A.R.I.S.E – Sister’s doing it for themselves
International Women’s Day event
Star rating: *****
Sunday 8th March 2015
Hosts: Angie Greaves & Daddy Ernie
Guests: Jenni Steele, Her Excellency Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba and Gina Yashere
Singer: Natalie Phillips
A.R.I.S.E was back for an all women line up of guests to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). Not only that, regular host Daddy Ernie was joined by a female co-host, Magic FM’s, Angie Greaves. Curiously IWD was only mentioned once via a question from the audience. A little odd since the show was heavily marketed as being a celebration of International Women’s Day. What followed was an inspiring, educational, open and frank insight into three women’s lives who have all overcome different struggles – some even death defying, to achieve wonderful things in their careers.
At a packed Tabernacle theatre in West London the first guest welcomed to the stage was radio presenter and campaigner Jenni Steele from Woah radio.
Talking about her work on a slightly less “official” radio station than Magic FM, Jenni Steele acknowledged that she was a lot freer in what she can say and do on air and she definitely welcomed and appreciated that freedom.
Jenni, not only presents on that station (every Friday afternoon and Sunday morning), but she has for many years campaigned against domestic violence. The campaigning vigour and passion she showed is sadly informed by having been a victim in her past relationships. She was brutally frank in admitting that she was almost killed by her first boyfriend. She escaped from that abusive relationship and got on with her life determined not to be a victim again.
Jenni was appointed National Ambassador for Domestic Violence UK in 2014. “Love shouldn’t hurt,” she said. That is also the name of the campaign. She speaks out in order to help others and to show that being a victim doesn’t have to be a life-long hindrance and you can make a success of your life in spite of horrific violence and hardships.
She has set up the Jenni Steele Foundation to support such work and regularly makes presentations to young men and women about Domestic violence. She reminded the audience that this work is not just about physical abuse, but the “invisible” emotional abuse that happens too. “That’s probably worse as it’s invisible and doesn’t leave a scar.”
Do we need Black Awards Ceremonies?
Moving on to lighter subjects, she told an amusing story re how she got an interview with the man of the moment, Mr Idris Elba, at the recent Screen Nation Awards 2015 – impressive as “his people” made it clear he was NOT doing any interviews.
When asked by Angie if she felt there was a need for integration of award ceremonies or separate Black awards like the Screen Nations [or for that matter Tiemo’s Black Comedy Awards, I might add], she said, “they are definitely needed above all as a means of showing what can be achieved, since Black people don’t get the recognition their talent merits from the mainstream award ceremonies.”
Q & A
Jenni was asked by an audience member, “what she would say now to her 16 year old self?” Jenni replied, “Surround yourself with older women who can mentor you.”
Her popular online radio show ‘Keeping It Real with Jenni Steele’ showcases upcoming brands in Beauty, Fashion & Entertainment every Friday 10-Lunchtime and she interviews inspirational people from all walks of life every Sunday 11-1pm.
You can log on and listen on your computer or via mobile phone – TuneinApp Search WHOA’!”
Her Excellency Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba
Her Excellency Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba has been Jamaican High Commissioner in London since 2012. She was a very funny guest with a lot of knowledge to impart to the audience about Jamaica and what Jamaican’s in the diaspora can be doing to help their homeland.
She hails from a large family of 8 siblings in St Ann, Jamaica. She has four brothers and three sisters. They are a close knit family and this is demonstrated, for example, by how they consult one another on major decisions. That included the family consultation about whether or not to accept the post of Jamaican High Commissioner and all that entailed including leaving Jamaica to live and work in England.
Aloun is a lawyer of 35 years experience and that legal background helps her in her job, equipping her with the capacity to interpret complex documents, the law, review issues and be organised and professional in what she does and how she does things.
She was passionate in her support for Credit Unions and encouraged people to join them.
She has worked hard to create a strong union of Caribbean Islands for she knows that individually they are small, both geographically and economically, but if they are united they have a lot more power and influence.
