Barbados born Marvo Straughn from Lewisham tells us how she came up with the idea of her business of Caribbean Baby Foods.

How we started

I had a dream I was in a supermarket with my baby son Andrew who was in his buggy and he wanted me to buy some cornmeal porridge, (which is a traditional dish in the Caribbean). I looked at the shelves in the baby isle, but could not see any, then I woke up, and suddenly the idea came to me. I then told my other 2 children Roxanne and Toni that I will go to some shops to check out the varieties of baby foods, and was surprised to find there were were no Caribbean recipes available. Now my dream has become a reality.

After realising there was a demand for Caribbean baby food and no one producing it. Marvo experimented with some recipes trying them out on family and friends. She started selling them in Lewisham market where she found a great demand for the Caribbean recipes. Since then Marvo has approached local retailers, schools, nurseries and hospitals and has had a great response.

Background

Marvo Straughn  and Prince Charles.

Marvo Straughn and Prince Charles.

Marvo’s frozen baby foods are for babies from the age of 4 months plus, (stage 1). The recipes are formulated using the finest natural ingredients, ready for baby to eat. The products have a 12 month shelf life, and there are 5 delicious recipes available. The foods are lovingly handmade and once made, the foods are blast frozen, to seal in the goodness and flavours.

Marvo Foods contain no additives or preservatives. Currently 5 recipes are available:

Apple and Mango

Green Banana and Pumpkin

Sweet Potato and Carrot

Cornmeal Porridge

Cod and Plantain

Introducing the ‘Our Voices” series – From Denmark, Black Girl on Mars

Our Voices

I have been, if not a friend, a friendly acquaintance and fan of Lesley-Ann Brown, a.k.a. Black Girl on Mars since 2006 or so. Her writing is so compelling I am grateful she has agreed to let me share her work here in a new series of blog posts titled ‘Our Voices’*. Her first contribution in this series was originally published on The Murmur.

Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong.

Two knitting needles and a ball of yarn – that’s what I used to integrate into the Danish society. Sitting together but separately, I wove myself into the fabric of this culture, though it was my fingers that did all the work.

Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong.

No, I am not being indecisive.

Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. That’s me learning how to knit as, hunched over two knitting needles, I struggle to “capture” the “free” yarn into the stitches already cast onto my needles.

Although the rest of the English speaking world learns to knit purl knit purl knit purl, my teacher Anni, is Danish. She teaches me to ‘ret og vrang’ instead, but all I hear is ‘right and wrong, right and wrong’.

After all, I don’t speak a word of Danish and her English isn’t fluent, but together we are moving into uncharted territory. While I patiently learn to knit, I start my timid journey of learning Danish. And through me, Anni gets to practice her English. It is no wonder that I could read Danish knitting patterns years before I could actually speak the language.

At the time, I am four months pregnant and a new arrival in Denmark. Anni is my mother in law, and I spend hours with her while my then-husband busily prepares for the arrival of our child. During this time together, Anni and I manage to cultivate our own authentic relationship, based on love – a relationship solidified through knitting.

There is perhaps no greater show of love than teaching someone to knit. It requires patience and presence – virtues held by my Danish mother-in-law. Although I am no longer married to her son, she will always hold a special place in my heart. Her teaching me to knit plays no small part in this.

It was through Anni that I was introduced to a tolerant Denmark. An open Denmark. Through Anni I met her Tante Liv, Anni’s fiercely independent aunt. We got along famously. She introduced me to the herbal flowers in her garden and taught me how to make natural teas. Once she leaned in and whispered, “There is something about a young woman moving 6000 miles away from her place of home.”

Tante Liv’s husband, Onkel Per, was a character. He took my pregnant South African friend and me to his boat club in northern Denmark. You could tell he got a kick from all the stares he received, an elderly Danish man with two young, pregnant and very foreign women. I still laugh when I think about that day, the way his big blue eyes twinkled as we sat in his boat, out at sea, and the other boats passed us by.

