Today’s “Google Doodle“, illustrated by comic creator Nicole Miles, celebrates Guyanese-British firefighter and social worker Frank Bailey, who is widely considered the first Black firefighter of post-war London.
The art is by West Yorkshire-based, Eisner award-nominated comic creator Nicole Miles, whose client list includes the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Seal Press, David Fickling Books, AARP Sisters Letter, Bust Magazine and Bitch Magazine.
Her comic, Barbara, a comic exploration of one woman’s relationship to food was published by ShortBox in 2017, and was nominated for an Eisner award.
“As a Caribbean person living in the UK, it’s inspiring and relatable to see how immigrants (especially from my tiny corner of the world) have given so much of themselves to their various adopted homes,” says Nicole who’s originally from the Bahamas, explaining why the topic of the Doodle is so meaningful.
“With this project, not only was Frank Bailey a Black person living in Britain, he was from Guyana (which is considered culturally Caribbean), and that link was interesting to me among other little connections I discovered when researching him.
While Nicole reveals she was a little intimidated by the commission, she hopes people take away that Britain is a country of diverse people who all want to do their part and build a great place together.
Among his pioneering accomplishments in the name of diversity and inclusion, Frank Bailey is also credited as one of the first Black social workers specialising in mental health in London’s Kensington and Chelsea borough.
Born on 26th November 1925 in British Guiana (now Guyana), South America, Bailey attended local schools and then took a job on a German trade ship, which brought him to New York. There he found work in a hospital where he staged a walkout in protest of the institution’s separate dining rooms for different types of employees. The subsequent integration of the dining facilities proved just one of Bailey’s many successful challenges to an unequal status quo.
Bailey moved to London in 1953 and caught wind that Black people were not being hired by the city’s fire service. Not one to stand idly by in the face of injustice, Bailey applied to join the West Ham Fire Brigade and made history when he was accepted into service. A lifelong advocate for workers’ rights, Bailey became a union branch representative before the repeated denial of promotions pushed him to leave his post in 1965. He then transitioned into social work and became the first Black legal advisor for Black youths at Marylebone Magistrates Court.
“I’m very proud of my dad,” Frank’s daughter, Alexis Bailey told Google. “He spent his whole life fighting against injustice and he never gave up. He taught me to challenge things I believe are wrong and stand up for myself and others, even when it scares me.
“Years after he left the fire service, right up until he died, he carried on encouraging young, black firefighters to get involved in politics. He was full of stories about using solidarity and determination to bring about change in his many different roles.”
• Nicole’s comic, Barbara, is available to purchase from ShortBox