British born with Jamaican parents is how Angela Spence describes herself .The youngest of seven children , Angela talks candidly about how her life differed from those of her older siblings and gives tips on how to excel as the child of Jamaican immigrants in England.
Angela Spence has worked in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea since 2008 and is Chief Executive of Kensington and Social Council.
Access educational resources, make the most of what’s out there and availableAngela Spence
Paula: [00:00:00] Welcome to the new and revamped chatting with the experts. This newly revamped podcast is primarily to showcase women who are immigrants or are related to immigrants who have come from Nigeria, Ghana, or the Caribbean. And they have migrated to either the UK or the USA. I started doing this primarily because many times women from these parts of the world are overlooked or feel marginalized. And I wanted to capture their voices and have the opportunity to showcase them to the world in there and the best possible way. So today my guest is Angeles Spence. So Angela, would you like to introduce yourself?
Angela Spence: [00:00:51] Yes. Thank you, Paula. Uh, my name is Angela Spence and I live in the UK and I live just outside of London, but work inside London.
Paula: [00:01:01] Angela has worked in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea since 2008, and she is the CEO of Kensington and Social Counsel. She is passionate about the voluntary and community sector and recognizes that the contribution that sector makes is invaluable to ensuring that people are supported and enabled.
[00:01:24] In her previous work on inequalities, she supported the progression of black and minority ethnic undergraduates to work in the professional industries within the private and public sector and led on organizational development programs for voluntary community organizations, supporting diverse communities across the country.
[00:01:46] Wow. Angela. You are one fabulous woman.
Angela Spence: [00:01:52] Thank you.
Paula: [00:01:54] You were saying that you live outside London, did you say ?
Angela Spence: [00:01:57] Yes. I live in, in Hartfordshire the County of Hartfordshire . But it’s not too far from outside of London. It takes me about 45 minutes from where I lived to get into London and to the borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a further 20 minutes from central London. So it’s a bit of a journey when I was traveling into work, but I’m used to it.
Paula: [00:02:20] Okay. Okay. And so now under the present global conditions, I assume that you’re working remotely.
Angela Spence: [00:02:28] Yes. Yes. I am a bit of a journey trying to get used to it, but now I am, um, yes.
[00:02:33] Working from home full time.
Paula: [00:02:35] Alright. So that’s the new normal for you on that? I guess for most of the world these days,
Angela Spence: [00:02:40] Yeah, absolutely.
Paula: [00:02:42] I’m going to ask Angela to tell us a bit about herself and where she did her formal education because as I mentioned, this podcast is not just for immigrant women from Nigeria, Ghana, and the Caribbean, but also for women who have been impacted by these immigrant women.
So Angela. The floor is yours!
Angela Spence: [00:03:04] Thank you. So my formal education, I was, I was born in here, England. My, when my parents came over to England, myself and my younger brother, we were the only two out of a family of seven children -that were born here in England. So I was raised in a town called Huddersfield, which is in West Yorkshire.
[00:03:26] And that’s about two and a half hours away by car from central London. So I was born in Huddersfield and that’s where I lived until I was the age of 25. So. In Huddersfield, I obviously went to school there and went to college and did my A levels. So that’s the education that you have after you’ve done your GCSE is up to the age of 16. So I did my a levels and then I worked for awhile. I decided I wanted to go into the world of work. And after working for five years, I decided that I was very interested in psychology. I wanted to do a degree in psychology. So I came to London and that’s where I did my degree in psychology.
[00:04:14] Spent a year working at the Institute of psychiatry. And then after that, I then decided actually, I’m going to go and work in the voluntary and community sector. I felt very passionate about the voluntary community sector. So I decided that that’s where I wanted to spend my career. So whilst working in the voluntary and community sector decided to do a postgraduate degree in voluntary sector management.
[00:04:40] And that was really an invaluable course, um, that got me to really understand and focus on how you run organizations, volunteering community organizations, and really understanding the complexities of how the charity a charity works. And so I completed that study, um, my post-graduate degree in 2012.
