13 October 2016
Equality & diversity
Celebrating Black History Month
Residents from Newnton Close, a Hanover Housing Association estate in Hackney, were treated to a cultural event with a difference when they played host to the Retired Caribbean Nurses and NHS travelling exhibition as part of Black History Month.
The exhibition celebrates the achievements and contributions of retired Caribbean nurses, chronicling their experiences from when they were recruited to the UK between 1949 and 1970. They played a major role in helping the then fledgling NHS to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service.
The event held special significance for Newnton Close resident 81-year-old Carmen Joseph, who was inspired to follow in the footsteps of Mary Seacole and her mother to study medicine and help her local community. After watching her mother work as a midwife as a child, she left Jamaica in the late 1950s before qualifying as a nurse. In 1963 she was posted to Friern Barnet Hospital and the infamous Holloway Prison.
Carmen said: 'I really enjoyed listening to the stories told by the Caribbean Nurses. They reminded me of my days working in the General Psychiatric ward. Each time the unit got really busy or received a particularly challenging inmate, they would call for me and say, "Come nurse, all hell is let loose’’. Nine times out of ten all I needed to do was rush down, tell a few jokes and calm things down.'
Other residents shared their stories of early life as immigrants in the UK, with a reminder that much of the discrimination the nurses faced was rife in other industries too. The nurses' stories of abuse from patients and being denied opportunities to progress were harrowing. However, their positive attitude and perseverance triumphed, with each nurse eventually getting to where she wanted to be in her own career. The nurses displayed a timeline which detailed the history of black nurses in the UK from 1850 to the present day and is a testament to their many achievements.
Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive, Hanover Housing Association said: 'We are incredibly proud to have been able to host this wonderful event celebrating the contribution made to UK nursing by nurses from the Caribbean. Their service to the NHS was exceptional and richly deserves the recognition it is getting through this exhibition.'
Beverley Davis, Acting Chair of the Retired Caribbean Nurses Association, said: 'The Retired Caribbean Nurses believe that as trailblazers we have the opportunity to maintain the Legacy of the contributions made to The National Health Service by Black and Ethnic Minority Nurses'.
Black History Month is a national annual celebration of the contribution that African and Caribbean communities have made both locally and across the globe.