‘I’ve had to work hard to be the woman I am.’
Annalisa Toccara AKA Our Mel is a self-published author, a marketer, a social entrepreneur and founder of Our Mel, a leading social enterprise dedicated to exploring cultural identity, Black history and what it means to be a person of colour in Britain today.
With name inspiration coming from melanin, a pigment found in everyone’s skin and Yorkshire’s favourite term of endearment ‘our’. Our Mel is rooted in Yorkshire and based in Sheffield. A collective formed by Annalisa and Gabriela Thompson. Our Mel encourages honest conversations about race through events, workshops and one-on-one conversations.
‘Some people don’t know how to talk about race, some people shy away from it but Our Mel creates a safe space where people can speak without judgement.’
In 2016 Annalisa organised Sheffield’s Black Lives Matter march. Joining marches across the UK, hundreds of people marched through Sheffield to protest the deaths of innocent Black people at the hands of police officers in America and denounce racism. The march stirred up a passion for art, social justice, and cohesion. Passions that helped to form Our Mel.
In 2016 the first Melanin Fest from Our Mel was launched. A grassroots festival bringing together workshops, exhibitions, talks and more to coincide with Black History Month in the UK. Annalisa wanted to make sure honest representation was included on the cities cultural calendar.
‘There was a gap on the cultural scene in Sheffield. The whole BAME community had been forgotten about.’
Annalisa was honoured to receive a Women’s Centenary Award for her services to the community by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 2018. She is also Vice-Chair of the BAMER hub, Sheffield Equality Hub Network.
Annalisa is an advocate of honesty. She works tirelessly to inspire honest conversations about race, culture, body image and mental health. Challenging views, forming new ideas and working to ensure equal representation for all. Annalisa uses art, creativity and her own burning passion to make sure nobody is forgotten and everyone’s voice is heard.
‘My motivation behind everything I do is that representation matters, stories matter and history matters.’
Honesty is the currency for connection. It’s a gift we give to each other that strengthens bonds and deepens relationships.
Being honest isn’t easy and doing it all the time is impractical. Giving honest feedback or sharing opinions requires sensitivity to the context and meeting others where they are–with kindness and empathy.
Honesty is a practice where we start from the heart.