Paula: [00:05:05] Nice, nice, nice. That is impressive. You mentioned that your parents immigrated from you, didn’t say where Jamaica. Jamaica. Okay. Yeah. All right. Did you, did they ever tell you what made them decide to migrate to the UK as opposed to. Well, the US?
Angela Spence: [00:05:23] Interesting , I asked them that myself, because some of my mother’s brothers and sisters all ended up in America and I was intrigued as to why did we end up in England?
[00:05:33] Um, yeah, I think the, you know, obviously. There was a call out to countries of the, you know, the British empire, including Jamaica, inviting people from the Caribbean to, to come and help rebuild the country. And there were lots of service jobs that were available. In, in Britain at the time. And so I guess like many, many Jamaicans and people from all of the Caribbean felt that they could properly have, uh, provide a better life for their children in, in Britain and the U S so yeah, emigrate to to this country.
[00:06:11] So, I think that the, the idea that hopefully, if they could raise their children in, in a country that could potentially provide opportunities for them, but probably , there were not privy to, they were unable to have in Jamaica, maybe that’s, my senses that was probably one of the key things that led them to come here.
[00:06:32] The reason why they didn’t end up in the US, I think primarily because some of my family, my mom and dad’s family ended up in , in Britain, settled down for some came first and. I guess they persuaded them. Britain was the place to be. So that’s where, that’s where they came.
Paula: [00:06:52] Okay.
[00:06:52] So I’m interested in knowing like being the daughter of, you know, these immigrants parents. How did that impact your growing up? And also I wanted to know, like, what about your siblings? Cause you said you and your younger brother. Did I get that right? Okay. So you and your brother, younger brother were born in the, were born in the UK, but your older siblings came with your parents from, from Jamaica.
[00:07:15] So I’d be interested in knowing how it felt for you being the younger siblings of five others who probably have memories of living in another part of the world that you didn’t, if that impacted you?
Angela Spence: [00:07:30] I think I’ve always felt possibly because I am the youngest of the family. some what spoilt and I guess.
[00:07:39] You know, looking at , how I grew up in England. I only knew what I knew , as opposed to my older siblings who could compare their experience. Well, those that were old enough, cause I had one sister, she was only two when she came, so she doesn’t remember all that much anyway. so for her, her experience of, of growing up in Britain is probably similar to mine, but I only knew what I knew.
[00:08:03] So I guess I could only , develop myself in a way that was actually very British because that’s all, that’s all I knew. I think what was good was that I had an understanding of the experiences of my older brothers and sisters, you know, they told me all the time about their experience of growing up in Jamaica.
[00:08:24] And when I looked at and heard where their experiences actually thought, actually I’ve, I’ve got off quite, quite lightly being in, in, in growing up in Britain. But I think, you know, the impact on, on me, I think has been a positive one because. I’ve been very close to what was my parents’ home.
[00:08:44] It’s always felt like a very part of who I am , but at the same time recognizing that, you know, my British identity has also played a part in, you know, in how I’ve grown up, how I see things here, but comparing the experiences of some of my older brothers and sisters, where I think they struggled more.
[00:09:04] And I’m particularly mentioned my older brothers because they, there were quite a lot older than me. So by the time they came here, they were in their early teens and their struggles. In terms of settling down here. And my brothers told me that, you know, many, a time, they wanted to go back and it’s because coming here and coming into a country where you may not be, welcomed, but actually the reality on the ground was that they did suffer from racism and discrimination and you know, that impacted on, on them considerably.
[00:09:38] And so I guess the, the challenge of the idea that they were coming to a better life, but yet they struggled to integrate fully had an impact on them in a different way than obviously it would, to me who was born here, but having said that it doesn’t mean I escaped racism at all.
[00:09:58] Discrimination. I obviously is that’s. Something that , many people of color will relate to. And , I experienced that myself, but I’ve been said that , the challenge of what my brothers went through. I don’t think I would compare to, to, to them.
Paula: [00:10:16] I can only imagine, because one of the reasons that I wanted to do this podcast is because I also am an immigrant.
