Celebrating Women

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Dancer, Fen Fen at the International Slavery Museum's 'Celebrating Women' event

Our Head of Communities, Claire Benjamin, tells us more about the 'Celebrating Women' event:

"Following the news that the first woman ever in Oscar history has won the directing award, I thought it quite fitting to highlight further female achievement at the International Slavery Museum.

Last week we marked International Women's Day with 'Celebrating Women', an event during which we unveiled three new plaques on the Black Achievers Wall. Aretha Franklin, Diane Nash and Andrea Levy now have pride of place on the wall, joining a growing list of esteemed great Black achievers.
A plaque for Aretha Franklin, who achieved a total of 45 'Top 40' hits, is now on display near by Barack Obama’s plaque, who she sang for at his presidential inauguration ceremony in 2009. She is joined by Andrea Levy, award winning British author whose book 'Small Island' was the centre of the biggest mass-reading initiative ever taken place in Britain back in 2007.

Diane Nash is the third new plaque. I had the great pleasure of meeting Diane at last year’s Slavery Remembrance Day memorial lecture, where she delivered an amazing lecture on her life during the non violent student sit-ins in '60s America, and her continuing fight for human and civil rights. I promised Diane that I would read out the following during the unveiling:

"I believe there was no invention of the 20th century more significant than Mohandas Gandhi’s social invention of a way to wage war without killing and maiming fellow human beings.  His invention, nonviolence (agapic energy), uses power generated by love rather than power generated by violent weapons.  Gandhi’s movement was a model for the American Civil Rights Movement and the American Civil Right Movement of the 1960s left to the world a legacy that we can use now and into this young century.  Nonviolence (agapic energy) provides us an opportunity to evolve into an improved species."  
Inspiring words indeed, though it is perhaps interesting to consider that she is less known than her male counterparts from that period in American history. Her non-violence message gives food for thought in a time where war and conflict appears to be on the increase and human rights are being violated the world over.

The event was also an opportunity for the museum to look at the darker side of women's history, exploring the sexualisation and violation of women's liberty today. Artist Rachel Wilberforce talked about her display 'Missing', currently on display at the International Slavery Museum. The photographs of urban and suburban Britain depict sex-trafficking and prostitution through the interior and exteriors of brothels and massage parlours, exposing us to modern day forms of slavery.

We also heard from Nadja Middleton, a representative of the Olive Morris Collective, who talked passionately about the work of Olive Morris, an inspiring community leader and grass roots activist from Brixton. She achieved so much, in a life that was tragically cut short, which certainly made us wonder, 'what more could she have done?' if she were still with us today.
The evening was brought to a graceful end by dancer Fen-Fen (pictured above), who beautifully performed a piece depicting women's liberation in China.

A fabulous collective experience, for all the women, and men, in the audience that night.