Proud to be black, British and of African heritage all at the same time. No escaping, or wanting to, each facet, and no denying the impact that each affords me.
Proud to be of black parents who spoke English, Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba – under the same roof, with a dash of pidgin courtesy of my eldest brother Raymond.
Proud to have seven names: Ekene, Clair, Ifeoma, Godfreida, Adaora, Justine, Monique – as my parents’ celebration of the surprise that I was their only girl. When they thought they had completed their family, I proved them wrong and hope to continue to make them as proud of me, as I am of them.
Proud to be a black child of black health care professionals: a trained nurse, midwife and health visitor, and a surgeon and later general practitioner.
Proud to be the black sister to four black brothers in 1970s and 1980s England, who gave me the unsaid but displayed blueprint of how to navigate the world with their elegant poise at such young ages, through boarding school and then in later life.
Proud to have known the taste of native Nigerian dishes: okra, egusi, bitter leaf, jollof rice and moi moi, from my mother’s kitchen – amid my introduction to bangers and mash and the ‘full English breakfast’. Are you salivating yet?
Proud to be the first black girl to enter the first year at St Mary’s Ascot boarding school, and develop close friendships with young girls who were, and still are, the most incredible allies anyone could ever wish for. They unknowingly were some of my first teachers, and perhaps me theirs, about the importance of inclusion and diversity, all at the tender ages of nine and ten years old.
Proud to be a black woman with braids in my teens, dreads in my twenties and a short afro now.
Proud to be a black female graduate of science and medicine, after my mum broke the typical mould in her family and region, and was catapulted towards education – first in Nigeria, and then England.
Proud to be a black female doctor – one of 13,445 (1) licensed black doctors in the UK, who gets to benefit from the influences of Dr Sandra Isibor, Dr Delu Oti and Dr Nneka Osuji. As well as paediatric registrar Dr Ngozi Ogu, obstetrics and gynaecology registrar Dr Omamurrhomu Otomewo, founder of Melanin Medics, Dr Olamide Dada and Miss Samantha Tross, England’s first black female consultant in orthopaedic surgery.
Not to mention Dr Marilyn Graham, and Dr Michael ‘big mike’ Ogakwu, as well as countless others making advances beyond their personal medical/surgical practice. Their tireless contribution to patients and beyond encourages me to strive and thrive in equal measure.
Proud to be black like Dr Harold Moody whose history informs me of how a doctor, who works in and for the community, can invigorate, support and truly care for their local inhabitants.
Proud to serve the NHS which smacks of radiant diversity, which should be welcomed and embraced as the mirror that reflects and serves our diverse population.
Proud to be a member of the BMA, and now the BMA BAME network co-chair representing black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors in London. Here I get to serve my colleagues in some way towards equity for all of us – and I mean all of us. We (our patients included) all prosper when, irrespective of race, age, disability, orientation, religion and other characteristics, are given equitable opportunity to realise our full potential – through clinical practice and beyond.
In conclusion: proud to be black and to fully embrace that. Black British, with black African ancestry that intertwines that. Proud to be just me, knowing that I could never speak for all that encompass the race that I’m proud to be a part of, but delighted in this month of black history, to tell you a bit about me, in the hope to get to know your ‘proud to be’.
Ekene Clair Agbim is co-chair of the BMA BAME network
(1) GMC (2020) The State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK, register of medical practitioners data table.