Some people believe you can’t get ahead in business, politics, or life without being ruthless or stepping over others to get what you want.
But Baroness Floella Benjamin proves that ideology wrong as, throughout her lifetime, her main purpose has been helping and inspiring others.
Born into what she described as an idyllic life in Marabella, Benjamin jumped over numerous hurdles when she moved to England at age ten to become a broadcaster; author of over 30 books; stage, film, television and voice actress; broadcaster; singer; producer; businesswoman; politician; advocate of children’s rights, Windrush, and diversity; wife, and mother.
Her passion has taken her to great and unexpected heights, the most recent was becoming the first Trinidadian woman to receive one of the UK’s highest honours, the Order of Merit, on November 24, 2022.
This less than two years after receiving a Damehood for over 40 years of charitable work. She was also elevated to the Peerage as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham in 2010. And in 2001 she was awarded an Order of the British Empire for her contribution to broadcasting and the media.
A few of her numerous appointments include governor of the National Film and TV School, chairman of British Academy Film Awards-Television, governor of the Commonwealth Institute, governor of Dulwich College, president of The Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and she is still the patron of Bowel Cancer UK and chair of The Windrush Commemoration Committee.
In 2006, she became the first black woman chancellor of a UK university, the University of Exeter, and changed the face of universities in Britain. Some were shocked by all her accomplishments as she does not have a university degree.
She told them, “I went to the university of life. I studied empathy and common sense, making everybody feel as if they are special and included, and making them feel worthy.
[caption id="attachment_998271" align="alignnone" width="762"] Baroness Floella Benjamin in her chancellor of the University of Exeter robes. Photo courtesy Keith Taylor. -[/caption]
“My philosophy is to do good. What can I do today to change somebody else's life, to make somebody else feel good about who they are, and to pave the way for the future? You don't have to have an academic education to learn that. That comes in a different guise, from sitting and talking to people, and getting them to realise why they've been put on this earth.”
Journey from TT to UK
Born on September 23, 1949, Benjamin said her childhood was filled with animals, fruits, waterfalls, beaches, freedom, and joy. She said life back then had a sense of purity and wholesomeness.
However, her father, Roy Benjamin, was a policeman who loved playing music and wanted to become a jazz musician. So, he moved to England to learn to play jazz.
When her parents left TT to set up a life in London, they took their two youngest children. Benjamin was the second eldest of six, whose a