Saluting our sisters for Black History Month 2023

Dewbien Plummer, 02 October 2023

As Co-Chair of HouseProud, a volunteer network supporting LGBTQ+ individuals in social housing I’m using my platform during Black History Month 2023 to highlight the importance of representation as a bi/pansexual Black British woman.

HouseProud, established in 2014, operates in London, Southeast England, and Greater Manchester (HouseProud NW). We're well-established, with Rainbow Roofs as our Resident Led Group. We developed the HouseProud Pledge through collaboration with the University of Surrey. It's now delivered by Stonewall Housing, supporting LGBTQ+ people facing homelessness or unsafe environments across the UK.

As Co-Chair, I see the need for more visible Black LGBTQ+ voices in our sector. I'm privileged to occupy this space and aim to create opportunities for others to join in.

Celebrating Black History Month 2023

Black History Month is a moment of celebration this is in contrast to the usual ‘bad news’ about ethnicity. This year’s theme is 'Saluting our Sisters’ acknowledging “intersectionality” within Black women's experiences. Intersectionality is a way of understanding how different parts of a person's identity can combine to create unique experiences of disadvantage or privilege.

Let's break it down so imagine you're a woman, you're Black, and you're Disabled. Each of these aspects brings its own challenges. But when you're a Black woman with a disability, these challenges all mixed together and can make life more interesting, but also more complicated.

This theme resonates deeply, as I've always believed there is no conflict between my multiple identities. Just like Beyonce, I'm comfortable in my skin. It's about celebrating the wonderful diversity that makes each of us unique.

Why it matters

The challenges experienced by Black and Minority Ethnic communities in social housing have been well documented. A recent example is the Better Social Housing Review (BSHR) along with the subsequent Action Plan.

The BSHR report has brought into focus the need to address systemic inequalities that persist within our sector particularly concerning race which serves as a fundamental theme in the recommendations. These inequalities can have dire consequences, including negative outcomes and tragically, even fatal impacts on individuals and communities.

Black History Month, against this backdrop, serves as a crucial stage for acknowledging and celebrating the invaluable contributions made by Black women in British society.

It's a time to delve into the stories of Black women who have not only overcome adversity but have excelled and made a significant impact in various fields, including social housing. This month provides a platform to honour their achievements and highlight the vital role they continue to play in shaping multicultural Britain.

Exceptional Black women making a difference in social housing

Honouring the theme of Black History Month, I'm delighted to spotlight three remarkable Black women who have made significant contributions to the social housing sector and have left a lasting impact on the broader social justice landscape.

These inspiring individuals have paved the way for positive change and continue to inspire us all.

They are:

  • Lara Oyedele, President, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH)
  • Marie Porter, Phoenix Academy Training Manager
  • The Women of Unify

Lara Oyedele

Lara has made a mark as President of CIH with her 'In My Shoes' campaign. Her focus on increasing diversity in leadership is a much-needed initiative. Lara's research, ‘Breaking the Mould’ explores the lack of ethnic and racial diversity in housing association boardrooms, contributing to the call for meaningful change.

The passion and energy that she has put into the role has been truly inspirational and the impact of her tenure will be felt for years to come. Her unapologetic focus on increasing representation and diversity of Black people in leadership in social housing has been empowering for many of us and we haven’t seen yet the full impact of her time as President of CIH.

On a personal level, I have met with Lara many times and have been impressed most by her vulnerability, transparency and true desire for positive change. As someone who has experienced homelessness herself, she exemplifies the type of leadership our sector needs.

Marie Porter

As the Training Manager of Phoenix Academy, Marie has been pioneering since its creation in 2014. Her efforts led to the academy becoming the only housing association to gain official Learning Centre Accreditation. Awards aside, Marie has made a significant impact on the sector, exemplifying best practice.

Women of UNIFY

UNIFY was formed by Black and Minority Ethnic members to make sure the voices of diverse colleagues in the social housing sector are heard. 

The staff network aims to increase inclusion opportunities at all levels. The allyship of Unify Women with HouseProud has been invaluable, highlighting the critical importance of cross-organisational support.

Saluting our sister

Black History Month is a poignant occasion to honour the impactful Black women who are driving positive change in the social housing sector. Whether through advocacy or tangible solutions, these women embody true leadership and allyship in British society.

Their contributions serve as a powerful reminder of the transformative influence that diversity, dedication, and collaboration can have in shaping a more equal and inclusive social housing sector we can all be proud of.