Her talk ‘Coming to England’ attracted a large crowd.
Baroness Floella Benjamin is a presenter, author, Life Peer, singer and businesswoman, yet claims to be the least successful of her siblings.
She could be described as an entertainer-campaigner; an epithet she lived up to in her Coming to England talk at Croydon’s Bernard Weatherill Community Space.
The audience was told the speaker had been waylaid by a group of toddlers outside who wanted a story.
They picked the right person; stories fall from the former-presenter of Play School ’s lips like summer rain.
The Life Peer is relentlessly positive, frequently bursting into song, and often directly addressing the audience, particularly the schoolchildren.
But Coming to England (which is also the title of her 1997 memoir) from Trinidad in the early 60s as a child, was not all sunshine.
She tells the harrowing story of having her skirt lifted and hearing the taunt: “Where’s your tail monkey?”
This was a long way from the Land of Hope and Glory her Trinidadian school had led her to expect.
Baroness Benjamin spoke of never learning about her ancestors at school and never seeing people like herself in children’s books.
The talk was a powerful reminder of the importance of Black History Month.
The author said the event was all about celebrating diverse histories and making people feel they belonged to the country’s rich tapestry of cultures.
She encouraged children to make the most of their education and to avoid distraction.
She said: “If you can say no to the television, then you can resist anything. If somebody offers you drugs or asks you to join a gang, then you will be able to resist.”
She added: “If you’re black, you have to work 10 times as hard, as people will see your skin before they see you.”
Croydon is hosting events in libraries and other venues throughout October, for full listings see www.croydon.gov.uk
Photo courtesy of ian boyd, with thanks.
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