Tante Liv, as well as the rest of her family, treated me with nothing but love, respect and openness. It was a family of women who read and think. I was in my element. We were of the same tribe, brought together through the craft of knitting.

I had always wanted to learn how to knit. Whenever my grandmother from Trinidad visited us on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, smelling like peppermint and airplane, she would always have a few knitting and craft magazines with her.

They were full of knitwear masterpieces and patterns I had not yet learned to decipher. Despite being a renaissance woman of sorts, my grandmother did not know how to knit. She offered other lessons, including her deep, unwavering commitment to me. “You are here for a reason,” she’d whisper in my ear. Her words would soothe my unsettled soul like a cool Caribbean breeze.

My great grandmother Beryl Nunez died from “the draught,” a reference that could just as much allude to the cold as to racism, I suppose, in Canada. She made lace. My other great grandmother, Frances Lopez, also made exquisite handkerchiefs, delicate lace curtains and tablecloths. But despite my burning desire, there was no YouTube back then and no one to teach me. Don’t feel sorry for me; the 80s furnished me with plastic bubble jackets and roller skates. We played ‘run, catch, kiss’ and I mastered Double Dutch. I was happily distracted from myself.

Fast forward. I meet my Dane. We court. I meet his mother. It was love at first sight. My ex-husband and his mother ushered me into Danish culture with love and patience. And I know it was love, because she took the time to teach me to knit.

I have now gone on to teach three grade five classes how to knit and I stood back in wonder as I watched the children teach each other. I saw how boys want to learn how to knit as much as girls. I simmered with joy as the students worked together but separately, sitting quietly and knitting.

When I hold the yarn in my hand, I feel as though it connects me to my great-grandmothers. But it was Anni who brought out that creative energy. Knitting is magic, knitting is healing. Knitting is immeasurable. When you knit, your brain produces beta waves. No matter what troubles me, if I catch a whiff of wool, spy a ball of yarn, or hold a pair of knitting needles (bamboo preferably), I’m in bliss.

My time here has been sustained by the energy knitting has given me. When I returned from my last trip to the States in the autumn, I knew that I wanted to incorporate knitting more into my life. When I was in Rhode Island at the Rhode Island Writers Colony, I went to see the writer Anne Hood read from her latest book, “An Italian Wife”. She saw me in the audience with my knitting needles and yarn, stopped what she was saying and called out to ask me what I was knitting. A baby blanket for my friend’s newborn baby, I replied.

That’s what I love about knitting: it brings people together. So when I returned to Denmark, my intention was to start a knitting group.  I shyly put out a call of interest on Facebook and, to my delight, the Geeky Knitter’s Club was borne. Every week, a group of other expat women and myself gather to knit, talk, and offer support. It is one of the best ventures I have embarked on.

And the kids? Although I am no longer teaching, I still knit with them. All of this I owe to Anni Bomholtz – the most loving of ex-mother-in-laws.

Lesley-Ann Brown
Lesley-Ann Brown

A Trinidadian American freelance writer living in Copenhagen, Lesley-Ann studied writing at The New School, NYC.
Read Lesley’s full bio. It’s fascinating!

*”Our Voices” aims to provide a platform for writers to share their work. The stories may have been published previously and are posted here due to their relevance to the black women’s experience in Europe.

Margaret Gärding

Margaret Gärding and F!

Source: Wikipedia.org

Margaret Gärding

Margaret Gärding

Feminist Initiative (Swedish: Feministiskt initiativ, abbreviated Fi or F!) is a feminist political party in Sweden. The party was formed (from a previous pressure group of the same name) in 2005, and announced on 9 September 2005 that it would put up candidates for the 2006 parliamentary elections in Sweden.

