Inspiring Women over 50: Dr Erinma Bell

This week we were able to speak to a truly inspiring person, Dr Erinma Bell, a community peace activist in Manchester, UK. Erinma founded the charity CARISMA (Community Alliance for Renewal, Inner South Manchester Area) after a close friend was involved in a gun related crime – the charity’s aim is to provide young people with positive alternatives to street and gun crime. 

Dr Bell’s amazing work has seen her awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Salford and an MBE in 2010. More recently Erinma was honoured with sculpture, created by artist Karen Lyons from melted down firearms and on display in the Manchester Town Hall. Erinma is also the organiser behind Manchester’s first African Festival, Afrojam. 

To find out more about her peace activism and work in Manchester, we asked Erinma a few questions… 

We'd love to know a little more about what makes Dr Erinma Bell tick, tell us a little more about yourself? 

I am 54 years of age, and a Nigerian born in Britain. I am married to my husband and partner Raymond for the past 35 years. Together we have 8 children, 7 boys and one girl. I now class myself as a ‘Community Peace Activist’ and I know that I am the first woman in 150 years to have a statue of myself unveiled and on display in Manchester Town Hall.

I do not feel that I have changed, if anything I have returned back to being me. Living my life, a good life, full of colour and vibrancy. Age is but a number, and in fact I never usually think about my age. Meaning I have to actually calculate what my current age is, if I am asked.

How did you become involved in your anti-violence campaigning work? What led you to take a stand? 

It was after a friend of mine was shot 12 times in front of me.  It was a case of fight or flight and I found myself fighting.  Not physically fighting, but campaigning. I decided that really ‘Enough was Enough'.

What challenges did you have to overcome to achieve the recognition you and your work commands? 

It took six years to bring gun crime to the top of the Government's agenda — basically they were not interested.  We also had to get local people to own the problem.  People living inside the box had to want change if people on the outside were ever going to give effective help.  The challenge was how to build social capital and galvanise local people to demonstrate peacefully that they want change.

You have a festival coming up, Afrojam — can you tell us a little more about that and what people can expect there? 

The AfroJam Festival is the first African Festival in Manchester.  The festival is about assisting creative individuals and organisations to put in place more effective and developed management and governance structures, thereby supporting the delivery of their artistic/cultural mission. We also want to support the development of strategic partnerships with grass roots organisations from across the cultural industries, with the aim of increasing their ability to address strategic and longer term business planning. Organisations and individuals will be able to explore options to generate increased levels of contributed and earned income to put them on a more secure financial footing.  In all it aims to bring about community cohesion and increase cultural intelligence of the African and Caribbean communities.

At the event you will see a culmination of artistic African performances of dance, music and poetry, foods and creative workshops.  Beginning with the African National Anthem and a National Flag bearers parade.

What inspiring words of wisdom would you impart to our readers when it comes to achieving their goals and ambitions? 

There is only one person that can make you happy and that’s YOU.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – so look in the mirror each and every day.

Don’t put off until tomorrow that which you can do today.

Do not focus on problems, because that’s all you will have. Focus on the possibilities then you will see the opportunities.

Surround yourself with positive people who will help you rise to higher heights.

Positive Energy Always Creates Elevation = PEACE.

CARISMA Services 

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