In October, we wanted to talk to inspirational people for this year’s Black History Month. We were really pleased to be able to have a conversation with Elphena Bins-Berry, the mother of our Senior Fulfilling Lives Practitioner, Michelle Berry.
Growing up, being the oldest of fourteen, Elphena took on the role as a mother, looking after her younger siblings. Elphena would cook, clean and do daily chores. It was hard having this role and responsibility at such a young age.
Throughout her life, Elphena has shown resilience, hard-work and determination. Elphena got taken out of school in the early years of her education. However, this did not stop her learning and she continued to read and study. By being creative and focused, Elphena taught and educated herself.
During our conversation, Elphena spoke about her move to the UK, her inspirations and also gave us some wise words of advice.
What is your name, age, and where are you from?
My name is Elphena Bins-Berry, I am from Clarendon, Jamaica and I am 87 years old.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It means a lot. It means where you come from and got there, and what you have achieved in life. It’s my history!
Who are your three favourite black women in history/present, and why?
Opera Winfrey, Rosa Parks and Winnie Mandela.
Because they are all strong, independent black women, that survived through hardships and made a difference.
What was it like moving to the UK from Jamaica?
It was strange. When I came over here in 1960s by boat, I thought it was a boiling house with all the smoke coming through the chimneys. I was pregnant and finding a place to stay was hard, there were rules. No children, no Irish, no dogs and no Blacks!
You could get a job but no housing. I would work four jobs in a day in order to get by. A family friend who was already in England put me up and that is when I met Berry, my husband.
We were able to apply for a loan because we were both working. With the loan and savings, we managed to buy a house. The hardest thing was finding a place to live. Again, no dogs, no Blacks, no children.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Live life as it is, any opportunity you come across, grab it. Nothing is impossible in a land of opportunities. Jamaica was very hard, and it was hard to get a job to make ends meat.
How would you like to be remembered?
As I am! Loving, caring, hardworking and proud of my story.
A big thank you to Elphena for sharing her wonderful story. For more of the Black History Month heroes Fulfilling Lives promoted throughout October, check out the stories below.
Links to Fulfilling Lives Black History posts