Why Black Ballad Is Taking Over HuffPost UK

This week, Black Ballad is guest-editing HuffPost UK with a series by Black women on parenting, family, and our post-Covid future.
Tobi Oredein and Jendella Benson, founder and head of editorial at Black Ballad.
HuffPost UK
Tobi Oredein and Jendella Benson, founder and head of editorial at Black Ballad.

For a long time Black British mothers were invisible. We weren’t in the adverts for nappies or follow-on milk, we weren’t in the parenting magazines or modelling maternity wear on the high street. Our experiences only existed in private conversations in the comfort of living rooms, around cosy kitchen tables or in hushed tones in the sensory room at the local soft play centre.

The internet and social media opened things up and we started looking for ourselves, reading each other’s blogs and tracking the highs and lows on Facebook and Instagram.

Then a shocking study came out that confirmed many of the suspicions that arose from whispered anecdotes: we were four – no five – times more likely to die in childbirth than our white counterparts. We kicked up a fuss, we announced our horror and soon more and more people besides us started talking about it.

You will be hearing about that statistic a lot and you might even be tired of it already, but it’s important that this shameful stat is not swept under the carpet.

But while we know that is far from the full story of what it means to be a Black British mother raising a family today, as far as official records go, that picture is nowhere near from complete. Which is why in January 2020 we launched the Black Ballad Motherhood Survey to gather our own data and insights about the experiences of Black British mums.

“The women in this takeover are award-winning journalists and industry-leading entrepreneurs … but they are also normal Black British women.”

- Jendella Benson and Tobi Oredein

The response was overwhelming – more than 2,500 Black women filled in the survey – because who knows more about under/misrepresentation than Black mothers who are only thought about when it’s time to talk about unequal health outcomes or “gang crime” and youth violence.

But our stories are so much more than the shock and horror. We have struggles, no doubt, but we also organise and advocate for ourselves and our children. We work hard, we love harder, and we navigate an unjust world still remaining hopeful for a future that will be better for not just our families, but all families everywhere.

These are all important aspects of Black motherhood that aren’t spoken about, not in their fullness, so when the opportunity arose to take over HuffPost UK and amplify the voices and experiences of Black mothers in Britain to an even wider audience, of course we grabbed it with both hands.

HuffPost UK have been the perfect partners. The Huffington Post (as it was once known) has been at the forefront of digital journalism, and when Black Ballad was set up in 2014, it provided a clear example of what was possible for a digital focused, new media platform aiming to embrace technology and innovation.

Even more importantly, HuffPost UK have done what allies everywhere should be doing: they handed over the reins and trusted Black Ballad to truly lead on this takeover, not just flinging on a logo and giving a stamp of approval for the sake of optics and “diversity”, but giving Black British women the platform and the freedom to talk about the things we want to talk about in our own authentic voice.

This is important, because the media landscape is tough right now and Black stories are currently lucrative. Under the guise of allyship we have seen other writers and platforms co-opt and retell our stories, often quite badly!

But nevertheless, here we are, “talkinʼ di tings dem” as the Jamaican colloquialism goes. We have Black women writing about everything from the realities of health inequality to their search for culturally compatible childcare; they are writing about smashing plates, abolishing outdated ideas around the nuclear family and are imagining what life after Covid might look like in education and the great outdoors.

The women featured in this takeover are award-winning journalists and industry-leading entrepreneurs, they are authors and academics, but they are also normal Black British women, juggling deadlines and housework and energetic kids bouncing off the walls in the background of Zoom calls.

Black Ballad exists because our stories were not being told in women’s lifestyle media and we were not at the table when it came to editorial authority and commissioning, so the fact that we have taken everything that has made people second guess us and guest-edited HuffPost UK is a very big deal! Black British women are the heart of Black Ballad and we are so excited and proud to be sharing our heart with a wider audience.

Tobi Oredein is the founder of Black Ballad; Jendella Benson is the head of editorial.

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Camilla Ru