Featured: Black influences in my community - Zainab Scattred Janneh
October is the month where we celebrate the black people who have inspired and influenced us.
We have heard or learnt about influential black people like Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Mansa Musa, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and many more, who have made significant impacts on the World; but sometimes we don’t recognise, talk, and celebrate inspiring people in our own local communities.
In our community, we have people who have helped and influenced us more than we realise. In this short biography, I will be writing about four people who have inspired me and who work hard to make differences in their respective communities.
Born in 1977 in a coastal town called Gunjur, The Gambia, Masireh was from a disadvantaged background in many ways: her mum was a vegetable gardener with little income used to support the family, and her dad had a small corner shop from where most of the family income came.
However, both parents were determined to support their daughter through her educational journey. Her mum was not very keen on her going to school outside of their town, especially when she finished primary school.
As the only child of her mother, she was instead expected to help with the vegetable garden with the belief that women should be trained for marriage.
Eventually, her mum persuaded her to go to secondary school in Gunjur instead. She eventually went on to complete her GCSEs in 1996 at ICE High School in Banjul.
After finishing her GCSEs, she came to England through the Marlborough Brandt Group sponsorship to further her education. She studied Business Administration at Swindon College.
She stayed with an English family who supported her to pursue her higher education.
Being in England opened more doors for her as girls' education wasn’t highly valued in Gambia and the opportunities for young women were limited.
She persuaded the principal to grant her a home fee because she had been living in Swindon for 2 years. While studying, she would babysit, clean for people, and do lots of minimally paying jobs to fund her education.
After finishing college, she went to Bath University to study Business at degree level. Marcy as she is normally called in the Gambia, felt a hunger. A hunger in the sense that she wanted to teach and make a difference. Because of her love for children, she decided to do a PGCE and embarked on her first teaching job in Bristol, where she worked for 8 years. She then moved to another primary school where she still works now.
Marcy’s love for her community back in Gunjur motivated her to fundraise so that she could sponsor disadvantaged children, especially girls, to go to school and stay in education.
The money she raised would go to the Gunjur pre-school to help buy uniforms and shoes and help pay for school fees and school bags for the most disadvantaged students. She ended up sponsoring over 50 children.
Marcy is also one of the co-founders of Kombo Sillah Association “KSA” - a registered charity based in Bristol in which she is the first chairlady.
She emphasised that doctors, prime ministers, and other careers passed through the coaching hands of teachers, which encouraged her passion about her career and making differences in pupils' lives.
Masireh inspires me because since I am a student, I understand first-hand the crucial role that teachers play in helping students achieve their dreams. Being among the few black teachers in the schools she taught, Masireh is a heroin for persevering through all the challenges that posed with being a minority teacher. I feel I can mirror her courage in difficult situations where I need to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas
Born in Sierra Leone in 1956, Abdul came to the UK in 1976 as a student. From a young age, he had always worked for communities and was raised in a middle-class family. His mum was a businesswoman in Sierra Leone and his dad was a civil servant.
He was inspired by his mum because she was a very charitable person and was naturally kind. He fondly remembers how she would cook and invite people to come and eat and how she would give food to the neighbors, mosques, and her local community.
Mr. Thomas went to Leeds Becket University and is now a project manager for an NHS organization called NHS Digital. In the 1980s Abdul was living in Manchester, working for an organisation set up by King Charles called Business in the Community. He worked for them for 3 years as a community developer. He is also the chairman of the Leeds African Community Charity Trust (LACCT) which is the representative organisation for all the African communities in Leeds. This gives him the responsibility to help the various communities look for funding so that they can be able to do the work that they are set out to do. He also helps to manage the Little London Community food bank which is managed by LACCT who get their funding from Leeds City Council and from various charity organisations.
The food bank is open every Friday and so far, they have helped over 500 people. In addition to this, Mr. Thomas has a charity organisation of his own called the Sierra Leone Poverty Alleviation Charitable Trust. The Charity was set up in 2017 after heavy rainfall came down in Freetown, Sierra Leone and there was a disastrous mud slide that destroyed houses and killed over 1000 people who were mainly children.
This tragedy motivated Abdul to set up a charity that supported people who were affected by natural disasters. Currently, his charity is helping a primary school in Freetown with 400 desks and chairs to use in schools. They are now looking at supplying water and electricity for the school. He inspires me because he uses his knowledge and experience to benefit many communities. His selflessness and devotion to helping people in need allows me to reflect on how I can also use his charitability in my own life to impact others.
Abigail Marshal Katung
Abigail was born in 1975 in Northern Nigeria. Her family was middle class: her father was an Electrical Engineer, and her mum was a Seamstress. She is a graduate from the University of Leeds with a master’s degree in Politics and International Studies. However, she received her first degree in Nigeria- in business education where she majored in marketing. Councillor Abigail is the first African to be elected in 2019 to Leeds city council in 126 years. She does many jobs including: advocating for her community on issues from education, housing, planning, welfare rights and anything that her constituents have an issue with.