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.
She’s the Scrutiny Chair for Adults' Health and Active Lifestyle. She’s also the Chair of the Strategic Board for Hate Crime in the city, the Chair of the Strategic Board for further Education age 14 to 25 in the city, the Food Champion, and is also, the Lead Member for Faith and Religion. She is an athlete and specialises in sprinting, coaching U15 children in athletics.
As well as these roles, she works with the Twins Trust, which is a charity that works to support multiple birth families. She feels like she can understand the challenges these parents face as a mother of twins herself. She stated that “going into politics gives one the opportunity and the influence to make the changes that you want to see in your community”. She was inspired by her father in terms of representing and serving people. Someone that she feels motivates her when it comes to politics is Winnie Mandela because of her story and how she fought for justice with her husband for the people of South Africa. She was truly a voice for the people which Abigail feels represents herself.
Councillor Abigail inspires me because she was brave enough to step into the chaotic world of politics and inspires other young black girls like me to be fearless in any uncertain or unfamiliar situation that we may find ourselves in.
Born in Niumi Lamin, Gambia in 1971, Yankuba came from a middle-class family. He lived with his parents until he went to boarding school after year 6 and attended Parklane college. Upon completion, he joined the air force with an 80 percent scholarship at Staffordshire University where he graduated with a diploma in Leadership and Management. He also completed his bachelor's degree in business management in 2014.
Yankuba has worked in the Royal Air Force for around 26 years, which allowed him to travel to many places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai and more recently he attended Wimbledon, working there on behalf of the air force looking after the tennis tournaments. He also went to the Commonwealth games 2022, supporting the military assistant to civilian authority.
He believes the air force made him a better person and it changed him from a shy person to a greatly confident one. As a military officer, he had a lot of training courses which brought him out of his shell. He became an ambassador for the air force, encouraging people to join the military, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
He is also a part of several communities. He is on the board of trustees at Hamara center, which is a charity that supports people from disadvantaged backgrounds in terms of education, health, training, mental health, and many more. He has been involved with the Gambian Welfare Society looking after the affairs of Gambians in Leeds since around 2000 and helps with their food bank. Moreover, he is the finance manager of Leeds African community trust charity. He is involved in supporting his village community back in the Gambia called the Upper Niumi Development Association where he is the secretary. He helped renovate his old classroom back in his village to the best standard for current students.
Yankuba inspires me because of the way he thinks. For him, it takes more than two parents to raise a child. He sees every child as his own and he wants every child to reach their full potential. He believes we should do whatever it takes to shape children- education wise and career wise. Developing skills in my generation is also a special interest for Mr. Saho and he is doing everything to support children on their journey to success.
These people don’t see themselves as big figures, but they are role models and matter to people like me because they represent us and if they can achieve all these accomplishments, so can we.