October marks the 35th Black history month celebration in the UK. This year’s theme for Black history month is Time for Change: Action Not Words. We caught up with 2 Dementia Voice participants to see what their thoughts were on Black history month and this year’s theme.
Morcea is a community leader in Northampton. You may have read Morcea’s blog from last October on the Alzheimer’s Society’s Website where she speaks about the specific challenges of dementia in the Black community, her passion for raising awareness and the importance of understanding a person’s history in supporting reminiscence for their wellbeing.
As we discuss this year’s theme Morcea reflects on an experience that resonated with her.
“The Carnival was playing Caribbean music as it passed by a Care Home. One of the residents, a Black lady with dementia, knew the words to the music and got up. Bless the worker who was with her as she followed the lady as she walked, and for a while, they became part of the troop. The Carnival makes a special journey past that Care Home now. The school did War Horse on a float and played Second world war songs. The white elders joined in, and we got the float to stop a while. These actions make a difference. Be aware of what’s happening in your community and make those connections. Black History month shouldn’t be for a month it should be a celebration of actions from the year before or a time to pledge what you are going to do for the next year. A reflection back or forward”.
Morcea gives her own example where she is part of a group planning to collect stories from the community over the year, to share during Black history month next year.
Dee, who is living with a diagnosis of dementia, tells me she was born and bred in Jamaica and is Jamaican.
“I came to England when I was 26 and became a British Citizen”
Dee also says “here here” to Morcea’s comment that Black History should be celebrated for more than one month. As we talk, Dee has just come from visiting the National Windrush monument at Waterloo Station.
“I was so proud”. Dee brings to life Morcea’s views on the importance of reminiscence, when she shares how the suitcases in the monument moved her and explains
“I remember my dad brought some of those suitcases to England. They were classic suitcases. Those were the days. You looked at the people who came and helped. Nurses, railwaymen, postmen, Doctors. Give us more time, not just one month. They fought and worked to make the country look beautiful.
I myself came here and worked my socks off. Does our work ethic mean anything, does it go down the drain? I run a dementia café and there are nurses that come that worked in the NHS for years. All these people gave their working life to our institutions.”
Like Morcea, Dee talks about the importance of making connections.
“Things can be improved if we work together. It’s so nice to go out and enjoy different food and culture. Its nice when people celebrate the Carnival. It’s Diwali now and I will join people in the community with their celebrations.
At the dementia café we are mixed. Not just Jamaican or Black people but we have white ladies that come from a Care Home. We cater for everyone’s needs. It’s good to support people with their heritage and the activities they enjoy. We do dominoes, crochet. There is a lady with dementia who loves word-searches, so we provide those. We use whatever people enjoy to bring them back to life. We play music and they get up and dance.”
And in terms of actions, if you are running a café Dee suggests…
“be more soft. Know how to except people of different cultures. Encourage them, don’t leave them aside. Go out in your community, advertise your dementia café. We have connected with our community through the churches. Do everyone’s games, play their music. Put on the African and Caribbean music. Having some Black volunteers would really help.
It’s about getting people out of their house and helping them enjoy their day. Communicate, get to know a person including their musical and food preferences. A person’s heritage, like a diagnosis of dementia or age, does not define them.