By Mrs Tashi Nyame-Jones
Mentoring has proven to be an incredible resource for me and as a Black woman. Finding another Black woman, who is further on the professional journey and who looks back to identify others she could support, can be difficult. But I have found a mentor in Dr Peggy Warren, and her commitment to mentor others has been further enhanced by the support of Ubele’s founder, Ms Yvonne Field.
Throughout the years Peggy and I spent many hours working through issues that interest us - faith, our Jamaican background and upbringing, our love and passion about helping others, especially the uplifting of women. Our conversations inspired me to volunteer at the Community based Saturday School which supports the uplifting of the education of our diverse Inner-City children and their parents. Over the years we have been privileged to work with displaced families providing English Language development and support parents in securing employment through our job clubs. Working in the Saturday School is extremely rewarding, and the experience supported me in securing a fixed term position as a Teaching Assistant in a Secondary School.
Through our mentor/mentee relationship, our commitment to lifting others through education, has not just impacted people of our beautifully diverse and complex inner-City Birmingham. Our aspiration to see others thrive has seen Peggy travelling to several parts of Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, the Gambia as well as South African and in each context, she has educated women and children. Though, I was unable to travel to the Continent, I played my part in supporting the organising fund-raising projects to further the work of building schools in both Ghana and Nigeria.
Having a mentor supports me in laying out my vision and plotting the way to turn my dreams into realities. It also is crucial in supporting me when I hit roadblocks or totally lose my way.
Working with Peggy helps me to face questions about myself that each day my colonised experiences provide a negative narrative for. For example (Am I worthy, can I do it?) and find the appropriate and evidence-based answers (Undoubtedly, and of course, I am more than able). As a Black woman, I am constantly working on emancipating myself from conscious and subconscious colonial mindsets. Having a mentor challenges me to think about the roots of my thinking is powerful in supporting me in doing this.
I was introduced to The Ubele Initiative by Peggy. We visited one of their multiple projects in London and gained insights into the plethora of work that Ubele was involved in. Agricultural projects, Senior Citizens’ Projects, Youth project, Gender projects, their community focus and commitment is amazing. I was very impressed with the agricultural project and what they had achieved in a short time. I felt like I found home and wanted to be part of any project I could within The Ubele Initiative.
As an educator, I was provided with the opportunity of shadowing Dr Warren and Ms Field on the ELEVATE programme. The ELEVATE programme is a bespoke programme for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women. A group who are more positively described as originating from ‘The Global Majority’. I have found that the programme offers us a way of both harnessing and sharing power. Whenever I even mention the word ELEVATE, now, I automatically feel the spirits of both our ancestors and the women I saw on the screen and whose stories I was so deeply touched and inspired by, and I feel ELEVATED.
Each session I observed, gave me new insights into myself as a woman. The learning from this programme impacted more than thoughts and thinking, it impacted my body, ignited my emotions, and taught me ways of renewing myself within the workspace, within my home, as a parent, a wife, and a community worker. I took so much from the programme, that I will continue to share within the various groups I link in with. One of the messages from the programme that I love to share in the community amongst hard working volunteers who often don’t have a title or count the cost of their investments.
YOU ARE ALL AWESOME LEADERS because you make things happen.
ELEVATE, taught us amongst other things, that leaders are everyday people. I have got to be honest, I had relegated their functions, because I had adapted a Western concept of leadership.
ELEVATE opened my mind to thoughts that I probably didn’t realize I had and helped me to unlearn some behaviours that were passed down through generations who was none the wiser. I have gained confidence in myself and my worth in all aspects of my life. The program also reinforced my interest in helping other women. As part of ‘paying it forward’ both Tryphena and I will be using our learning from this opportunity to work in our local communities with women who need support to learn new IT skills, employment skills, and language skills. The ELEVATE mentoring programme has been a demonstration of how female visionaries impact our world and will continue to impact our world. I have no idea how many countries were represented by the women on the programme, but I believe that the ripple effects of ELEVATE will go way beyond the UK shores and I will certainly be doing my part to mentor other younger women.
Tashi Kwame-Jones is Director of Cakeditbakedit and a mentee of Dr Peggy Warren