There are journey’s you take where excitement and passion blocks out all doubt and practicalities of the endeavour. You have a conviction so strong you almost become blinkered in getting the idea off the ground because it is so necessary. The I’mPOSSIBLE conversation was birthed in June 2011 and tomorrow (December 14, 2016), we celebrate five years of putting the life journeys, successes and wisdom of women of colour on a platform to celebrate, share and inspire.
As the successful event series which has been held in London and New York has made an indelible, positive mark on the psyche of women and girls of colour, it is taking place at the heart of the UK media – BBC Broadcasting House, London. Supported by our friends, the The BBC’s Black and Asian Forum (BBAF), the staff led group provides support, networking opportunities and a focus for discussion of BAME related issues. It’s also helps to transform and enrich the BBC through diversity, supporting the organisation in creating greater diversity and portrayal while encouraging and supporting BAME staff to develop and achieve their full potential.
The event is being live streamed from 6:30pm GMT via our Facebook page.
Introducing our panellists:
Simone Bresi-Ando – I’mPOSSIBLE
A global communications, PR and events expert who has worked for over a decade with high profile brands such as Sony Ericsson, London 2012 Olympics, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, BET and the Apollo Theatre, Harlem to name a few.
Her first job as the personal secretary to the then Deputy Prime Minister; the Rt Hon. John Prescott gave her valuable insight into the mechanics of running a country and how news was made at a national level. At the same time, Simone started her culturally significant PR and events outfit, PUSH which led her to work with two Grammy award winners Estelle and Floetry as well as 2004 Mercury Music Prize nominee; Ty.
Simone is an accomplished public speaker, social commentator and writer – she is also passionate about using her PR skills and networks to empower women particularly, women and girls of colour. In 2009, she founded I’mPOSSIBLE Global CIC that helps women and girls of colour. Define success, joy and wellbeing on their terms. In 2013, Simone was given the Leadership Award by Women: Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) for her outstanding work promoting the rights of women and girls; she now joins a long list of prestigious recipients such as Queen Rania of Jordan and Princeton Professor, Anne-Marie Slaughter. Later that same year, Black Girls Rock! gave Simone a televised salute for her work empowering and highlighting the achievements of women of colour.
Akua Gyamfi – The British Blacklist
Journalist, Script Consultant and Hair Stylist – Akua Gyamfi has over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry with a career that spans fashion, film, television, theatre, print and online media.
Starting as a hairdresser on London’s famous Portobello Road, Gyamfi’s hairdressing reputation led to her first foray into the entertainment world. Her hair CV includes working for magazines Touch, Mahogany, Noir, RWD, Disorder and i-D. Assisting at London and Paris fashion week for Matthew Williamson, Top Shop Unique, Jonathan Saunders, Giles and more. As well as working on editorial campaigns for Aquascutum, Jaeger, Hugo Boss, UniQlo and music videos for various artists including, Miss Dynamite, Shystie, Tracey K, Clare Evers and on British gangster film ‘Rollin’ with the Nines’. Akua has also been part of the Paul Hanlon hair team during both London Fashion week events since 2010.
After leaving a full-time career in Hairstyling, Gyamfi studied Journalism and her career as a freelance journalist took off, writing for French British magazine, ‘Bolz’. Shadowing and interviewing Ken Livingstone during his mayoral campaign, as well as launching her own blog, the Soul Pages and being editor of Candy magazine. Gyamfi then joined renowned underground digital TV station, Channel AKA (formerly known as Channel U) and worked closely with a dedicated team who turned the channel around during 2004 – 2006 years. Gyamfi then moved onto the BBC where she worked at their Performing Arts Fund and moved on to the BBC Writersroom, working with director, Mark 1 to write, direct and produce anti-knife and gun crime short film, ‘After Effects’. During this time, Gyamfi gained valuable insight into the machinations of script writing and is currently a script consultant whose work has won awards. In 2012, Akua launched The British Blacklist that serves as an online portal celebrating the work of creatives from screen, stage, sound and literature.
Kenya Hunt – Elle UK
Hunt is Fashion Features Director of ELLE UK.
