Journey To Empower
So what events preceded the birth of EMPOWER?...
It’s hard to put my exact finger on one thing and to be honest, it’s most definitely a combination of various things:
- Growing up in inner-city Birmingham
- Things I’ve witnessed/grew up around
- Personal experiences of racism
- A desire to see us as a people excel
- What I would call my “God-given mandate”
I’m sure there’s more but, this is what immediately springs to mind…
So here’s a bit about me… I’ve always been someone interested in human behaviour, psychology etc. From a young age I used to say that I want to be a therapist/counsellor or something to that effect (minus the couple of years in secondary school I wanted to become a surgeon but, that’s a story for another day). As I became more aware and self-reflexive, I noticed that there wasn’t much I would take at face value, often labelled as an “overthinker” from my teenage years to this day because of my desire to dig deeper and understand.
That being said, it would come as no surprise that I studied Psychology in University, graduating from the University of Birmingham in 2014. During my time at university I did varying volunteering roles such as working in a special education needs secondary school and being a helpline counsellor for NSPCC – Childline. Once I graduated, I worked for Mencap, with adults with learning disabilities, the Priory hospital on an adolescent psychiatric unit and then Birmingham City Council for a specialist team that provided therapeutic support to young people and families, where the young person was at risk of being accommodated into Local Authority care. If you’ve read the “About Us” page on this website, you’ll see it was my time here that was pivotal in my journey to starting EMPOWER…
I was working with a 14-year-old girl of African Caribbean descent. She would go missing, rarely attend school and when she did attend, she would be getting in trouble. She would be rude at times but, through it all I saw the hurt little girl underneath. The girl who came from a household that provided little to no emotional warmth, a household where she felt like the outlier and like she didn’t belong. However, she was far from perceived as being the “hurt little girl”. The work I was doing for the council was time limited and it was time for my support to end; but, this little girl still needed support and unfortunately, the service I was looking for simply didn’t exist. Due to her home environment she needed support that included her wider network, due to her lacking positive, consistent role models and looking up to me personally, I knew she needed someone that “looked like her”, someone she felt she related to but, as I said, I simply couldn’t identify the service. This increased my passion to do something about the gap I had noticed on prior occasions and continued to notice for varying reasons during my time working for Birmingham Children’s Services. At the time I was completing a professional training in Family Therapy & Systemic Practice (in which I am currently trained to PgDip level) and I knew once I completed this training I would be in a position to become the very service I was looking for. That brought me to 2017 but, as much as my heart was in it, I still had to take time to prepare from a business perspective, conducting market research, ensuring I was in a stable financial position etc.
Professional working experience, 25 years of life and a whole heap of faith later (no pun intended) September 2018 is when I left my full-time employment at Birmingham City Council and October 2018 is when I can say I was fully running with EMPOWER. One year on, so much has happened and there’s so much in store but, this is just the beginning of a revolution…
Inequality is a very real thing, systemic failure is a very real thing, institutional racism is a very real thing, glass ceilings, bullying, you name it; simply being black makes you so much more susceptible to experience such things. Yes, it’s true, often times we do have to work twice, three times, ten times as hard to access places our counterparts do with ease. This is all very real and something that needs to be addressed. However, if I’m being totally honest, there’s things we can also do to help ourselves. This is why I called my organisation EMPOWER, to help us to get our power back and be the greatness that we were created to be.
I knew it wasn’t enough for me to launch an organisation that worked with the young person alone - I was wired to be an “overthinker” for a reason. It’s vital that systems i.e. professionals and organisations are included in the support; additionally, communities and families. People need to be re-educated and can be re-educated, there is hope. We can be equipped to EMPOWER and we will do just that.
Everyone has a purpose to fulfil on this earth; due to this, there’s different inequalities that tug on people’s “heart strings” to varying degrees depending on your make-up. Well, racial inequality, specifically that related to the African-Caribbean community and to take it one step further – African-Caribbean youth is what tugs on my heart strings and doing my part to address this is what I believe is part of my purpose on this earth.
We will be EMPOWERed.