As you can imagine she is an extremely busy woman. She admitted to working 7 days a week. As well as running the Jamaican High Commission she is the Ambassador to six others countries, namely Ireland, the Republic of Finland, the Republic of Cyprus, as well as, the Kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As if that wasn’t enough, on top of this, there are 200 known Jamaican organisations in the UK that the High Commission provides support to as and when required.
She was quick to acknowledge she doesn’t do this alone and certainly couldn’t manage her workload without the support of her hard working employees.
The issue of VISA’s and people’s right of residency, to British and Jamaican citizenship was a huge issue for her office. She explained that there are many people who came over in the 1950’s and 1960’s and have the right to remain in the UK, but to legally ensure this they have to take action to officially secure their right to remain.
This very issue made the news last year with the case of 64 year old Jamaican Lloyd Bogle who returned to Jamaica in September 2014 for the first time since coming over to England, age 14, in 1950. Sadly for him he couldn’t return because he hadn’t got the right status to return.
She asked the audience to speak to and help any older family members with getting their status sorted out if they require assistance in doing so.
This is also something for the younger British born and raised Jamaican’s to look into too, for although they are British citizens, as children of Jamaican parents (or other Caribbean/African countries for that matter) they too will be entitled to acquire Jamaican/Caribbean/African citizenship. So long as they apply for citizenship.
She was pleased to inform people that during her tenure she introduced citizenship ceremonies for British born Jamaicans. You can even apply for citizenship at the same time as applying for a Jamaican passport. The next citizenship ceremony is at the end of March 2015.
She finds her work very exciting and enjoys the opportunity of giving public service in this way. Her tenure expires in May 2015, but she is hoping it will be extended. If it is, her goals for the next few years will be focused on ensuring more people attain their rightful status and that more British Jamaican’s invest in Jamaica.
She will be supporting the Jamaican diaspora conference taking place in June 2015 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. See below for details.
Audience Q & A
Asked what legacy would she want to leave as High Commissioner she stated:
1. Letting people know that Jamaica first discovered Idris Elba!! His ‘One Love’ film was filmed in Jamaica.
2. For many more people to save via credit unions.
3. For a lot more people to give blood. More Black people need to donate blood. She is a patron of a charity connected to this goal.
4. To use the platform she has to talk about issues affecting the Black community e.g. prostate cancer and the education of Black children. The community needs to do much better.
5. To wake up the Black community and urge people to continue to support one another and by so doing grow the Black community.
6. For Jamaica to export a lot more products. To export more than they import.
After the interval, gospel signer Natalie Phillips performed a few lovely, melodic songs from her ‘Unique Perspectives’ album (2013) . She was warmly received by the audience.
Last but not least, Angie Greaves and Daddy Ernie introduced award winning Comedienne Gina Yashere, winner of Best Comedienne, Most Popular DVD – ‘Skinny Bitch’ and Best International Comedian at the Tiemo Entertainments Black Comedy Awards 2012 and 2013.
Talking about career choices as a school child, Gina described it as not so much her choices, but decisions made for her and her siblings by her mother. She decided who would be an accountant, doctor (Gina) or engineer. She even picked Gina’s ‘A’ levels! At one point studying sciences she was heading towards a career in the medical profession, but on discovering she doesn’t like the sight of blood she switched to the less bloody field of engineering!
She got her qualifications, trained and started out as Lift Engineer. Whilst embarking on this career, she was encouraged by friends to have a go at Stand-Up Comedy. She took their advice and gave it a go.
We’re glad she did. Just six months later she got her first big break on the Jonathan Ross ‘Big Break’ show. She did very well on it and that show effectively was her Launchpad into a successful career in comedy. Engineering’s loss was comedy’s gain.
Initially she played to both Black and mainstream comedy circuits. Her agent seeing her do that twice one evening commented that he noticed that Gina was doing all her best stuff at the Black shows. So from them on she decided to perform the same sets on both circuits. Gina’s aim was always to appeal to all audiences and this approach works for her. People get her and there is no need to do different material for different audiences.
