Black Women Making History, Today

People & Culture

To mark Black History Month, UK Project Manager Ifeoluwayimika Olonade talks about the importance of celebrating this year’s theme – Saluting our sisters – by recognising the black women making an impact today.

It was a few weeks into the new academic year in 2009, and a Black P.E. Teacher gathered a handful of students together to start planning an assembly for Black History Month. One in particular wrote a poem highlighting the oppression faced by Black Americans through to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. The poem was proudly submitted but very quickly rejected. The young and budding poet was told “instead of focusing on the trauma of Black History and American Black History, let’s use this time to celebrate the brilliant things of our past and recent past – there is so much more”.

Fast forward to today, you’re reading these words by the failed poet yet proud Black British-Nigerian woman, who insists on remembering the things we should celebrate and share with everyone. 

Note: We should always acknowledge and learn about the traumatic history Africans faced in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and throughout colonisation. That information is always in excess, and Google is free! 

The theme for BHM this year is ‘Saluting Our Sisters’, and there are so many black women making an impact today who have made recent history that’s worth giving flowers to – especially in this advertising space. 

Ronke Lawl was the first black woman in the ad industry that I came across and who inspired me to continue striving to get my foot in the door. It was at a networking event for Black professionals in 2019 that I first heard her speak about her setting up her own PR agency because of the lack of diversity she saw in the media and the scenes. She set up in the early noughties to focus on reaching Black audiences with the clients she worked with. For me, seeing the strides she was taking to create room for Black voices and opinions was enough encouragement for me to take further steps in my career. 

Ronke was not the only woman who felt that she needed to make a change in this space. Three Black women came together to form VAMP Agency – the UK’s first digital agency focused on managing Black influencers and content creators, with the aim of ensuring brands have a diverse pool of talent to work with to reach wider audiences. We Are Social recently worked with one of their content creators, Ayamé, on the McCain ‘Let’s All Chip In’ campaign. VAMP has been the first port of call for many brands, junkets, and the like from around the world. For there to be a reach in Black audiences, there has to be an understanding of Black culture and how best and most authentically to tap into that sphere.

Throughout history, Black women have often been forgotten, mistreated, and stereotyped, and of course, 2020 was a big catalyst for a lot of change. Vibes of A Black Girl is an Instagram page I’d like to highlight for history-making impact. The page started in 2019 – I started following it in mid-2020 – and quickly found that the page had reached an unexpected milestone in less than a year – 50k organic followers. We all know follower count isn’t the main marker – it’s engagement! This page nailed it. The average post gains hundreds of comments – in the millions in many cases – and the follower count now sits at 187k. It provides content that uplifts, encourages, and affirmation of a lot of what society denounces or exploits in black women, telling me there is a massive space where black women want to be recognised, appreciated, and of course, celebrated. 

A salute to all the Black women at We Are Social London and around the globe. Your impact today makes a better tomorrow. 

To mark Black History month, We Are Social recently ran a special LinkedLive edition of our long-running Black Perspectives series – check it out here. For past episodes of Black Perspectives, see our Instagram channel.