[00:10:22] Well, my children are not. And so I know for years I was, I felt, I felt in some ways, so different. I felt like sometimes invisible. I also felt many times that, Oh, I don’t want to talk because the minute I open my mouth, people are going to say, Oh, you’re not from here. Where are you from? I also have the experience of people asking me, Oh, do you need a translator?
[00:10:47] And I only speak English, you know? And so trying to adjust to a new culture when you had lived elsewhere for many years of your life, I guess, for your formative years
Angela Spence: [00:11:03] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, and that’s exactly what they’ve explained to me, their experiences growing up here, and they’re not alone enough, our think, as he said, you know, that has happened to so many people , that is the desire to want to return home.
[00:11:23] That’s always been quite strong one. And you know, my brother now still talks about the fact that he wished he’d returned home back to Jamaica, even though he’s been here for so long, that desire is, has always still been there.
Paula: [00:11:35] Yes yes, absolutely. Being that you are the daughter of Jamaican parents who immigrated there, I’m interested in knowing how, how you think your journey though can inspire others who are coming, who are also in a similar situation like you, like, I mean, immigration hasn’t stopped.
[00:11:55] It’s kind of slowed down because of COVID. But I know that they are young people who every day are being put in a similar situations to you. or I should say your brothers, or if they’re not like your brothers, they’re probably like you, their parents came with older the siblings or their parents came there at some point.
[00:12:14] And that I’ll tell you, for example, my children have always said kind of find it hard to fit in. We are neither African American and we are not quite Caribbean and we are not quite Nigerian. And so I’m wondering how your journey could inspire people who have had similar backgrounds to yours.
Angela Spence: [00:12:32] Yeah, I think, you know, it’s, it’s really important that in a worldwide, I think now. You know, particularly now it’s important that you, you know yourself and you know who you are and what you stand for. And I’ve always had the strong belief and that’s something that, you know, our parents did instill in me that, no matter what, if you want to try and achieve something, you come, you can try.
[00:13:00] And I think, being realistic about that doors are open to you. You can make those doors possible for you to be opened, but being realistic, you are always going to come up against some challenge, or other. And you know, what I’ve I’ve always tried to do is stick to very strong values, you know, about equality and justice and.
[00:13:24] That has led me to believe that actually, as long as I’ve got a strong value base, I can strive for, what, what I want to achieve, because I think I have to right the same as everybody else to be able to do that. And as I said, you will come up against barriers that does happen, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t still fight when you come up against those barriers.
[00:13:49] I think it’s always important to also try and find a community of people that surround you, who understands that, who understands those barriers that you are facing and can have some positive impact on supporting you and influencing you and encouraging you to keep going. And I think that’s really important as well.
[00:14:10] And for me, I’ve always. Try to find that in my life, as I’ve sought to do particular things. I remember when I was a school governor , and I, I joined as a school parent governor purely for selfish reasons. I just wanted to make sure my son was okay at school. But eventually I found myself, they were proposing that I become chair of the school governing board.
[00:14:34] And I really wasn’t sure about it because I just didn’t feel particularly that I had the right skill sets that I, you know, I, as I said, that joined for selfish reasons, I’m not sure I wanted to take on that full responsibility. But what I did was seek out black women who were either parent governors or had or were a chair of a governing body at that current time, and I found a woman in particular who really helped me.
[00:15:04] I mean, what she got me to understand was, if you, if you care about education generally for children ,and if you care about an equal system for children where, you know, you want all children to thrive and you’ve gone beyond that selfish reason as to why you became a parent governor.
[00:15:23] Actually, if you’ve got bigger aspirations around education of children then becoming a chair is actually just part of that journey. And it’s part of your responsibility as a parent, as a, as a black person, but also someone who, as I said, as I belief in equality and social justice helped me to, to think through actually I can do with the role.
[00:15:48] I want to do the role and I can come at it from the right angle, which is what exactly what I did that I ended up being chair for four years in that position. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, so yeah, so, you know, having people around you, who can have a positive impact on your life is really important. Yeah. Just recognizing that, and the ability, um, and not to deny yourself that, but you have a right to think that you have the skills and the ability, the same as everybody else, and you should seek to make the most of what you have.
