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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 2. Black women, it’s time to break the silence

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SCENE 2

Black women, it’s time to break the silence

At noon, on a very chilly November day in 2012, a group of mature Black women converge in a community room in Handsworth, Birmingham. The room is large with oversized radiators which effectively keep the chills at bay. Scattered around the room are comfy chairs. There is a small kitchenette to the left of the room. Before long the women are active in the kitchenette. Microwaves are pinging and the contents of the microwaves exude a plethora of fragrances from Caribbean cuisines. There is an array of Chicken: jerked, stewed and fried systematically placed on the worktop. Piping hot rice boiled with coconut milk is steaming in Pyrex bowls. On foil trays are giant fried dumplings and in a Tupperware bowl next to the dumplings is Caribbean coleslaw.

Punch is poured from bottles and jugs. One punch has J. Wray and Nephew rum (fire wata), alongside it is a second jug with punch for the drivers, the lightweights and the faithful.

Scattered around the room are: Bese Saka aged 47, Mate Masie 50, Nsoromma 38, Nsaa 41, Akoma 50, Aya 41, SunSum 50, Akoben 51, GyeNyame 45, Dame-Dame 48 and Sankofa 45. Between them, they have given a prodigious fourteen decades and four years’ service to the NHS in the UK. The academic supporting the women in their Black feminist epistemological search is Mama B.

Mama...

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