Black culture, heritage and contribution celebrated by string of events on UK flagship

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: People

Sailors on board the Fleet Flagship have marked Black History Month with a series of events celebrating their ship’s, Navy’s and Nation’s – diversity while on operations.

There are more than ten Commonwealth nations represented among the 1,000 or so souls aboard the Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier.

They chose Black History Month – which ends today – as the perfect opportunity to showcase the vibrant expressions of our black community, from music and dance, to art, literature and cuisine in a packed week of events.

“Black History Month is an opportunity to learn, and educate others, about the diverse experiences of black people. It is a chance to dispel myths, challenge stereotypes and foster understanding,” said Able Seaman Calisha Velox who works in the carrier’s galley.

Events started with a church service full of traditional choruses and religious songs from the Caribbean and beyond which was hosted by PO Ratu Seru from the marine engineering department and logistician Able Seaman Kendra Austin and a chorus was rapturously delivered by the seven Fijians serving on board.

A games night brought ranks and rates from all messes and backgrounds together to enjoy pastimes popular to the Caribbean Islands including lively rounds of dominos, and other traditional board games with karaoke and a well-received selection of savoury commonwealth finger foods and music adding to the atmosphere.

The ship’s company also enjoyed a ‘Commonwealth Cookout’ which saw chefs, many of whom hail from Commonwealth countries, cook up a feast of their favourite foods including curried goat, jerk chicken, macaroni pie and rice and peas, a great opportunity to explore different cultures during dinner, or scran if using naval slang.

“Black History Month is a time to celebrate the strength, resilience and perseverance of black people who have faced adversity and discrimination. It highlights the stories of those in our community who have overcome challenges to achieve success,” said Leading Hand Lucy Bradshaw, who serves in the carrier’s catering services department.

The overarching theme of this year’s events – “Celebrate our sisters – every achievement is a success” was explored during a presentation night educating sailors about the lives and achievements of pioneering black women including Harriet Tubman, Ida Wells, Rosa Parks, Mary Seacole, Wangari Maathai and Lilian Bader.

Harriet, a film inspired by the true story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, best known for her efforts in freeing slaves via the ‘underground railroad’ in pre-Civil War USA was the selection of the ship’s monthly movie night.  

“Black History Month empowers me as a black woman by showcasing the achievements of black women who have broken barriers and made significant contributions to various fields. Their stories inspire others to strive for excellence and push for positive change,” said Able Seaman Michaelea Dougan, who also serves in the carrier’s catering services department.

Celebrations culminated with a cultural event marking the 44th anniversary of Independence for St Vincent and the Grenadines on October 27, the country more than 40 of HMS Queen Elizabeth sailors call home.

”It will sound really cliché but it has been such an eye opener coming from the Caribbean and experiencing the culture shock as is often the case in a new place,” said marine engineer Warrant Officer Myron Campbell.

“When I joined the Navy, Commonwealth personnel arranged meets either at a friend’s house or on the base just to catch up and maintain that sense of community and togetherness.  Fast forward a few years and we have the Commonwealth Network which allows us a space to grow and a forum where we can express issues or concerns, share our cultures and embrace the diversity of our separate Nations all whilst continuing to represent ourselves and the RN in a positive manner.

Knowing that we are supported both within the Network and the wider RN shows how far we have come as a community and provides personnel from our community with the assurances necessary to continue to deliver at the very highest levels.

Marine engineer Warrant Officer Myron Campbell.