OK I will admit it: until 4 years ago, I didn’t know who Mary Seacole was or what she did or indeed what she represents. How ridiculous is it that a woman who saved so many lives and significantly contributed to what we now collectively call nursing – is so poorly acknowledged.
Mary should be in the same league as other outstanding nurses like Florence Nightingale. Sadly 150 years ago, Mary’s non-white heritage meant that she was often met with resistance and sometimes downright hostility, when trying to help people who were in obvious need of any help offered. The hardships Mary experienced whilst trying to do what she loved i.e. nursing people back to health, still resonate today.
One hundred and fifty years later and I am sitting here reflecting on the role I play as a non-white nurse. I have not, by any stretch of imagination, encountered the same obstacles of my ancestors/predecessors as far racial prejudice. But there are still challenges of race to grapple with in my everyday work and more widely at a strategic and organisational level. These challenges require a multitude of exceptional and transformational leadership qualities, in order to transcend prejudices and work towards common goals that transcend race or any other characteristic.
It is well established that people from minority groups generally get short-changed when trying to access services to help them and their families. I and five others have recently (25th October) been awarded the Mary Seacole Award to undertake 6 separate projects to promote equality. This is a great honour for many reasons. Perhaps the most important reason being that this award puts me in a position to do my part in righting wrongs experienced by those who do not always have a voice. This is a very humbling position.
I will try to keep this blog updated over the coming year so as to share my journey as I embark on the Mary Seacole Award project – I hope you join me by posting your comments & views.