Reconciling Honour against the Atrocities of Empire

The offer of the award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) triggered feelings of both honour and discontent at the historical abuse of nations dispensed by the British Empire.

I recognise and acknowledge similar conflicts expressed by fellow descendants of the empire.  David Olusoga writes of ‘links to the systematic domination, racist violence and genocide employed by the British in Africa, America, Asia and Australasia from the 17th century onwards’. Benjamin Zephania says it reminds him of slavery, the thousands of years of brutality, of how his fore-mothers were raped and his forefathers were brutalised. Olusoga accepted his OBE while Zephania refused and so the discourse continues.

I chose to accept the award of an MBE. Why?

One of my aims is to disseminate important messages embedded in my work in health promotion, physiotherapy, equality etc. Effective dissemination of these messages is dependent on reaching wide and diverse audiences. It is also essential that in conveying them, minimising alienation of anyone or any group at the outset is addressed.

Hence, I felt the need to strike a considered, informed and balanced view of the significance of an MBE, an internationally recognised award, against its negative and historical connotations.

 I have had the privilege of benefiting from the experience of descendants of empire and respect the stance many have taken in accepting or refusing associated awards, not least because of the burden, scars and lack of reparation from enslavement of my ancestors. This is a blight that continues to shadow many lives.

Nonetheless, I came to the view that an MBE offered potential to influence change, add to the discourse and to develop channels for potential progress to be made.

As probably the only Windrush Chartered Physiotherapist, I believe the award will help to give further recognition for a need to increase diversity and draw further attention to the physiotherapy profession, and so it is already proving. I firmly believe physiotherapy can make significant positive impact on individual’s health and well-being. Therefore, I am both humbled and honoured to accept the award on behalf of physiotherapy and all physiotherapists working together, everywhere.


© 2024 Melrose Stewart
Website Design and Development by creativepixel