The date was set. It had been in my diary and on the kitchen calendar for months. I was asked to speak about black achievement and, although it wasn’t actually Black History Month in December, the topic I was to speak about, had to be in keeping with Black History Month. I was so up for being at this event, that I’d even planned my childcare and organised some stand-by childcare well in advance.
Two days before the event, I received an email, outlining the event. Everything seemed fine with exception of the time of the event and the time I was listed to speak…Two hours later than was originally scheduled. About an hour later, I received an email that my childcare had fallen through due to illness. An hour after that I received a text message from my stand-by, asking if she was still needed for Friday (I sensed the response hoped for was a no, as it was stand-by). As the details had changed, I felt that I couldn’t ask someone else at such short notice to change their plans, and babysit my girls, especially on a Friday night; so I emailed the organisers and explained that because the timing of the event had changed at such short notice, and the notice was too short to rearrange things, I had to cancel. I was polite about it all; asking them to keep me in mind for any future events. I felt bad, backing out at such short notice, but I also tried to justify things by reminding myself that my girls come first and that it’s ok to say no.
But that evening, relaxing with my husband, he received a phone call that changed everything. He switched on the television and there was Jacob Zuma, announcing the death of Nelson Mandela. Stunned and saddened by the news, I talked things over with my husband. We both knew that I needed to go and speak at that event and offer my support. He sent a couple of texts to his work colleagues and came back to me, to say that he would be able to leave the office early and be home in time for me to head off to the event (thank God for husbands who ‘get you’ and are in your corner). Later that night, before heading for bed, I sent another email to the organisers, stating after the sad news, that I felt I had to be there, and I will be attending the event, after all. The following morning I received a lovely email back, thanking me for re-considering.
Well the day went well I managed to prepare my speech in good time. I spent a long time thinking about what do you tell a group of teenagers about black achievement, on the day when the news breaks about one of the world’s greatest black achievers. My husband, true to his word, arrived home on time, ready for me to head out the door for this speaking event. At the last minute, I decided to take my eldest daughter along with me (it’s important for me to involve my girls in the projects I am involved in).
The evening was titled: A celebration of Black History and Culture. I found out that the event had been organised and put together by six sixth formers from Acland Burghley School. Five girls and one boy, wanted to organise an event during Black History Month in October, but couldn’t pull it off, in time, so decided to move the event to December. The room was filled with about 100 guests (pupils, parents and teachers of all races). The event started with a moments silence out of respect for Nelson Mandela. Later, there was live music, dance acts, food from different parts of Africa and the Caribbean, the spoken word, video clips and discussion points. I was blown away with the organisation of the event (ladies and Emmanuel, if you are reading this, I hope you have put this event down on your CVs).
I had originally planned to deliver my speech (I will share what I spoke about in another blog post) and then make a polite exit. But as the evening had such a positive atmosphere (and Jemimah seemed to be enjoying it all); we decided to stay for a while longer. I stayed, but not till the very end; long enough to hear the special guest, one of my favourite singers.
Caron Wheeler, a singer in her own right, but is probably most famous for singing with Soul II Soul (incidentally, she also sang backing vocals on the Special AKA track Free Nelson Mandela). She sang three tracks, two of which are definitely part of the soundtrack to my life Keep on Moving and Back to Life. I totally loved it; I felt a little bit old when she reminded the audience that these tunes are 25 years old (my era), and most of the young people weren’t even been alive when they were in the charts. I got to meet and speak to Caron Wheeler and it made my night. Keep on Moving reminded me why I needed to be there at that event. To encourage others, but also to keep on encouraging myself.