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Black History Month: Akala and Mary Seacole celebrated as ‘faces’ of Royal Free and Whittington hospitals

PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 October 2020

Akala (left) has been picked to represent the Royal Free - and Mary Seacole for the Whittington. Picture: NHS London

Akala (left) has been picked to represent the Royal Free - and Mary Seacole for the Whittington. Picture: NHS London

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Camden rapper and anti-racism campaigner Akala has been selected to represent the Royal Free Hospital by NHS London to mark Black History Month.

The faces of NHS London - group two. Picture: NHS LondonThe faces of NHS London - group two. Picture: NHS London

War hero Mary Seacole has been chosen for the Whittington Hospital as part of a celebrated list of 36 people from the Black community nominated as the “face” of each NHS trust in the capital.

Akala grew up in Kentish Town and is a hip-hop artist, author and equality campaigner.

He has spoken out on the profiling of Black communities by police and has been a leading voice in calling for the decolonisation of the curriculum inside schools and universities.

His book Natives covers topics of race and class and the history of the British Empire.

The faces of NHS London - group one. Picture: NHS LondonThe faces of NHS London - group one. Picture: NHS London

Akala founded The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company which explores the cultural ties between William Shakespeare and current hip-hop artists.

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Mary Jane Seacole, chosen as the face of the Whittington, was a nurse who set up the “British Hotel” during the Crimean War (1853-56) where she treated wounded soldiers from the frontline.

Born in Jamaica, she battled racial prejudice in Britain to defy senior officials who tried to prevent her helping out in the war effort by paying for her ticket to Crimea herself.

In addition to treating and saving the lives of servicemen at the British Hotel, she risked life and limb to attend the battlefront on her horse where she took sandwiches, drinks, bandages and medicines for soldiers.

On one occasion, Mary suffered a dislocated thumb after throwing herself to the ground to dodge gunfire.

NHS London says its list of London faces recognises these remarkable achievements by members of the Black community.

On its website NHS London says: “The aim of this is to recognise the contribution of NHS staff from Black backgrounds, as well as celebrate Black Londoners as a whole.

“We hope this will help generate positive conversations within our staff and communities of the incredible impact of Black people to society, whilst acknowledging the barriers black people face today.”


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