‘Celebrating our Sisters’ Danielle Bridge

We’re #CelebratingOurSisters and interviewing Brilliant Black female changemakers like Danielle Bridge

‘Celebrating our Sisters’ Danielle Bridge

This is the content series where we interview brilliant Black female changemakers who are serious about social justice. ‘Celebrating Our Sisters’ is running across the collettephilip.com and Brand By Me brands, spotlighting founders and business owners as they share what they love the most about what they bring to the community, and also what they wish they’d known when they started their professional journey.

In the third interview of the series, we’re spotlighting Danielle Bridge, Founder of ABC Life Support, first Aid training organisation and CEO of Black Minds Matter, a free therapy service specifically for the Black community and Interim CEO of Black Minds Matter.

Us: What are the best things about being a Black female founder?

Danielle Bridge: I said to somebody the other day that Black Minds Matter is my “adopted baby”, so I have a very special and specific relationship with the organisation. Black Minds Matter UK was founded in 2020 by two women from Bristol who had the idea of helping to support Black people after the killing of George Floyd and had the amazing idea of providing therapeutic interventions for the Black community. And it was an amazingly successful campaign, something that was unprecedented in that time. I was bought on in January 2023, to help scale the organisation. And it has been a challenge, something that I relish in terms of my capability certainly and my desire to turn something that has been extremely needed into something that’s sustainable. So for me creating stability and making sure that the service is available to everybody and long into the future is something I’m super excited about. 

Us: Tell us about the things that you do that foster community within your industry.

Danielle Bridge: I’ve made it my mission to network and to reach out to the organisations that are not only supportive of the work that we do at Black Minds Matter UK, but are also supportive of the work that I’m trying to do personally within the organisation. So, reaching out to allies in the mental health space that can help foster conversations about where we are, or should be, are at the forefront of that conversation. So, for example, massive allies are people like Sarah Hughes at Mind UK and Laura Bunt at Young Minds who already work on a national level. When we’re talking about the Black experience, the idea will be that we work collaboratively so that we pick up on the on the lives of the lived experience of Black individuals. And I think that’s going to garner some trust in terms of mental health services publicly. So I’m also lucky enough to know a fair few leaders in this space as well, like Yansie at Ubele Initiative, Kunle at The Empowerment Group and other leaders of Black-led Mental Health Charities.

Us: In what ways do you see issues of white supremacy showing up as your brand is becoming more successful and well-known?

Danielle Bridge: Well, there is the age old “Oh, well you’re a racist organisation”, which I have heard before, you know, in emails, etc, that were received. But I don’t not pay any of them any mind because you cannot argue with people who are not willing to learn and in the words of Sweet Brown: “Ain’t nobody got time for that”. Other places where white supremacy is going to show up, and has shown up, is where we are being asked to support charitable organisations. So, for example, working with drug and alcohol services, without asking whether or not Black Minds Matter UK is only for Black people. The answer is “Yes, their interventions are only for Black people. And this accessibility by Black people seems to rub people the wrong way and people mention that everybody else has to go down the NHS free route. There is a very clear definition as to the needs of Black people in a therapeutic setting, certainly. And representation is extremely important. Some of the things that we’re dealing with, by way of generational trauma. So from that point of view, it’s really important that we work with our community. And that means showing up for our community to advocate in those very white spaces.

Us: What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your founder’s journey?

Danielle Bridge: For me, it’s being really clear as to why you’re doing the work that you’re doing. And I’ve been thinking about this ‘Founder Journey’ because I am a founder [of ABC Life Support] but I’m  not the founder of Black Lives Matter UK. But at the same time, the cause of the work that we’re doing definitely feels like mine. Because the difference between running a charity and having an idea of something that is indicative of the work that you put out into the world I think is really clear, but especially in the charity sector. The idea is always about the people that will benefit from it. And so, for example, with my experience in mental health, and my lived experience and family experience and friend experience, they will all benefit from what Black Minds Matter holds up and what it stands for. And so I’ve taken on board an ideal and that belongs to the people; that does not belong to me.

Us: What’s your go-to piece of advice for other Black founders?

Danielle Bridge: Reach out. It’s important to reach out to people you trust in the community that can help you navigate the world in business or, you know, in our charity sector, or however that that looks because it’s a very lonely place when you are leaving an organisation or when you found an organisation and without the advice, counsel of others who have done the work before, you can get things wrong. Making mistakes is categorically part of the journey but at least when you have people that are supporting the ideas that support you and your work, you can bounce things back and you don’t always feel so alone. So definitely reach out to a trusted network.

Us: What’s the thing that you’re proudest of from the last 12 months?

Danielle Bridge:
Within Black Minds Matter UK, it has definitely been clearing the waiting lists. We had an extensive waiting list for therapy. And in June 2023, we cleared it, which was phenomenal, considering that originally 2,600 people signed up for it. It was very difficult to clear in that short space of time, since as we’re a charity we can’t use  public funds. I’m extremely proud of clearing the waiting list in 2023.

Us: What are you most excited for in the year ahead?

Danielle Bridge: I’m looking forward to establishing the new chapter of Black Minds Matter UK with me at the helm, making sure that we deliver on our charitable objectives, and that we make sure that people come along for the ride. And by doing that, we’re opening up a seriously life changing opportunity for people in the community who could benefit from the gift of therapy.

Us: What is your hope for this year and beyond?

Danielle Bridge: That we continue to have the conversation around mental health specifically in the Black community, but we also accept that ‘mental health’ and ‘life’ are not separate. It’s not an absence of, or an influx of mental health. It’s just part of our everyday life. And talk and expand on what that looks like, and to be able to calm things down when they need to be calm. I think when we’re speaking about mental health, it’s very easy to catastrophise or to go to the far extremes of mental health, mental ill health, mental illness. And then it can also be really dangerous because on the other side, we talk about wellbeing or wellness and yoga and how actually “everything’s gonna be fine” or deep breathing by the ocean. If we can, if people can start to internalise their own journeys, their own understanding of where it is that they come from, who they are as people as people and the community to which they belong. And then thinking about mental health within that spectrum, I think it’s going to be really important. So certainly, our awareness is going to be more interesting and more and more, kind of driven towards the Black experience in mental health.

Collette’s three main takeaways from Danielle's interview:

1.  Cherish the challenges
Sometimes the things that you’re daunted by are the things that end up being the most rewarding .

2. Connect everything and everyone to the mission
In a founder-led business, everyone needs to feel like they own the mission and purpose. This is really important so that the legacy lives on beyond the founder.

3.  ‘Mental health’ and ‘life’ are not separate
Prioritising the discussion about mental health within the Black community is super important.

And, for this interview I’m adding a fourth: it’s ok to focus on one minoritised community if it creates real equity and tackles injustice. Too often, people criticise because they think inclusion means “everyone” instead of understanding that it’s about inclusion of the most minoritised and marginalised communities.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your reflections on the topics we delved into – sign up to the collettephilip.com email newsletter so that we can stay in touch.

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