelled to the UK in the mid 1950’s to work. In 1962, at a young age of 7 1⁄2, Palorine, a sibling and their grandmother travelled to the UK from St Vincent to join her parents in London.   

 At the age of 18, Palorine left London, she didn’t see herself as a city girl, she wanted to live much closer to nature and followed the ‘hippie trail’ to Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. In the early 1980s she enrolled in nursing and on qualifying, soon became disillusioned by the ways policies and the practice of nursing discriminated against black people. She shares: 

‘It's there (in the nursing profession and workplace) I really understood institutional racism. In Burnley where I was, I saw the way policies were mitigating against Black people. It was dreadful. And yes, I'd been brought up being called wog and other insults, you can shrug those off but seeing the way nursing was systematically treating black staff and patients was awful to watch; so, I left.” 

Education was very much part of Palorine’s DNA. She read voraciously and came to believe education and knowledge as being the path to liberation; education is power. 

 She disliked the feeling of ignorance and powerlessness. She decided to broaden her education by going back to study. Palorine got a place at Manchester University to study Sociology, However, but after a few weeks decided Sociology wasn’t for her and switched to an English degree.  

With an English degree, a Postgraduate Teaching degree and nursing qualification behind her, Palorine was primed to utilise her knowledge of people and health through teaching; and entered the field of Community and Continuing Adult Education. She started work in Chapeltown, considered to be an area of deprivation in Leeds, and an area which was predominantly populated by Black and Asian communities.  In Adult Education, she saw a replication of institutionalised injustices, tutors were primarily white and students predominantly black. There she found that teachers had little, or no aspirations for their students, and the teaching lacked meaning, creativity and commitment. 



Quotes from project contributors

“I wouldn’t change anything about my life really…Well maybe I’d give up that fear and feeling”, that I carried that I always had gotten something wrong. I would never give up working with black women and those living with domestic abuse. They have taught me so much; they have expanded my world. Most of my best and most valued support has come from women, so it's a 2-way street.” 

— Ms Palorine Williams. 

As Adult Community Coordinator and fuelled, by youth, passion, and activism, Palorine set about challenging the systems and suggesting and influencing change, from policy level to everyday activities. She contributed to creating environments where all students, especially women could thrive. Her proactivity contributed to mobilising other women and after some time, within the education establishment things were changing; there was a new culture. Creche facilities were introduced, the curriculum was changed to give value and meaning to the students; a curriculum that reflected the needs, culture, values, traditions, and knowledge of the black Diaspora. Black women, in particular, were encouraged and supported to develop a stronger sense of themselves, educationally and politically. 

Palorine encouraged, stimulated and supported women to empower themselves, to ask for what they needed to support them on their learning journeys. She sought to give black women lives value and meaning through the teaching of Language and Literature. 

Her approach highlighted, that though the women were often undervalued, equally they were knowledgeable, wise, assertive, creative, aspirational, resourceful and resilient, 


“These women students rose, they only needed someone to believe in them, someone to come alongside them. Isn’t that what we all need? Some of these women left the college and got degrees, some became teachers themselves, others, became involved in community education, a number got involved in writing and producing poetry and other creative ventures”.


The women not only empowered themselves, but they also raised and lifted others up; including Palorine herself. They organised projects, events and workshops. One such project was exploring the history of Caribbean women in Chapletown in the publication “When Our Ship Comes In”. produced in partnership with Yorkshire Arts. This book was a chronicling and celebration of the older Caribbean women and their contribution in establishing the black community in Chapletown.


Seeing the positive and life-affirming impact of liberatory education on women who, establishments, should have been helping, yet had side-lined through systemic discrimination. Palorine left Leeds to continue her community activism and teaching in Sheffield. As an associate lecturer, she became one of the pillars of the African Diaspora Certificate programme; a partnership between Sheffield University and The Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA). teaching Black studies and Caribbean Literature.

 Palorine carried on her grass roots work with black women, believing she could set and maintain a more positive way of working for, and with, women, especially those who were considered ‘deprived’ and marginalised. She worked with the SADACCA women’s group, the Burngreave Black Women’s Centre; she established ‘Black Butterflies’, to facilitate creative writing, health and wellbeing workshops and events for black women in Sheffield, Huddersfield and Leeds 

Palorine's activism and her personal development, and insights from her longitudinal study as a ‘Wellness Coach’, led her to identify that judgement permeated the lives of women who had, or, were living with abuse. Groundwork activism led her to understand that services often pathologized the women, rather than investing time to understanding them within their contexts. She believed that creative, personal, bespoke education combined with therapeutic input, would contribute to greater positive outcomes for women and their healing.

She used her knowledge, experience, passion and commitment to the wellbeing of women working with women experiencing, affected by and surviving domestic abuse.  

“When we work from the heart, in a loving, non-judgemental way; when a holistic, therapeutic and healing intervention is put in place and the women are engaged, it makes the most amazing difference to their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. They regain themselves

This education and women’s liberationist is the matriarch of three generations, she has two children, 3 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Though she is heading towards threescore and ten years, she asserts:  

“I wouldn’t change anything about my life really…Well maybe I’d give up that fear and feeling”, that I carried that I always had gotten something wrong. I would never give up working with black women and those living with domestic abuse. They have taught me so much; they have expanded my world. Most of my best and most valued support has come from women, so it's a 2-way street.” 


And what would this lifelong educator say to the women coming behind her? She has four messages.  


  • Have faith in yourself! 

  • Recognise your inner fears but move to action anyway! 

  • Believe that you are so worthwhile! 

  • Know that you are more than capable - no matter what others try or imply! 


Palorine has spent her life investing in others, she enjoys nature, and working with the earth contributes to her joy. She invested well in the land of the colonisers, but she is heading to the home of the closer ancestors. Eagerly she shares:  

“After all these years I'm exhausted. Even though I tell others to, I haven't looked after myself the way I should have. I'm going to heal myself and in time my daughter and I are going to develop some wellbeing retreats for exhausted women; hopefully in my 70th year (2025) we will be ready.” 

Today, with gratitude and joy, we salute and honour, educator, health and wellbeing practitioner and community activist: Ms Palorine Williams.

This feature is part of the Seasoned UK Black Queens series celebrating Black women throughout March, a fantastic project led by Yvonne Christie. Read more here

Sign up to receive our news, updates, resources and opportunities.