After running in the consequent two Riksdag elections, as well as the European Parliamentary election of 2009, Fi had not taken any seats in either parliament. The European elections of 2014 proved a turning point, as the party attracted 5.3% of the Swedish vote, with Soraya Post taking one seat in the European Parliament. This marks the first time an exclusively feminist political party won a seat in the European Parliament.

In the 2014 general election, Fi received a best-ever 3.1% of the vote; despite not meeting the 4.0% threshold for getting seats, Fi became the most popular party outside of parliament.

Margaret Gärding is the 1st stand in to go to the European Parliament when the F! party leader is unavailable. She leads Fi’s work concerning the European Union. She is part of the Nominating Committee for the party’s next elections.

Aminata

Aminata is representing Latvia in Eurovision 2015

Aminata from Latvia.

Photo credit: Martins Cirulis

Source: Eurovision.com

Aminata (Aminata Savadogo) has roots in a diverse ethnic and cultural background. Her ancestry is a mix of African and Russian ethnicity, which, together with the broad and inspiring Latvian culture, has influenced her to express her talents in composing and singing since the early childhood.

Aminata was born in Riga in 1993 to a Latvian mother of Latvian and Russian descent, and a father from Burkina Faso. She considers herself foremostly Latvian.

She grew up in Latvia – a country, where everybody sings – but her strong and unique voice, which is a blend of three different singing traditions – African, Russian and European – has attracted attention in many singing competitions and music projects she has successfully participated so far.

Latvians believe that the combination of her diverse background, gifted composing skills and stage charm resembles the values of Eurovision Song Contest and puts her as a strong candidate for the victory.

Things you should know about Aminata

Aminata composes her own music and sings it. She plays the flute and always wanted to become a singer, and only a singer.

Before going on the stage she likes to concentrate and doesn’t usually speak with anybody. She likes to listen to music (especially ethnic music), which makes her get on the needed wave. She usually hides in some empty dark corner, so nobody can disturb her. But after the performance she is very friendly and talkative.

I think that every singer dreams to perform on the big stage like it is in the Eurovision. The thought that so many people will listen to my song at the same moment is very exciting, I dream to feel and to enjoy this moment. And of course it is great experience for a young artist like me.

Call for all postgraduate students of slavery and antislavery

The Antislavery Usable Past Postgraduate Research Network

 The Antislavery Usable Past

The Antislavery Usable Past

This new network will bring together postgraduate students of historic or contemporary slavery and antislavery studies from across the humanities and social sciences. An annual workshop will create research and learning networks; provide opportunities to debate current topics in the field; and provide a supportive environment where postgraduates can establish valuable contacts for the future.

The Antislavery Usable Past is a five year project (2014-19) funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under its ‘Care for the Future’ theme. It will unearth the details of past antislavery strategies and translate their lessons and legacies for today’s movement against global slavery and human trafficking. It includes Professors and scholars at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at the University of Hull, the University of Nottingham and Queens University Belfast.

For the first workshop, to be held at WISE on 16-17 October 2015, we are pleased to invite doctoral students to submit proposals for papers, of no more than 300 words, on the theme: ‘Antislavery lessons and legacies’. The deadline for submissions is 31 May 2015.

The organisers welcome research that ranges geographically and temporally, and which encourages interdisciplinary conversations. For this first workshop, priority will be given to researchers of antislavery, historic and modern.

The workshop will include introductions from Professor John Oldfield, Director of WISE, and Professor Kevin Bales, antislavery activist and scholar. Professor David Blight, Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University will offer a series of reflections. There will also be an evening film event from the anti-trafficking charity, Unchosen.

Network members will be encouraged to form their own committee, and to formulate future workshop themes. Funding will be provided for UK travel, one nights’ accommodation, and meals.

To submit a proposal, to express an interest in joining the network, or for any further information, please contact Sarah Colley, s.colley@hull.ac.uk.

Moira Stuart – the first African-Caribbean female newsreader on British television

Moira Clare Ruby Stuart OBE is a British presenter, who was the first African-Caribbean female newsreader on British television. She has presented many television news and radio programmes for the BBC and is currently the newsreader for The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2.

