Saluting our sisters

This year’s Black History Month theme is ‘saluting our sisters’ with a focus on Black women. Leanne Antoine reflects on how this relates to you, your patients and the profession

Leanne Antoine CSP Council member and the CEO of Distinct Physiotherapy
Leanne Antoine CSP Council member and the CEO of Distinct Physiotherapy

Each time Black History Month comes around, I always wonder how I’m going to celebrate something that I live every day in my present – my Black History. This year Black History Month has many themes, in fact it appears to recognise Black people in Britain more so than ever – including the 75th anniversary of Windrush in July and the input of these very same people to the NHS. However, the focus on the Black woman this year is one that touches the soul of my being. 

As a Black woman, I will always be an advocate. Her struggles have been neatly wrapped in titles like the ‘strong Black woman’ and the unconscious assumption for so long that her strength (mentally, physically and emotionally) is unbreakable. My advocacy is about understanding and appreciating the challenges that Black women have faced and continue to face (because of our history), but it is also about being able to celebrate how far these wonderful women have come, which is testament to their emotional intelligence.  

You might be wondering how any of this relates to you, your patients and of course this profession - but when was the last time a light was truly shone on Black women? Have you considered your perception of the Black woman and questioned how you arrived there? What bearing has this had on your treatment of the Black woman? 

Today Black women, regardless of whether or not they are UK-born, have the lowest probabilities of being top earners. Less than 0.1 per cent of UK-born Black women are in the top 1 per cent, in comparison to 0.2 per cent of UK-born white women and 1.3 per cent of UK-born white men. 

As the CSP continues to drive a focus on equity, diversity, and belonging, I wonder how we all might address our own biases to become more relatable and approachable to the Black woman who is finding it difficult to see how she is being treated fairly as a patient and as a work colleague. 

It is time to challenge some of the destructive narratives that have been long associated with Black women. Many of them have stood in the way of her progress and often it has left her both unheard and unseen and consequently burnt out.

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