Hackney charity head ‘insulted’ by racist comments by Royal aide at Buckingham Palace event

Ngozi Fulani, CEO of Sistah Space. Pic: Sistah Space/PA

A long-standing Buckingham Palace household member has resigned over racist comments made to the head of leading Hackney women’s charity at a reception hosted by the Queen Consort on Tuesday night.

Ngozi Fulani, a black British advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and CEO of Dalston-based charity Sistah Space, was repeatedly asked about where she and “her people” were “really” from, by Lady Susan Hussey, Prince William’s godmother and a former lady-in-waiting to the late Queen.

Fulani said this issue is “bigger than one individual. It’s institutional racism”. She told the BBC on Wednesday morning that “Although it’s not physical violence – it is an abuse.”

Buckingham Palace said in a statement yesterday: “We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details.” They recognised that “unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made.”

Prince William also reacted, and said through a spokesperson that “racism has no place in our society”.

Queen Elizabeth II (left), and her then lady in waiting, Lady Susan Hussey. Pic: PA Wire/PA Images

Yesterday, Fulani was invited, along with 300 other guests to Buckingham Palace, by Queen Consort Camilla to mark the #16DaysOfActivism campaign against gender-based violence. 

Fulani reported her interaction with Lady Susan Hussey (whom she referred to as “Lady SH” in her Instagram post) on Sistah Space’s Instagram account after the event, calling it a “violation.”

Who is Lady Susan Hussey? Lady Hussey was the longest-serving Woman of the Bedchamber, as well as “one of Queen Elizabeth II’s closest confidantes”, said the BBC. She became Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 2013, which is the highest rank personally granted by the sovereign, and received Queen Elizabeth II Version of the Royal Household Long and Faithful Service Medal with 30, 40, 50 and 60-year bars. Lady Susan Hussey’s duties within the royal family have included supporting the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle in her Royal duties. She is the widow of Marmaduke Hussey, former Director-General of the BBC.

Replying to Twitter supportive comments, she said: “I think it is essential to acknowledge that trauma has occurred and being invited and then insulted has caused much damage.”

She said an “elder woman” approached her and put her hand in Fulani’s hair “to move my locs so that she could see my name badge,” said Fulani on Instagram.

Fulani described the conversation that followed:

“Lady SH: Where are you from?

Me: Sistah Space.

SH: No where do you come from?

Me: We’re based in Hackney.

SH: No, what part of Africa are YOU from?

Me: I don’t know, they didn’t leave any records.

SH: Well, you must know where you’re from, I spent time in France. Where are you from?

Me: Here, UK

SH: No, but what Nationality are you?

Me: I am born here and am British

SH: No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?

Me: ‘My people’, lady, what is this?

SH: Oh I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from. When did you first come here?

Me: Lady! I am a British national, my parents came here in the 50’s when…

SH: Oh, I knew we’d get there in the end, you’re Caribbean!

Me: No lady, I am of African heritage, Caribbean descent and British nationality.

SH: Oh so you’re from….”

Queen Consort Camilla (centre) and Fulani (background, left) at The Buckingham Palace reception last night. Pic: Kin Cheung/PA

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who was next to Fulani and witnessed the exchange, told PA they were treated almost like “trespassers”.

Suzanne Jacob, who was also present during the interaction, replied to Fulani’s tweets: “This was a horrible thing to happen, and in a space that should have been nothing but love and celebration. 

Fulani attended the event last night as the CEO and founder of the Dalson-based charity Sistah Space which supports women of African and Caribbean heritage across the UK who have faced domestic and sexual abuse.

Who is Hackney-based charity Sistah Space? The charity was founded after the murder of Valerie Forde and her baby by Forde’s ex-partner, in Hackney in 2014. It specifically aims at considering the intersectionality between racism and gender-based violence. Fulani’s charity has been campaigning for a “Valerie’s law”, to introduce mandatory trainings for police officers and other relevant authorities to deal with black women in abusive situations. In the past 5 years, they have been the leading charity and support in Hackney and in London for black women who survived domestic abuse. They have challenged Hackney Council over lack of support and poor treatment several times in the past years, and received considerable support from Hackney residents.

She told the Guardian: “Here I am in this place as part of the 16 days of activism, experiencing non-physical violence – you feel like you have the right to approach me, put your hand in my hair and insist I don’t have the right to British nationality. In a space like that, what do you do?”

A Palace spokesperson said that Lady Hussey “would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect.”

Fulani and the other witnesses did not wish to name the royal aide involved, which was then confirmed to the BBC by Reid. 

She tweeted: “​​Thanks everyone for their support. It is not our wish to reveal the person involved, it is the system that needs to be revised.”

“Yesterday made me realise an ugly truth which I am still trying to process.”

Allegations of racism within the Royal family Last night was not the first time allegations of racism have been made against the Palace. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has been accused of racism and other forms of discriminations over decades, for instance when he said “The Philippines must be half empty as you’re all here running the NHS” in 2013. Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan Markle also raised race issues within the Palace, when they said questions were asked over the skin colour of their son Archie before he was born.

The Palace said that all household members “are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times.”

This morning, Fulani said that Buckingham Palace still has not reached out to her or her charity, though she said she would be “happy” to discuss with them.

Leave a Reply