Going to America
Since 6 years old she has had a dream of working in the USA. Having reached a glass ceiling in this country – as a result of racism (and no doubt being a woman) she decided it was time to up sticks and realise her dream of working in America. As an indication of this glass ceiling she said that 10 years ago the likes of Michael McIntyre and Micky Flanagan were opening for her and now they’re playing huge stadiums and regularly appear on TV.
Her big break in America came via performing on Last Comic Standing. She was a hit. On the basis of that she decided she would and could make it in America, returned to London, sold all she owned and didn’t need and returned to the States with just two suitcases. That was it. No turning back. That was her life. In two suitcases.
Gina said America was just as racist as the UK and that there is also a ceiling too for Black performers. “The only difference is, it’s much higher, so by the time you hit the ceiling you’re a millionaire … so you’re still bitching, it’s just that you’re just rich whilst doing so!”
In 3 years out there she achieved a lot more than she was in the UK. For instance, her ‘Skinny Bitch’ DVD (2008) was shown as a one hour special on TV. That had never happened in the UK.
Dramatic Weight Loss
The ‘Skinny Bitch’ tour and DVD focuses on her very poor health due to having lupus. Gina was on all sorts of medications. Looking into it she discovered that the side effects could be awful, such as damaged retina, weak joints etc… She quickly chose to come off this medication and do further research. The conclusion she arrived at was to give up meat, any food touched by pesticides and go on to a strict diet of raw food. The results were astonishing. Her health greatly improved and a side effect was that of losing 5 stones. Result!
When asked what drives her, she admitted that she was very competitive. When she started out she noticed that many of the Caribbean comedians were doing “bad” African jokes, portraying African’s in a negative way. She decided that she had to change that and show a different image of “her people” (Nigerian’s).
This competitiveness extends to her current tour. Rather than taking in Hackney Empire or Broadway Theatre , she decided to stick her neck out and book the 5,000 seater O2 Brixton Academy for her UK tour finale on 11th April 2015. She wants to attain the stature of the McIntyre’s and Jimmy Carr’s of the comedy world and if that means playing to bigger venues then that is what she will do.
Whilst giving an illuminating, insightful interview, Gina was funny throughout, interspersing her life story with gags and funny anecdotes that had the audiences, panel and interviewers in stitches.
Q & A
During the Q & A Angie asked Gina one of my questions – ‘Why is there seemingly a lack of young Black [female] comedians breaking through’? Gina replied that she wasn’t sure why that was, but noticed a lot more male comedians coming through than females. “The problem was their comedy was narrowing. They are mining the same area of comedy. I’m hearing jokes I told 15 years ago. They need to branch out and find their own identity.”
I found this to be a brilliant night of interviews, comedy and music. The audience laughed a lot, learnt a lot and had a really good time. Well done Arise. I look forward to the next show in June 2015.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
Photographs © Roger Thomas
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Tiemo Talk of The Town review and organise topical debates, seminars and comedy shows. Since 2005 we have held debates on a variety of topics, including social issues that empower people and communities; politics, the family, relationships, personal finance, education and religion. In 2012 and 2013 we organised and hosted the Black Comedy Awards.
1. Prostate cancer – Information Prostate Cancer UK
2. Credit unions of Jamaica – Information
3. Jamaican citizenship – citizenship and application forms
4. Jamaican diaspora conference – 13th-18th June 2015 – Montego Bay Convention Centre, Jamaica –
5. Tiemo Entertainments Black Comedy Awards 2013 – review
6. Tiemo Entertainments Black Comedy Awards 2012 – review
7. Health seminar – Top 10 Health Tips
8. Domestic violence UK
9. Listen to Jenni Steele on Whoa FM or download via Tune in radio app search ‘Whoa’
10. Listen to Angie Greaves on Magic 105.4FM every week-day afternoon from 2-5p.m.
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