BHM Dinner & Dance – 11 October 2014

Blog no responses JustBe’s flagship event, the Black History Month dinner and dance, saw 190 dazzling guests descend on the Croydon Park Hotel on 11 October.  This was JustBe’s 5th annual celebration of black achievement throughout the ages, and especially the often unsung role of black women. Yvette McDonald, Founder of JustBe, warmly welcomed guests.  She reminded us of JustBe’s vision to empower women to be free to be themselves in whatever format that may take.  Relaxation, art workshops, bible studies, debates, mechanic workshops – all are offered by this dynamic, community-based women’s organisation in South East London. The twin themes for the night were the contribution of African and Afro-Caribbean service men and women in the two World Wars, and the impact of mental health issues on our communities.  Yvette and her team had done a magnificent job preparing a programme that challenged, educated and entertained in equal measure. Vivienne Siva gave an address on behalf of the Jamaican High Commission; a young singer from Albania by way of the X-Factor, Diamantina, gave a powerful rendition of traditional gospel songs; and funds were raised for the event’s chosen charity, MIND. For a certain nonagenarian it would definitely be an evening to remember.  Yes, there will be a photo going viral on social media of 90 year old Allan Wilmot flanked by not one, but two glamorous ladies in red – Angie Greaves, radio presenter and guest interviewer, and Yvette McDonald.  No wonder he was smiling! A spritely and spirited Allan had enthralled the assembled guests with his stories of active service in both the Navy and RAF during the 1940s, followed by careers in show business and the communications industry.  A lady named Marjorie gave an eloquent and moving account of her experience of depression.  Help and support is available was the message, and Marjorie was proof that there really is life after depression.  Marjorie urged us all to set aside stigma, insensitivity and our own fears, and encourage anyone we know may be at risk of mental illness to seek early intervention. After a fabulous Caribbean style dinner the annual quiz tested our knowledge of those more esoteric elements of black history.  Who knew that Maizie Ursula Williams, a member of the 80’s band Boney M, hailed from the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat?  Or that Princess Sophie Charlotte was the first black queen of (wait for it) … England? The raffle draw kept the entire company in suspense.  (To the gentleman who won the Gitas Portals coat, it really would look so much better on me – just a suggestion!)  And the evening closed as guests took to the dance floor to soca off all that rice and peas and chocolate gateau!  A brilliant night was had by everyone.  Well done, JustBe!! Laura Osborne-Mclean

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