Coronavirus: information and updates

Meet Bruna - growing up as a black woman

At Scope equality is central to everything we believe.

This #BlackHistoryMonth we’ll be celebrating the remarkable stories and achievements of black disabled people that have paved the way for future generations. We are also highlighting the experiences and challenges faced by some of our staff.

Here Bruna gives us an insight into her life and experiences.

Before birth

Born in Angola, my parents decided to give Portuguese names to provide me the opportunity to have a good education and work without facing discrimination of traditional Angolan names. Angola was colonised by the Dutch and Portuguese from 1641, and gained independence in the year 1975 - a year after my mum was born. Portuguese law under colonialism required all children to be given Portuguese names or be killed.

The law also forbade Angolans from speaking our native tongues, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Ohiwambo and Umbundu. These laws still effect Angolans. Most Angolans, including myself, only learn to speak Portuguese and have Portuguese names.

Aged 5

I moved to London at the age of 5, not speaking a word of English.

Aged 6

"Do you eat ants in Africa?" Ants were forced down my throat and put in my lunch food by other kids.

Following this, I refused to speak Portuguese so I could learn English, fit in at school and have an ant free lunch.

Aged 8

The first time I was called 'the n word'. I told my black friend and she told me "that's what they call us". I understood that and did not take it further.

Aged 13 to 17

"You're black, aren't you supposed to speak those tribe languages."

"Are you bald?" (Referring to using braids or extensions, a protective hairstyle* for black hair.)

"Can I touch your hair?"

"Is it real?"

"Your lips and nose are so big"

"Do you go black in the summer?"

*Protective styling preserves hair health and protects it from damage that can result from harsh wind and cold. Growing up in London this is vital and a big part of beauty as a black woman, but, protective hairstyles from secondary school through to the work environment are deemed as "unprofessional", "unnatural" and "disruptive" even resulting in exclusion from school.

'Fun' activity

  1. Search "professional hairstyles men" on google
  2. Search "unprofessional hairstyles men" on google

Can you spot the difference?

Aged 18

I moved to University from London to a majority white town and university to study African history pre-colonialism. My history is more than slavery, yet that is all that is taught at school. I was one of 2 black students on campus.

"Oh, we have the block with 'black' girls, they must be feisty"

Aged 18

My first lecture studying African history as the only black student out of 62.

"Why don't they just go back home?"

"You must be a sassy one."

"Do your family use huts in Africa?"

Aged 18

My friends and I stopped shopping at Iceland because the older lady at the till would shake and not speak to us when serving us despite serving everyone else.

Aged 18

I was refused service at the town's dress shop for the summer ball while my white friends were served and got their dresses. I ordered my dress online.

Aged 19

I campaigned for the role of BAME Officer and served as officer at the University for 2 years.

Aged 19

My friends and I stopped shopping at Morrisons because we were followed around the shop every time by the security guard.

Aged 20

While travelling to the shop, I was physically attacked in broad daylight by 2 teenage boys, who were part of a racist group. They repeatedly called me the 'n' word. I called the police in a panic. The group left as I made the call. The police told me not to call if it 'wasn't an emergency'. I later found out the boys lived on the next road and followed up with the police. Nothing happened.

Aged 21

My lecturer taught a lecture titled "slavery was not that bad" while looking at me directly. I walked out of the lesson and dropped the module.

Aged 21

I graduated University a shell of myself, did not attend my graduation and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Aged 21 and 22

"Black people don't have mental illness"

"It's all in your head, just focus"

"You're making it up"

Aged 23

I spent the first 6 weeks of my job waiting to be fired because I could not believe I deserved to have the job as a black woman.

Related content

Opens in a new windowOpens an external siteOpens an external site in a new window