Paula: [00:16:23] I love that. So ,with that, that, to me kind of defines like personal growth and development came from just taking on that role, stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something that initially you thought it was for a selfish reason, but the more you associated yourself with people who were like you, as you said, similar , black women, black moms, people of color, just like you, who were mothers, you realized that it meant it was more than just taking care of yourself, but taking care of your son, I should say but it was for the better, good of all children and that’s awesome.
[00:17:02] Three tips or three resources that you could summarize and say, all right, women, we are here. We didn’t come here by ourselves. Our parents brought us here from other lands and yes there is racism.
[00:17:14] Yes. There’s injustice, but here are some things that I would encourage you to do. What would those three things be?
Angela Spence: [00:17:21] Just to summarize. Well, the first thing is back to what I said originally is, is try to find that we now have access to lots of information on the internet. So try and find communities of interest that’s similar to yours.
[00:17:36] Where, you know, you can be supported, you can be inspired. And I think that’s really important that you don’t feel alone and isolated. And there are lots of, you know, groups that are out there and available to people who want that. So I would say that’s one of the first tips.
[00:17:54] The second is it’s also about making sure that you, you’re always on that journey of learning, because I think it’s really important that we keep educating ourselves. And so being on that journey of learning means, uh, you know, being able to access educational resources, make the most of what’s out there and available, you know, not all of it is at a cost.
[00:18:19] Many of it can be free. I attend lots of. Conferences and seminars to add my learning and also to give me a much wider perspective, not to just focus purely on the volunteering community sector in Kensington and Chelsea, but to give me a wider perspective of what’s happening globally, you know, to understand what does it, what does social justice inequality mean across, across the globe accessing educational resources for your own personal and professional development. I would say is important.
[00:18:50] And I think the third one is it’s also to, to be easy on yourself, to go easy on yourself, to remember that, sometimes you feel, you always have to be on a performance mode because people look at you and think, well, you’re a person of color who’s in a responsible job and they’re far you, you’re not allowed to make any mistakes. , but I, I would say go easy on yourself and remember that you are human. You’re learning. Part of making mistakes is learning from mistakes. That’s a journey as well. And as long as you are able to acknowledge that and pick yourself up and carry on, but I would say, yeah, just, you know, go easy on yourself.
[00:19:36] Remember to have fun. I recognize that. Yes, you can make mistakes. Sometimes it does happen.
Paula: [00:19:44] Oh, wow. That was a great summary. Thanks Angela. So folks you’ve heard it from Angela Spence daughter of. Immigrant parents, parents from Jamaica who was saying, yep. I love that last tip. Go easy on yourselves. You’re human.
[00:20:04] Because many times we look at all what’s going on and think, Oh, why me? You know, why did I do that? You know, but you’re human. You’re going to make mistakes. And as someone said to me yesterday to fail means another opportunity to learn.
Angela Spence: [00:20:18] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I agree. Yes.
Paula: [00:20:23] So before I wrap up this up, Angela, can you tell people where they can find you online or even offline?
Angela Spence: [00:20:29] Oh, I’m terrible at remembering my Twitter handle.
Paula: [00:20:32] You’re like me.
Angela Spence: [00:20:34] I am? But if you, if you put in Angela Spence and you put in Kensington and Chelsea, my name will come up most definitely and our website has my email. So you can always email me as well. If you want to find out more about what, what I do , email@example.com
[00:21:02] But yes, I would say that’s the easiest way probably to find me
Paula: [00:21:06] Okay. So that’s it folks. Thank you, Angela, for being a guest on the newly revamped, Chatting With the Experts. And for those of you listeners, if you like what you’ve heard, please head over to https://chattingwiththeexperts.com/ and fill out a form to apply, to be a guest on the newly revamped, Chatting With the Experts.
[00:21:29] Thank you all.
Angela Spence: [00:21:30] Thank you, Paula.