Black History Month: the untold stories waiting to be heard

The month of October marks Black History Month – a celebration of the stories and achievements of black individuals across the world, past and present, especially where these accounts are not recognised as they should be. With voices and experiences still often overlooked in the community, the importance of changing this narrative feels more important than ever before.

StoryTerrace, a national biographer who helps people turn their life story into a book, has documented over 2,500 life stories from people all around the world. One of the initial parts of the process is matching clients with a professional ghostwriter based on a variety of compatibility factors such as personality and background, as ensuring both parties can relate, understand and feel comfortable with one another is considered a high priority that is central to the overall process from start to finish.

In light of Black History Month, below is a snapshot of some of the stories that have been written and captured from the community.

Storytellers:

Brian Lewis

In his book ‘Check Mate’, Brian Lewis illustrates the story of how he beat an International Chess Grandmaster at just the age of 12. Brian attended school in the heart of a working-class community. Here, he was inspired by a formidable teacher called Mr. Green who made it his quest to form a chess team that would make the school and the area proud. After 2 years of training the school produced 5 individual chess champions, the school started winning the chess league and produced a player – Brian – that beat an International Grandmaster within 4 years at the age of 12. Brian was part of the first Windrush generation, and in his story he recounts elements of his experience of racism.

Penny and Mark

Amidst the oppressive atmosphere of 1970s private school life, two forbidden lovers met for the first time: Penny, the free-thinking daughter of conservative English parents, and Mark, a solitary black boy, far from his home in the Bahamas. Separated for thirty-nine years by prejudice and ill-fortune, their love survived.

Subrena Joseph

Subrena is a social worker and disability life coach who documented her life in her StoryTerrace biography “To Walk Around It, Move It or Love It”. Subrena’s book follows her life experiences as a black woman living with disabilities and highlights the struggles she has faced and how she has overcome them. Subrena’s biography also provides insight into her amazing charity, STUBS-Disability LIFE, which raises awareness for, and aims to change the narrative of, lived experiences of disability for Black and Ethnic Minorities. In Subrena’s own words: “The biggest challenge is not the barrier ‘disability’ but choosing whether to; walk around it, move it, go above it or love it. Loving ‘it’ has been about accepting all my flaw and blemishes. I have adopted a strength-based perspective to life, acknowledging that flaws are like tilling the soil and those flaws will help me grow and bloom”

Ghostwriters:

Ellen Aaku

Ellen never imagined she would become a writer; as a child she preferred to tell stories orally rather than to read and write them. But life happened, and today she is a prize-winning author of children’s books, adult fiction and creative nonfiction. She has won the Commonwealth Short Competition, the Penguin Prize for Writing and the Macmillan Writers Prize. She has an MA in Creative Writing and has taught writing to adults and children in Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

Sylvia Akua Manfo

Akua believes that everyone has a story to tell. But not everyone has the ability or the will to tell theirs by themselves. And this is where she comes in. As a TV Presenter, Akua helped people tell their stories. From stories of overcoming adversity, to sharing life experiences, to famous people sharing their success tips, Akua has helped people bring their memories to life. As a writer, Akua was awarded “Best Journalist” by the Ghana-UK Society for her monthly column in the number one Pan-African magazine, New African Magazine. She holds an MA in Development Communication and a BA(Hons.) in Social Science. Her self-published book, Reflections Of An Ordinary African Woman Vol. 1 is currently available on Amazon and Lulu.

Rutger Bruining, Founder and CEO of StoryTerrace, comments:

“At StoryTerrace, when we pair storytellers with our ghostwriters, we provide an interview process and questionnaire to match them based on personality and compatibility. Lots of our clients who come from black communities often request that their ghostwriter is also from a similar background so that they have a high level of understanding when it comes to discussing their life story and documenting their experiences. I think it is really important that clients feel their story is being told to and written by someone who understands their viewpoint and can relate to them.

We believe everyone has a story worth telling – and it’s important for individuals from every background to share their stories for future generations. Over the past 18 months, I believe it has been no coincidence that the increase in people documenting their life stories coincided with periods of social distancing. As millions around the globe were stuck at home, many of us started to feel nostalgic, which encouraged us to reminisce on better times in our lives.”

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