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1 October 2020

I was approached to put in words what Black History Month means to me.

Though I have been involved in diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives for a number of years now, I only became aware of Black History Month two years ago.

Growing up, I was born and lived in, a predominately white area, with my family being all white. Besides listening to my mums’ music, which was highly influenced from black culture, (which I wasn’t a big fan of, probably because you try not to like the same music as your parents), my main exposure to the black community, was seeing black performers (dancers/singers) or, professional sports people. I played a lot of sport at school and represented certain sports at county level but that was never going to be at the level to do it professionally, (or as a dancer, though I still dream…)

My school was a regular comprehensive and I loved history, but my knowledge and exposure within this subject was about Greece, Norse, Roman and also Anglo history. From memory, I can’t remember any teachings in regards to Black History, except a small mention of Martin Luther King. I was taught and knew the names of inventors, scientists, people who had changed the world but all of these people were of Anglo heritage. Becoming more aware and embracing of my ethnicity the older I got and moving through education, I didn’t really have any role models that I could aspire to or look up to. When I became aware of Black History Month, it opened my eyes to the fact there has been black influential figures as far back as the 1700’s. My thinking before then, was that Black people came to the UK from the mid 1900’s as migrants! The slave trade is talked about in the US but do many people know the slave trade was also prevalent in Great Britain?

Black History Month is for everybody, no matter what your ethnicity is, as it allows the education of us all to understand people that have influenced Britain/the World. This is important, as it is not readily taught to us as, unfortunately, it has been ignored.

I remember when I was young infant, or junior school, my mum told me the teacher had asked whether I knew I was black and not white like all the other kids. I was, obviously, aware my skin colour was different, though at that age, the colour of my skin made no difference. But what was the question asked and why we were not educated on those who have impacted the world across all ethnicities? I’m unsure what the school lessons are now but hopefully, this has been improved.

Black History Month for me is continuous education, as for all, history is important and shapes our future. This celebration through history offers the opportunity for those in the Black community who don’t have role models, to see that you can work to be whatever you want to be. Though, unfortunately, there are still barriers and we still see only a small number of people from the Black community in certain senior level positions, especially in business. It can never dampen the spirit to continue to break through those ceilings. I’m aware Recruitment Agencies have had or, are recruiting, Senior D&I Professionals who can implement D&I strategies, as this is definitely a full-time role to implement change. Having worked for different agencies, nationally and internationally, I have yet to have/see a mentor or, someone at Director level or above to aspire to. Hopefully, we will start seeing a change in the industry.

I’d like to actually see a time when we no longer have to celebrate Black History Month and that instead, it’s continually celebrated. However, until that day comes, we should all engage to educate ourselves.

What BHM Means to Us

View the images below for more insights in to what Black History Month means to other Co-Members.

Find out more about our commitments to Inclusion & Belonging here.