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African Women and the
British Health Service


Glynis Neslen


Glynis grew up in foster care in London and then in Great Yarmouth. In her interview, she talks about her experience being fostered and her childhood. Glynis also talks about the activism she partook in alongside her nursing career in London, and her journey in finding her identity.

Interview highlights:


"When I was about 32, I found my birth mother. I did try finding my father as well, but I couldn't. It's very difficult because  he went back to Nigeria. I didn't know his full name. So it's been very difficult to find out who he is, exactly. There's always a loss if you don't know where you've come from."


"My foster mother was... she didn't really understand much about race. Later on, I did ask her a few questions like, “why did you bring us up in a white, you know, in an area with no black people?” And because she was quite honest, I think she just said “Because I'm white”. Because I started to get involved with sort of more black things, and wanting to know more, she was a bit worried about me at one point. I think it was when I was 16. When I got my piece of paper, which said I was Nigerian English. So I suddenly knew that I was Nigerian. I knew I was sort of different but there it was in black and white."


"I understood black. Because there's constantly people trying to find definitions for it in London. I first came across it all when I read the books, you know, like the Symptoms of Powerful book and Spare Rib, and things like that. But it's been more a political term, it’s a term that was used to unite. But I'd say the details of my say, ethnicity are Nigerian, and then I've got English, and I don't know what else. So I’m thinking I might try and do a DNA test to find out exactly what the bits of me really are. But it's how I present, how people see me, if they see me as black, or as part of the Caribbean community. At different times in my life, white people have seen me as being black, mostly. But the black community, I've often been a bit ambivalent, because they’re still quite angry. I mean a lot of people see mixed race people as the enemy as well, because sometimes we've been the overseers in the past. It’s this collective memory of the hurt that slavery and rape and pillage has done. I see that hurt a lot. And it's trying to sort of overcome that, but being honest. I think I'd be more honest now say, I’m coming from this as a person, you know, who I am, from who my experiences are, what my experiences have been – because it's all subjective. I can identify with the collective struggle, and whatever my path in it has been, I would always strive to be positive and support wherever that support is needed."

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