Born in Nigeria, Angela’s family moved to London when she was a child. She remembers many differences between London and her homeland, most notably the British education system. “In Nigeria you move through the school years in accordance to your ability, so if you pass your exams at the end of the year you move forward, if you don’t you repeat until you meet the standard and if you’re a bit brighter they’ll push you ahead. So in Nigeria I was two years ahead but obviously when I came here (London) it was very strict, I had to go back to my age in terms of my classroom, so it was frustrating for me in the first year, it made me stick out.”
Angela was the eldest of her siblings and she thinks having to look after them made her responsible from a young age. “I think it prepared me a lot for what I’m doing now.”
In terms of minority ethnic organisations, by the late 1980s these were much more organised in London. Various organisations and opportunities made it possible for young people to be a part of something. Angela started going to summer schemes on a weekly basis and the church was always a central focus with her family.
After school, Angela went to the School of Law and became a Barrister, but she was still highly involved with the church. She married and her husband was a Pastor of a church that had been established in Belfast. They decided to move permanently to Belfast.
When Angela resigned from her practice in London, fellow colleagues were surprised by her decision to move to Belfast. “If there was anything in the news it was always about the Shankill Road, I didn’t know anywhere else but I knew Shankill Road, so we were aware of the problems but we were also aware that things were easing off a little”
“We’ve never looked back and I say to my husband, I don’t see myself living in London anymore
Putting her interests in law aside, she concentrated on raising her children and her role in the church. Through her work with the church The Place of Victory for all Nations, Angela was helping to bring together different ethnic communities. “It wasn’t something that we set out to do, to bring minority groups together.” Feeling they had something special with such diverse cultures coming together, encouraged Angela to do more community work.
In 2009, Angela helped set up Expo-Nations, an international exhibition and showcase of the culture and arts of the various nations and communities represented in Belfast. “It’s really just about gathering different communities together and let’s learn about each other and realise we’re not so different after all. Let’s work together. As we come together we really need a forum for these communities to meet so that we can really live peacefully together”
Expo-Nations works with other groups such as The Indian Community Centre, Chinese Welfare Association, Polish Association and ACSONI (African Caribbean Support Organisation, Northern Ireland). “Our focus was really working with the community and getting them involved to own things, that’s how we started out and then we’ve launched into things such as providing support for people, getting the youth together, for lasting change in Northern Ireland you’ve got to get in at a very young age”
Angela believes young people are the key to making positive changes. “Working with the youth is fantastic they have such energy, such willingness, such openness to try new things to learn new things.”
Over the years, Angela has seen many changes and improvements in various ethnic minorities in Belfast. “They’re becoming more confident, they’re organising themselves more, providing support for themselves, accessing certain services and also providing services.”
Angela is committed to continuing her work helping to bridge the gap between individuals and different communities with the aim of improving the lives of others and empowering people to help themselves. “Community development starts with the individual because at the end of the day it’s the individuals that come together and make a community”
Regardless of the social and racial problems that Belfast has faced over the years Angela is confident and optimistic of the potential for better things. “I think we’re heading in the right direction we have to understand that the issues that Northern Ireland is dealing with didn’t happen in a year, it didn’t happen in five years, the Troubles took a long time, we’re in a microwave society at the moment where we want everything now but you have to be patient, things went wrong for a long time and so you also need to know that the change will happen gradually, slowly maybe, but it certainly will happen and it’s happening”
Reflecting on her life Angela believes that there is a theme running through everything she has tried to achieve, “With the community work and my work with the church I think for me what runs through all of it, is this, let’s get together and sort things out, I think that’s where my heart is and that has driven the choices that I have made”.