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'Why I want to honour black women'

GUEST: Professor Elizabeth Anionwu will receive a Lifetime Achievement award at the event

THE ACHIEVEMENTS of women of colour all over the world are rarely heard of.

As black women we are constantly bombarded with media stories that portray us as aggressive, angry, violent, underachieving and poor.

But of course, we know that this is not the true picture. Growing up, I was inspired by the courage and perseverance of women such as 19th Century civil rights campaigner Harriet Tubman, nurse Mary Seacole and American fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe who created the wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier when she married Senator John F Kennedy who went on to become US President in 1960.

I was also inspired my mum who gave up everything to give me and my siblings the best education and opportunity, even in the face of terrible domestic violence.

So rather than put up with our stories being airbrushed out of the national conversation about the important role of women in society I wanted to do something that redressed the balance and highlighted the positive contributions made by women of colour and let the world know how beautiful black women are, inside and out.

In addition to that, I have always been passionate about promoting African heritage and I refuse to accept that our history should be seen solely through the lens of slavery.

The passion I have for my mum, and my frustration at how we are often pushed aside gave birth to an event I decided to launch called Divas of Colour.

It’s a special day to celebrate, recognise and reward the contributions of women of colour.

I launched it last year and I clearly remember the feeling amongst the audience at that first event - it was like the women present in the audience had been waiting for something like this.

They came together from all over the country and different parts of the world to celebrate their successes and achievements, network with each other, share ideas and enjoy sista time to talk about their struggles and challenges, and find inspiration to stay motivated to be and give their best.
This year’s event will take place on today (March 21) at the Hilton Hotel Docklands Riverside London, from 12 noon.

DIVA OF COLOUR: Faustina Anyanwu

The event will kick off with a free to enter trade show and exhibition of brands for and by women of colour ranging from beauty, health, fashion and home accessories brands from over 20 companies.

Audience members will have the final say in voting who wins the Brand of the Year.

At the evening event, there will be a red carpet wine reception, followed by a fashion show and pageant, speeches, dance and comedy performances and most importantly, the award ceremony.

Each year, we deal with a particular social issue. This year, we’re standing up against depression with our chosen charity Depression Alliance. So Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, will deliver a speech. Mandy Sanghera a UN activist on honour based crime and Waltham Forest councillor Ann Mbachu, who has done a lot of work on the issues facing children and young people, will also speak.

And among the high-profile guests will be Pirates of the Caribbean star Winston George Ellis, former mayor of Enfield Chief Kate Anolue, and Emeritus Professor of Nursing at Thames Valley university Elizabeth Anionwu, who will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement award.

I and my team have put so much effort into Divas of Colour to make it an event that is worthy of the women we are celebrating.

However it has not been easy. Last year we didn’t have a single sponsor. But despite the financial constraints, we carried on anyway.

For this year’s event it looked like we would have the same problem. But at the last minute, Dr Kem (Dr Nkem Ezeilo) a healthy lifestyle coach, GP, author and speaker and Lebara Mobile stepped in to become associate sponsors.

My big hope is that Divas Of Colour creates a legacy. Even when I’m gone, I want women to continue working on it every year and keep alive its goal of celebrating the contributions of black women to our community, to the country and to the wider world.

It’s a nonstop project that definitely involves a lot of hard work, long hours thinking about planning, logistics and meetings. Even before this year’s Divas Of Colour has concluded, work has already begun on next year’s event, from sourcing possible venues to deciding which charity and cause we will be working with.

But in the words of the famous L’Oreal TV ad, I do it because we’re worth it.

Faustina Anyanwu, aka Fauntee, is the founder of Divas of Colour. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of C. Hub magazine and founder of MBW PR. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram on @Fauntee

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