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Black Women’s Narratives of NHS Work-Based Learning: An Ethnodrama

The Difference between Rhetoric and Lived Experience

Peggy Warren

This is an eight-scene drama portraying black women reliving their journey through higher education and work-based learning. Black women’s voices are the focus, reflecting on the complexities and dynamics of institutional power, professional exploitation, silencing, subordination and non-transformative education. A black feminist standpoint theoretical approach with an autoethnographic presentation invites the reader into the camaraderie, emotions, tears and laughter of a cohort of mature black healthcare workers engaging in a foundation degree with a promise of promotion. The author captures the voices of the women, weaves in her own account and sets the stories in fictional locations. Using cultural sayings, black philosophy and black music in a creative way, this work offers a platform from which to start discussions on black women’s labour in the NHS.

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Scene 1. The dreamers in Jamaica heading for the motherland


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The dreamers in Jamaica heading for the motherland

Jamaica, 14 February 1948

On the sandy beach of Negril under the scorching sun, eight hopeful couples and two single men are discussing their future dreams. Though the motherlan’ has been at war and times are hard, the earth still produces food for survival. Saltfish is sparse but they clubbed together their rations to get enough food to bring and share. Yam and saltfish are buried beneath the hot coals in de sand. The redemptive lyrics of reggae music invigorates the dreamers. Motherlan’ calls and the pull is ’trong. As the gossip goes, motherlan’ streets are paved with gold. The men lie face down on the beach, in unison they repeat the common dream that Ganja man has written in the sand:

‘We go, we earn, we learn, we return.’

Reggae beats are followed by the ballads of the blues. Brooke Benton, Ella Fitzgerald and Sam Cooke are amongst the great musical storytellers. Each story resonates with someone in the group. As the ballads resound, the men rise and ‘drop foot’. The women look on and giggle. Everyone’s happy. In the ice box is cool aid, rum punch, Dragon stout and Red Stripe beer.

The beer-filled men seem to unanimously agree that, for them, migration would be a win-win venture. The motherlan’ gets her labourers, and we get work to help us escape the...

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