Black History Month message from Lisa Rodrigues, Vice Chair

Trevor Sterling, Chair

Black History Month (and years!)

The Mary Seacole Trust has enjoyed an incredibly busy period, undoubtedly due to the increased acknowledgment of Mary Seacole.

Amongst other things, we are delighted to have continued working closely with NHS England in relation to the nursing publication scheduled for release next year.

This will be well timed recognition of the diverse contributions made by so many to nursing, through the years.

This is also even more timely given the Year of the Nurse and Midwife is now to be 2021.

We have delivered numerous talks virtually to many organisations, in addition to having given numerous interviews on Mary. We also saw Mary unsurprisingly named in the recent 100 Great Britons publication, plus feature in The Young Vic theatre “Unforgotten” installation.

As I say, a busy period!

Trevor (Left) and Jermaine (Right) with Kwame Kwei-Armah (Middle), at the Young Vic Theatre marvelling at their 'Unforgotten' installation including Mary Seacole

'The Black Farmer'

Like many organisations, we are indebted to Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones for his OUTSTANDING contribution to Black History Month and Mary Seacole's legacy.

Sales from The Black Farmer produce has raised over £13,000 for the Mary Seacole Trust, which will support us to continue maintaining Mary's Statue and to deliver legacy projects.

We would also like to congratulate The Black Farmer on his recent 'Points of Light' Award, which is thoroughly deserved.

In Conversation with Jean Gray...

Written by Jean Gray, Media Advisor, Mary Seacole Trust

When I thought about writing a piece in response to George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter, I had no idea where to start...

Credit: @BBC
Wouldn’t most people say they believe in fairness and equality?

Thinking about my own personal history in relation to anti-racism, I would have to say that it started with my parents, and in that regard I count myself fortunate. Having grown up on an almost entirely white working class housing estate in the 1950s, I have to first of all do a bit of cultural myth-busting myself. There were no black people living anywhere near us in Dagenham’s Becontree Estate (the largest housing estate in the world), except for the babies who were sometimes fostered by my nextdoor neighbour, but what I mainly heard around me in my own family and from some neighbours was a ’live and let live’ view of the world.

And I guess you can’t go wrong with that, even though it’s not actually how things work - it should be. The people I knew who were racist back then, some within my own family, were given very short shrift in our house and sent packing. Their views expressed around the dining table were challenged robustly by the majority and eventually my grandmother adopted a policy of turning the lights out and pretending we were out if she saw her brother-in-law’s car (a rare sign of wealth in those days) coming round the corner. They were bitter, unhappy, mean people for all kinds of reasons and, in fact, my great uncle recanted his racism on his death bed in the face of unconditional, kind, professional and highly effective end of life care from a Jamaican nurse. Too little too late was the comment my mum made at the time, and she was right.

Race is one element of that simple ‘we’re all created equal’ view of the world.

But for my father it meant something very specific. He was from a poor area of Glasgow and ran away to join the Royal Navy, fleeing from domestic violence at 16. His navy service took him all over the British empire in the 1950s and ‘60s and he used to tell me stories about his shame when arriving at a Caribbean island or a South East Asian port with English shipmates who couldn’t wait to demonstrate their assumed ethnic superiority. For my dad, an avid reader from Govan, these English boys had been brainwashed into thinking that they must be superior because Britain ruled the world. He didn’t want the local people to think he was like them. They had swallowed the jingoistic message hook line and sinker and my dad would have to go out and about with them as they displayed their obvious ignorance and what he believed to be lack of education to local people who were clearly every bit their equal.

Family picture (take around 1951) from left to right - Mum, Dad and Aunt

When my dad realised that his daughter was going to be brought up in England and therefore might be exposed to this nonsense, he decided he had to educate me. It meant many trips to the library, which I loved, books about slavery and segregation. A milestone in that ongoing education came in 1961 when my dad bought me Texan writer John Howard Griffin’s now controversial book “Black like me’. Griffin believed that the only way for a white man to truly understand the black experience was to become black. He took medication, used sun lamps and stainer to darken his skin then went out into the world, a stranger to himself. He was shocked at how different his experience was and he raged against the injustice meted out by his white compatriots. Some would say that Griffin’s action was little more than a stunt and he couldn’t possibly understand what it was to be black after such a short experiment. It could be seen as patronising, offensive or just plain weird. But for a nine-year-old girl learning about the world, it was shocking.

