The lessons of the past remind us of how far we’ve come

Portrait of Charmaine smilling with a plain background

Charmaine Williamson

Date published

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Charmaine Williamson discusses what Black History Month means to her.  

To me, Black History Month means a journey taken, a life lived. It means strength, defiance and family.

I’ve thought long and hard about what Black History Month (BHM) means to me and how I identify with it. To me, it means a journey taken, a life lived. It means strength, defiance and family. The lessons I’ve learned, guidance I’ve given and mistakes I’ve made have all fed into the woman I am today. It is for this reason I salute my sisters.

It’s been a long journey so far, marred with cultural overhangs as well as the want, and need, to make my own way and own traditions. It started when I was young, being brought up in a family that had only recently arrived in England. I was raised on stories of abandonment, challenge and drive.

One story that has stuck with me, and which makes me smile to this day, is the strength and encouragement other generations of sisters in my family have shown over the years. They have exemplified how one can raise their head, despite trying times, and come out the other side stronger.

I have watched the women and children of generations past do as they were told and follow the direction of their providers in what historically may have been viewed as the typical ‘woman at home’ scenario. For me, this was my dad, uncles and grandparents. I regularly watched the women in my family stand behind their men through thick and thin with all the strength they could muster. Often this was all the fight they had.

The new generation of women in my family are very different. We’ve learned to stand our ground and be known as the individuals we are, not the gender we represent. Over time, we’ve integrated ourselves into British society, becoming more knowledgeable and appreciative of our surroundings in the process.

Bit by bit, day by day, we’ve made a stand in this country, and we’ve done it well. We’ve armed ourselves with education, which has given us the strength to not only forge out long standing careers, but also drive and instill change in the family, making sure with each new generation we have a different, more positive approach. It means our children will do better and, as a group of women, we can revel in our newfound individualism. This is our family mantra which guides us at every turn and helps us continue to build on our family foundations we celebrate today.

Today, my family is in a good and healthy place, filled with strong-minded women who live life on our own terms and who do whatever takes our fancy. The lessons of the past, and our own history, remind us of how far we’ve come. For this, again, I salute my sisters.