Moira Stuart

Moira Stuart
Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Moira Stuart’s career in radio and television spans more than two decades. She started her BBC career as a production assistant in Radio’s Talks and Documentaries department in the 1970s , before moving on to become a BBC Radio 4 announcer and a newsreader and programme presenter. Moira moved to television news in 1981 to become the first female African-Caribbean newsreader, presenting every type of BBC News bulletin before leaving in 2007.

Moira has presented many programmes on radio and television including Best Of Jazz on Radio 2, BBC1’s The Holiday Programme, Have I Got News For You! in 2007, and her documentary Moira Stuart in Search of Wilberforce. BBC One’s successful documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? featured Moira in 2004, and she made a memorable appearance as herself in Extras in 2006 .

She has won numerous awards including the TV and Radio Industries Club Best Newscaster awards and the Women Of Achievement Television Personality award, she was awarded an OBE in 2001, and she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 2006.

Moira has served on various boards and judging panels including Amnesty International, The Royal Television Society, BAFTA, United Nations Association, the London Fair Play Consortium, the Human Genetics Advisory Commission, the Orange Prize for Literature, the BUPA Communications Panel, the IVCA and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, and the Grierson Trust.

Social Justice, Human Rights, Mental Health Care & The UK’s African Caribbean Black British Diaspora community round table at the House of Lords

BMH UK community round table at the House of Lords

Social Justice, Human Rights, Mental Health Care & The UK’s African Caribbean Black British Diaspora

Date:                     Monday 16th March 

Time:                    11.00 – 1.00 pm 

Venue:                  House of Lords  – full details will be emailed to registered delegates

To register:           email:events@blackmentalhealth.org.uk with ‘BMH UK House of Lord’s Community round table‘ in the subject header.

A pre-election community round table looking at the issues of social justice, human rights and mental health care and the UK’s African Caribbean Black British Diaspora is set to take place at the House of Lords this month, organised by human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK).

Hosted by race equality chief, Lord Herman Ouseley  this pre-election community round table event will take place on Monday 16th March 2015chaired by BMH UK’s director Matilda MacAttram.

In a bid to move away from the BME banner which has consistently seen key issues affecting black people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities sidelined at the expense of other groups, this meeting has been convened  for those from this community with a commitment to serve, agree on what the priorities that the political parities need to focus on in relation to black Briton in the run up to the May general election.

This meeting comes on the back of a BMH UK’s Harris Review round table, held in parliament in January this year, on the disturbing numbers of ‘self inflicted’ of young people in prison, in light of the mass incarceration of black Britons in this system. BMH UK convened this event because of their concerns over data which now shows that that there is now a greater disproportionality in the number of black people in prison in the UK than in the United States prison industrial complex.

Attendees at the event in January highlighted the need for a follow up meeting, where those who serve the community could agree on strategies that address the inequalities faced by those black Britons that come in contact the justice system, and other issues relating to the Diaspora  ahead of the general election.  This round table has been convened to facilitate this process and inform this agenda in the run up to the general election in May.

The primary focus of the meeting on the 16th May 2015 will be mental health as it relates to the Diaspora and also the justice system.

Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK said:

‘All the indexes show that it is people  from the UK’s African Caribbean Diaspora living in the UK are among society’s most economically and socially excluded groups.

They  have some of the worst experiences and poorest outcomes in the area of health, justice, education, employment or any other arena you care to look at,  and yet there have been numerous strategies over the decades that have been focussed on addressing the inequalities of BME communities, which  have consistently failed to improve the condition of this group.

It is important that we recognised this and prioritise the concerns of our communities if we are ever going to bring about positive change for those significant number of people who don’t have a voice, particularly in the area of mental health. It is clear that the BME banner doesn’t work for us, we urgently need to find solutions that do.’