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Celebrating London’s inspiring Black leaders (part 2)

BlackLeadersAwarenessDay Part 2
BlackLeadersAwarenessDay Part 2

This July, we celebrated Black Leaders Awareness Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of Black leaders, and inspiring generations to come. London is home to many outstanding Black leaders. Here we speak to some of those we work with about the background's that shaped them, their inspiration and their approach to leadership.

Maria Morgan (Kineara CIC)

Maria is the founder of Kineara CIC, a community interest community that supports vulnerable families and individuals.

Tell us a bit about your background and how it’s shaped you into the leader you are today.

I’ve been in the position of leadership for over 15 years. How I became the leader that I am today compels a multi-faceted response. One of these facets was learning from and observing the people who lead me, whether it was a positive or negative experience. Another was asking myself ‘why?’. Why did I want to become a leader? This meant I had to intentionally decide on the kind of leader I wanted to become. Finally, having the humility to understand leadership is as much about the people I lead as it is about my leadership style. This is part of the process I have walked through to become the leader I am today.

What does leadership mean to you?

I fundamentally believe everyone is a leader in some shape or form, albeit in different contexts and capacities. Therefore, I consider part of my role as a leader is to help cultivate effective leaders who create great impact in the areas they lead. Leadership is the willingness to bring people in and open up, to allow the people you lead to see who you are and see the victories and challenges you face as a leader. By putting yourself out on display, people will in turn feel inspired and hopefully become the best leader they can be in whichever area they work. Leadership is knowing your ‘why?’, and sharing that purpose with others with confidence, and allowing them to connect to their own ‘why?’.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say to my younger self three things.

Love, respect, belief and a sense of worth start from within. Whatever you choose to believe about yourself will be how you see and receive the world around you.

If you meaningfully engage with your faith, it will keep you grounded.

Smile, you’re going to be okay.

Yeukai Taruvinga (Active Horizons)

Yeukai is the CEO and founder of Active Horizons, a youth-led charity and social hub set up to support young Black and Minority Ethnic people, their families, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds in the Borough of Bexley.

Tellus a bit about your background and how it’s shaped you into the the leader you are today.

I owe my unique social experiences to my multicultural upbringing.  Born in Zimbabwe, I learned the benefits of community spirit and community cohesion, which form the basis of African social and cultural structures generally known as the extended family.  As a result of growing up surrounded by my family - parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents - I learnt the values of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, helping, sharing, creativity and faith. I believe that this upbringing, rooted in the values and principles of human dignity will forever guide me and will continue to help me celebrate my heritage and tradition of working with others.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership means staying true to yourself. Serving others, yearning to constantly learn and take advice. Also, that self-check in is important. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

The advice I would give to my younger self is that when opportunities knock on your door grab them seriously. They usually come once in a time. But while at it, enjoy each day at a time.

Karin Woodley CBE (Cambridge House)

Karin has worked as a charity leader and campaigner for 38 years across multiple social justice sectors in the UK and overseas. She is the chief executive of Cambridge House.

Please tell us a bit about your background and how has helped make you the leader you are today.

My heritage is Trinidadian, Scottish and Irish and I identify as Black, studied to be a classical musician, live with a mental health condition and I’m an abuse survivor. My journey as a social activist started in my teens, and since then I have been driven to work in solidarity with others to understand and dismantle oppressive systems rooted in power distribution, the design and delivery of societal systems, social exclusion, and discrimination.

It's difficult to honestly identify what has helped to make me the leader I am today, except to say that I have been privileged to work with many incredibly inspiring and visionary people who have provided theguidance, support and constructive challenges that fostered a strong sense of unity. I’m also a confirmed “nerd” – this means I understand the technical and theoretical side of business development from finance and fundraising to governance and impact evaluation. I also love working collaboratively and creatively, and I’m predisposed to have fun.

What does leadership mean to you?

To me, leadership encompasses several key qualities: it involves being flexible, evidence and solution-focused, and receptive to new experiences and ideas, while taking responsibility for making and being accountable for decisions. I also consider having “skin in the game” to be important, as well as a willingness to muck in and clean the loos if needed.

As a leader, I believe in placing trust in others and providing them with the support to thrive – I see myself as a radical listener, mentor, and coach, valuing the input and taking pride in the growth of those around me.

Above all, leadership is rooted in respecting the lived experiences and views of individuals who have been oppressed by our society, its systems, and its behaviours. By recognising the value and perspectives of people who society has pushed to its margins, we can tackle the root causes of structural inequity and get to the crux of historic and systemic neglect.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t ‘bang one drum’ – always recognise and understand the interconnected nature of different oppressions; consciously co-create; don’t sweat ALL the small things; don’t accept the status quo; remember leadership always involves change management; find time to enjoy success with your comrades and allies; and be aware of anti-oppression and liberation movements outside of the UK.

Read part one