She studied at the University of Virginia before going on to get her Master’s Degree at Oxford. She started her career in magazines at the now defunct, Conde Nast monthly, ‘Jane’, before eventually moving to newspapers to become Global Style Director of Metro International. She was also a contributing writer to Vogue.it and has written pieces for The Guardian, American Vogue, Essence, American Marie Claire and American InStyle, among others.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – UK Black Pride
As co-founder and Trustee of UK Black Pride, Opoku-Gyimah is a leading light behind the award-winning celebration for Black LGBT communities to take pride in their ethnicity and sexuality.
With her background in the UK civil service, central government she has worked for the Department of Works & Pensions and Fraud Investigation Service, and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) where she was the only Black female Negotiator in the area of Law and Justice before being appointed Head of Equality, Health and Safety at the union. Opoku-Gyimah’s commitment to workplace equality and social justice led to her election onto the TUC LGBT Committee.
Opoku-Gyimah pride’s herself as an activist who is passionate about what she believes in and works diligently to make people aware of the cause, she has worked tirelessly to build – UK Black Pride. She brings together LGBT activists, artists, volunteers and supporters from across the LGBT community and her efforts have been recognised with a nomination as ‘Woman of the Year’ at the Black LGBT Community Awards 2007, a top-50 entrant in The Independent’s Pink List, a top-100 entrant in the World Pride Power List, the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award nomination and an invitation to judge the Stonewall Awards, all in 2012. Opoku-Gyimah has also led UK Black Pride to win Black LGBT Community Awards in 2006 and 2007, the Pink Paper Readers’ Award and the Stonewall Community Award in 2011.
In January 2016, Opoku-Gyimah turned down an MBE in the New Year’s honours list and remarked: “As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values…I don’t believe in empire. I don’t believe in and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws… that were put in place by British imperialists.” Opoku-Gyimah is a strong, working class, family-orientated Ghanaian woman who understands the Twi and Fanti languages that connect her to a rich African cultural heritage that advocates for unity and equality.
Dr Nicola Rollock – University of Birmingham
Dr Rollock is an award-winning academic based at the University of Birmingham. Her passion lies in understanding how racially minoritised groups negotiate and survive race inequalities and in supporting organisations, address change in this area.
Nicola is lead author of the book ‘The Colour of Class: the educational strategies of the Black middle classes’, which won second prize in the prestigious ‘Society for Educational Studies Book Awards 2016’. She is also the author of the landmark report, ‘The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On’ of which the recommendations were debated in Parliament. An accomplished public speaker, Nicola has presented at high profile events across the UK and internationally. In 2014, she delivered the National Union of Journalists’ Claudia Jones’ Lecture and in 2015, gave the opening address before the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice’s Senior Leaders’ Conference. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of the West Indies in Barbados and is also a trustee of the British Educational Research Association as well as a Patron of the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Charter.
Dr Rollock recently won the 2016 PRECIOUS Award for Outstanding Woman in Professional Services for her contributions to race equality. And a year earlier, she was selected by the Women of the Year Council as a ‘Woman of Achievement’ as well as being featured as ‘one to watch’ in the 2014 Powerlist of Britain’s most influential Black people.
Brenda Emmanus – BBC (host)
Emmanus is a broadcaster journalist who works in TV, radio, and print journalism. She is currently BBC London News’ arts, culture and entertainment correspondent.
Brenda’s profile rose as one of the co-presenters on BBC One’s The Clothes Show, which she contributed to for five years. She has since fronted BBC One shows including the interior design programme The Terrace, The Midweek National Lottery and features for Holiday. As a regular face on ITV’s This Morning, Brenda teamed up with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan as their fashion and entertainment expert. She is no stranger to radio, having presented for many shows like The Early Show live on BBC Radio Two and Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. As a freelance writer Brenda has contributed feature articles to Luxure, Pride, Cosmopolitan and Caribbean Eye magazines, as well as The Observer and New Nation.
One of the unique aspects of this event series is that it uncovers role models that otherwise get ignored by the mainstream. It gives a real-life face to what female success from women of colour can look and feel like for this group.