Review: Slay In Your Lane – The Black Girl Bible, Manchester Literature Festival
People of colour (POC) suffer from under-representation in many high-ranking industries where mentorship and coaching from leaders of similar backgrounds are rare. With fewer opportunities for minorities to network through family members and friends, Uviebinené and Adegoke sought a self-help book that connected to their experiences. Navigating through university, a career or a start-up without developing an understanding of how to make a success of it can be daunting to anyone. But the lack of representation for black women has helped to lower expectations, reinforce insecurities, and has many believing that successful black British women are scarce.
Bringing their ‘see it to believe it’ attitude to Manchester’s Central Library, Uviebinené and Adegoke have collated the stories of pioneering black women set to inspire and uplift. Inserting these women throughout their unapologetically bubble-gum pink book, the black female experiences on offer share a mixture of relatable and factual accounts that preach perseverance and community. Quoting distinct black voices, including Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE and Nicky Minaj, the focus is on how we secure change and push for diversity in every industry. Its confidence boosting narratives look at breaking out of the narrow range of possibilities that often shape POC’s expectations; recognising how black women have created new spaces and promoted their novel ideas until they become the norm.
Touching on issues surrounding the cancerous consequences of relaxed hair, the stereotype of the angry black woman and colourism in the media, Slay In Your Lane offers a simple recognition of a shared experience that legitimises the slights that disproportionately affect black women. Speaking to a range of women, including June Sarpong, Jamelia, Denise Lewis and Margaret Busby, the book’s generational experiences are uniform, but the lessons learned garner a universal awareness that reminds others that they are not alone. Excluded from markets, investment and support, the opportunities to build their platforms through unconventional methods have boosted their voices.
Interviewing once unknown talents including musician Lady Leshurr, and YouTuber Patricia Bright, the women highlight how the internet has democratised industries and allowed entrepreneurs to evade the gatekeepers who previously limited their visibility. The book also touches on the fact that there are more opportunities across the pond, where Americans are willing to take a chance on POC. Alongside comedian Gina Yashere and Grammy Award-winner Estelle, they point to Idris Elba who achieved mainstream success due to his role on The Wire before finding further fame on BBC’s Luther. Although Elba was unable to convince the British public to visualise a black Bond, the book points to the fact that darker-skinned black women rarely get the chance to be seen on screen.
The ongoing micro-aggressions that can stop women from standing up for themselves are presented in a way that encourages women to find their voice. Slay in Your Lane is a needed presence, promoting the black female experience through different channels that are refreshingly focused on the UK.
Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible by Yomi Adegoke & Elizabeth Uviebinené is published by Harper Collins and available to buy now.
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