Black History Month 2020: Knowsley’s first black town councillor

After living and working in Knowsley for a few years, Vanessa has a number of accolades to her name

When mum-of-three Vanessa Boateng arrived in Merseyside from West Africa a decade ago, she “never dreamt” her future community work would become a “beacon of change” for residents and gain national recognition.

Raised in both Ghana and Nigeria by a professor dad and businesswoman mum, Vanessa, 42, who has a degree in business management, relocated to the UK back in 2010.

Now a decade on, Vanessa has made Knowsley her home and seen her passion for change and activism leave a strong impact on the area, especially on those she felt were most “isolated.”

Vanessa told the ECHO: “I’ve spent most of my life in the UK in the Knowsley borough and I think that has got me to where I am today.

“Most of the engagement I do is with the migrant community in Knowsley, also parts of Liverpool as well.

“I started my activism because I realised that a lot of migrants don’t integrate into the community as they should, especially when it comes to welfare and children.

“That made me set up the charity New Era Initiative which was geared towards helping migrant parents especially and migrants themselves to be inclusive in the community.”

New Era Initiative is geared towards social inclusion, integration and to create the awareness of the welfare and protection of children’s rights in the UK amongst migrants.

In 2014, Vanessa was also instrumental in the “Bring Back Our Girls” Liverpool movement, when 110 girls from Chibok in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram, which drew worldwide attention.

The solidarity shown in the movement also gained media attention from ITV.

Conducting workshops for different roles and organisations, including the police and social workers, the charity has helped create less of a “barrier” in the community and propelled Vanessa to becoming the first female trustee and General Secretary of the Liverpool Commonwealth Association (LCA).

Responsible for the general organisation of the LCA and community engagement, in 2018 Vanessa was invited by HM the Queen to a reception at Buckingham Palace in recognition of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the UK’s Commonwealth diaspora communities.

Continuing to follow the mantra, “be the change you want to see,” in February of this year Vanessa was also appointed as the first black councillor in Knowsley Town Council.

She said: “I realised that there was not enough participation of black people in community engagements, especially in education as well, because its something a lot of people shy away from because sometimes they feel like they may not be heard or maybe they will be looked down upon and things like that.

“You can spend a big chunk of your life in a country and you don’t get involved in anything and at the end of the day we stand by and complain.

“I said no, I wont be the one to stand by and complain. I want to be part of it and probably if people hear my voice I could be the change I want to see.

“I have always had this mantra, ‘be the change you want to see.’

“If i don’t get involved then how do I change things.

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