So, I knew about anti-racism before I knew any black people.

Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King - all loved and admired by my parents, and me, through the television and from a distance.

We simply didn’t encounter any black people in our neighbourhood.

This changed when, as a journalist and active union member, I got involved in the anti-racist movements in the 1970s.

However, it wasn’t until I went to university as a mature student in 1982 that I learned how the world really works. Everything I had felt politically and instinctively was suddenly shown to be far, far worse – we were given the evidence. My humanities degree gave me access to all the information the world could ever need to know about poverty, injustice and racism. It’s all there, documented year after year. We know the issues. We even know the solutions. But somehow we don’t act on it. There seems to be a tremendous resistance when it comes to translating fine words into real change and that can only be because it is institutionalised and therefore in the interests of some people in society to protect the status quo.

The worst injustice I have observed has been in the NHS.

I spent 20 years working in nursing journalism and during that time report after report showed that nurses from ethnic minorities were more likely to be stuck in lower paid jobs, overlooked for promotion and even abused by racist patients. But in a huge organisation, it’s hard to get to the top of the management agenda and change is far too slow. The result is talented nurses lost to the service as they find more welcoming ways of achieving their full potential. That is in no one’s interests. Does anyone really want to live in a world where, unless you are racist, you experience guilt at knowing that in some way you are where you are because of the colour of your skin, and not because of the content of your character.

I am privileged to be a white woman volunteering in an organisation that promotes the legacy and ideals of a mixed-race woman who nursed soldiers on and off the battlefield, in spite of the racism that tried to stop her.

The Mary Seacole Trust is run by black leaders in their field – and future leaders through our Young Seacole Ambassadors project. I see the Trust as an important organisation that can inform change in this pivotal moment.

And when it comes to understanding what white people can, must do, I particularly like the Black Lives Matter section on Newham Sixth Form College’s website where it sets out how people outside of the oppressed group can become allies, quoting Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Thanks to Mark Carroll for his wonderful oil painting of Mary.

It has never been more important to recognise black and minority ethnic people who have made important contributions to our society over centuries.

Like many others, Mary Seacole was hidden from history for 100 years. But thanks to a determined public fundraising campaign, a statue of Mary, the first to a named black woman in the UK, was erected in London in June 2016. The Mary Seacole Trust is here to maintain this beautiful memorial.

Credit: @channel5news

Seacole Movie!

We were also able to catch our breath following the acquisition of the Mary Seacole Bust, purchased by Billy Peterson (Producer) of Racing Green pictures for an incredible £101,000.

We are excited that the Mary 'Seacole' film produced by Racing Green Pictures Pictures is nearing completion.

Gugu Mbathe-Raw will star as Mary Seacole in the new 'Seacole' movie
Our MST Board with Billy Peterson, Producer

Colonel David Bates:

VJ 75 and the Significance for Today
Colonel David Bates, MST Trustee

The 15th August 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the Allies victory over Japan. Many communities across the Commonwealth commemorated their ancestors’ and relatives’ contributions because General Bill Slim’s 14th Army was drawn from communities across the Commonwealth. The Americans Commemorate VJ Day two weeks later on the 2nd September which is when General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender on board the battleship USS Missouri.

General Douglas MacArthur

There was a fear that VJ Day might not get the same attention as that afforded to Victory in Europe Day back in May. 75th anniversaries are important and most poignant because the events are consigned to history as they fade out of living memory. We are fortunate that some ‘Chindits’ from Major General Orde Wingate’s Special Force survive as they were teenagers in 1943 and 44 when the two Chindit expeditions were thrown into the fray against the Japanese to defend India. This was following an inglorious retreat by the British Army from Singapore, through Malaya and Burma back to a main defensive position anchored on the hill top towns of Kohima and Imphal.

In 1943 and 44, the British Army in the Far East was already fighting alongside the British Indian Army, the Americans under General Joe Stillwell and Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Chinese Army stationed in the North of Burma and over the border in Yunnan, the tea growing area of China.

Already we are looking at a multi-cultural force but later the Africans were brought into the mix making it even more diverse!
Colonel David Bates, MST Trustee

So, the Indian Army provided the matrix with its Kiplinesque regiments from all over the sub-continent with names such as the Bombay Sappers and Miners and the Dogras, the Indian Army Ghurkhas and many others. Many of these men had fought in the Middle East up until 1942 in Iraq and Syria holding down Nazi sympathisers including the French Vichy Government in the region. Returning to India they found themselves retraining to fight alongside British, Gambian, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean and Gold Coast (now Ghana) soldiers in two West African Divisions. The East Africans fielded the Kings African Rifles and their supporting services from Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Nyasaland (now Malawi). There were also the local tribes people, men and women from the Naga Hills and the Karen as well as the Burma Rifles who fought a common enemy led by the Japanese but with their own Allies including Koreans, Indians and Burmese.

Tough fighting around Kohima and Imphal followed an equally tough fight in the Arakan peninsula in the east of the country. Slim’s HQ was in Chittagong, now in Bangladesh and close to Cox’s Bazaar where thousands of Rohingya have fled to from the still brutal regime in Burma that discriminates against Moslems and other non-Buddhist religions. Many of the Rohingya would have helped the Allied troops passing through their villages in the Arakan as did the Naga, the Karen and the Chin. All these ‘minorities’ are discriminated against by the Myanmar Government despite Aung San So Ki’s election into office.

The Burma Campaign of 1942 to 45 has some parallels with what Mary would have experienced in the Crimea. She was caring for a coalition of British, Turks, Sardinians, Romanians and French. She would treat all the sick and wounded following triage by need rather than race or religion. She gave succour to anyone who sought it be they soldier, officer or civilian. Mary would have fitted in well in Burma as she was sensitive to cultural, spiritual and personal need. I could see her setting up shop in the forecourt of a Buddhist Monastery – feeding the monks and assisting them with their community duties rather than working in a casualty clearing station or field hospital where she would be constrained by ‘red tape’ and her potential limited.

Burma Campaign - Image Credit: Shuterstock

Like World War One, the Second World War ended outside of Europe. Like World War One, the Allies depended upon a huge, multi-racial coalition to defeat an enemy that arguably would have caused more suffering and death following the conflict had they been successful. I also see Mary in the Naga Hills or the Arakan working with the local tribes’ people and dolling out huge doses of hope to the communities and the troops passing through them as some civilians who stayed behind actually did.

Time and reconciliation are wonderful as Britain and Japan now co-operate as global players. With a recent trade deal negotiated between the two countries and the Japanese Defence Force becoming expeditionary as a force for good deploying on humanitarian and peace keeping operations in the Middle East and Horn of Africa to name but a few places where they serve alongside former enemies.

The past is another country but ‘Lest we forget’.

#lestweforget #remembranceday

A plaque commemorating healthcare workers who have put themselves at risk to care for people is in the Millennium Gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital. The plaque reads:

"This plaque is to honour those healthcare workers who have dedicated themselves to aiding others in times of war, conflict and catastrophe throughout history."
Memorial Plaque, Millennium Gardens, St Thomas’ Hospital


Thank you to Rhoda Fisher, Wishartworks for these beautiful artistic drawings of Mary.

Seacole Dynamos are back!

Our Trustees, Trevor and Jermaine manage the Seacole Dynamos Football team, in the Sutton Little League.

Dynamos players; from left to right, Louis, Sean and Junayd

This season the team have made great strides and are currently sitting top of the league, with 3 wins in 3!

Pic taken from: Seacole Dynamos 3-1 Hotspurs

The league is currently paused with grassroots football affected by the national lockdown, but we can't wait to see the continued progress made when the team come back!

Youth Advisory Commitee (YAC)

Like most of the UK teenagers, our YACs have been at home during lockdown, adhering to Government guidance.

See below video where our YACs have shared their views on the impact of COVID-19 on them and importantly, how this has impacted their lives and studies.

We remain thankful to the Peer Outreach Team, City Hall for their support in enhancing our YACs confidence and for providing opportunities via their Lynk Up Crew.

As another Black History Month ends, we reflect again on the debate as to whether there should be a specific “Black History Month” given the centuries of contribution made, arguably condensed into one month.

Like many others, Mary Seacole was hidden from history for 100 years. But thanks to a determined public fundraising campaign, a statue of Mary, the first to a named black woman in the UK, was erected in London in June 2016. The Mary Seacole Trust is here to maintain this beautiful memorial.

But our work does not end there.

We set out our vision:

As well as being the guardians of sculptor Martin Jennings’ magnificent statue, we want the public - young people in particular - to benefit from Mary’s legacy and to understand why her story is our story; her message is timeless.

As a nurse who overcame racism within the establishment to go to the Crimean War battlefields under her own steam in her 50s, Mary represents compassion, bravery, entrepreneurialism and sheer determination. Those fine qualities speak for themselves. What was true for Mary in the Victorian era is equally true today:

"racism must always be challenged and at every level in society."

For black and minority ethnic people who encounter institutional racism on a daily basis, Mary is a role model and an inspiration. We at MST will highlight such discrimination and work with others to find solutions.

We value everyone’s contribution, believing that Mary’s values apply across society and we will take every opportunity to promote them, whether that is through our educational work with younger people or encouraging diversity in leadership.

We recognise that we are part of a wider movement across the UK of people who want to see a fairer, more equal society.

Mary’s statue stands as a symbol of the world we need to build for ourselves and future generations.

Buy our Book!

Sculptor Martin Jennings’ stunning monument is the first statue of a named black woman in the UK. This commemorative book describes the 12-year campaign to make it happen.

It outlines the sculptor’s vision for this important London landmark in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster and reveals how Mary’s work lives on through the Mary Seacole Trust.

Cost: Price £20 Includes postage for individual orders in the UK.

The full cost of the book will go towards maintaining the statue and promoting Mary’s legacy.
Our Life Patron, Dame Elizabeth Anionwu and our Vice Chair, Lisa Rodrigues CBE

As always, we are thankful for all the support from the wider “Seacole family” and are grateful for any contributions which enable the wonderful adventures of Seacole to continue.

Thank you to the countless individuals working for the NHS, frontline services, keyworkers and everyone working within health and social care, putting themselves at risk to protect people. We salute you!
Denise and Julia ‘Jules’ Stephenson are determined to address the lack of diversity in grass-roots running. Alongside their friend, Trojan Gordan (featured in Picture), they have formed a running group: ‘Emancipated Run Crew’. Founded in London in August 2019, the group known as ERC aims to provide a community for black runners.

We would continue to encourage our members and supporters to also visit the Florence Nightingale Museum online store


We would like to take this time to recognise the contribution of Karen Bonner, who has stepped down as a Trustee. Karen was leading our agenda in tackling and improving 'Diversity in Leadership'.

Her work ethic and contribution to our objectives will always be hugely valued by us.

Karen will be missed.

MST Trustees, Youth Advisory Committee, Ambassadors & Volunteers

The Mary Seacole Trustees

Chair: Trevor Sterling

Vice Chair: Lisa Rodrigues, CBE

Media Advisor: Jean Gray

New Trustee! Dr Habib Naqvi, MBE

Colonel David Bates

Mark Douglas

Jermaine Sterling

Treasurer: Raf Alam

Secretary: Eman Hassan

Ambassador: Martin Griffiths

Volunteers: Sophie Davies, Sharon Hamilton, Cameron Davies, Joron Jimenez & Kadiya Qasem

Youth Advisory Commitee (YACs): Rio, Kaya, Isabelle, Kam, Jayan, Marley & Jude

Life Patrons: Lord Clive Soley & Dame Elizabeth Anionwu

President: Dawn Hill CBE

The Mary Seacole Statue situated at Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital, Waterloo, London

This is our quarterly newsletter for members and supporters. We hope you've enjoyed it. Please send comments and ideas for articles to contact@maryseacoletrust.org.uk.

All that remains, is for us to say, thank you for your continued support.

Created By
Jermaine Sterling